After a project is initiated and before it is executed, the planning begins, and a large part of the planning process is often creating a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).
This tool allows the project manager and project management team to work out all of the deliverables and tasks within the project. It provides a visualization to keep it organized. A work breakdown structure is a tool that helps you organize your project by hierarchy. With a WBS, you break down deliverables into sub-deliverables to visualize projects and outline key dependencies.
The Objectives of a WBS
The goal of having a WBS is to:
- Offer a view of the project as it’s planned and throughout the milestones of the project
- Define measurable outcomes
- Break the work down into smaller tasks
- Allows for repeated success
- Provides a visual of the estimated and resources
- Assists in preventing overlap or gaps
- Reduces the need to add tasks in order to deliver the product or service.
The Aspects of a WBS
A Project Baseline or Scope Baseline, is created and used as a reference to monitor actual progress within the project in comparison to the plan. The scope or project baseline is part of the Scope Management Plan, along with the WBS and the WBS dictionary.
According to the PMBOK, a WBS is used for “subdividing those project deliverables and project work into smaller and manageable components.” This allows the project management team to see where resources are needed and when they can be used elsewhere. A WBS dictionary is also a part of the project planning process.
A WBS dictionary, along with the project scope statement help the WBS to define the and support the project scope. It identifies and describes each task so that the team can produce the most accurate project schedule.
WBS helps to make planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing a project a success.
Every WBS contains:
- Scope statement,
- Project stakeholders
- An organized project schedule
The scope statement gives all stakeholders a complete description of the work that must be done to deliver a project on time and within the allotted budget.
The scope statement will include any conditions, goals, assumptions, and constraints of the project. From this, the WBS can be expanded, breaking down the individual tasks in order to begin scheduling and budgeting.
Project Management Institute defines the project stakeholders as:
“Individuals and organizations who are actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected as a result of project execution or successful project completion.”
Your team, other departments within the organization, leadership, clients, and more are all identified within the WBS.
Organized project schedule
The project schedule organizes the tasks, resources and milestones so the project can proceed and be completed in the most effective and efficient manner. The schedule should include:
- The timeline, including all start dates, end dates and milestones
- A list of the work needed complete the project
- The dependencies between tasks, costs and resources
- And the team members that are responsible for each task.
The Look of the WBS
No matter what software you use, you will end up with a chart.
- At the top is the end product or service. Whether the goal is to create a new mouse trap, or a new housing development, the ultimate goal is at the top of the chart.
- Next are the deliverables and may also include the phases of the project.
- Below the deliverables are the projected results for the project.
The Work Breakdown Structure is a concise document. It should:
- Plan outcomes, not actions, focusing on the goals not the methods.
- Keep well defined and exclusive.
- The sum of all resources in the WBS should add up to 100 percent, no matter whether it’s time, or money.
A good WBS doesn’t happen overnight. It takes teamwork and effort during the planning stage. It should be created with the team involved, not the client or upper management.
A WBS should be adaptable and modified as necessary. Most of all it should be accessible and easy to understand.
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