WBS stands for “Work Breakdown Structure”. Simply put, it delineates the work required to complete the project. A WBS makes a Project Managers life easier, and it ensures a complete understanding of the work required to complete the task at hand. A WBS is the delineation of the scope into work packages and activities required to complete successfully. It represents total project scope as well as product scope.
I have witnessed during my time as a Project Manager many a practicing project manager not using the WBS correctly or at all. Many find it burdensome; others think it’s useless, and others just do not understand how it. What’s worse is when management sees no value in the exercise of putting a WBS together.
A WBS is easy to understand and quite easy to create. It has immense effectiveness serving as an anchor for many a successful completed project. There are numerous publications that can guide you in developing a WBS. I will focus on the importance of a WBS to the project and some detail on writing one.
A WBS takes time, thought, and collaboration. It should have a method for identifying the hierarchy in either a hierarchical chart or as an outline. It should include a WBS Dictionary that explains in detail how to complete each package/activity. The dictionary spells out the expectation of the deliverable.
- A WBS can receive information from:
- The scope management plan
- The scope statement
- The requirements document
- The WBS is related to:
- WBS dictionary
- Scope baseline
- It provides information to
- Activity list
- Activity cost estimates
- Project budget
- Risk register
- Accepted deliverables
What is the difference between a deliverable and activity?
A deliverable is the result or outcome of series of activities. The activity represents a small portion of the total work package and deliverable.
Why is WBS important?
- WBS is a hierarchical representation of the scope of a project; it represents the total scope of work required.
- A WBS represents the total scope and hence it can act as a checklist for the project.
- A Project Manager can easily see the completed work and what is work remains in the project.
- The deliverable represented by the WBS is easily monitored and tracked.
- Each successive level of WBS provides a basis for more precise estimation of remaining effort, duration, resources and cost in which to complete the project.
- A WBS can serve as a template for future similar projects – specifically for repetitive processes thus making future projects easier and faster to plan.
- Activities are easily assigned to team members making accountability easier.
A WBS can reduce project risk.
- A WBS uses nouns and adjectives to define work.
- The key is that we are talking about the nouns, the (mostly) tangible objects created through project work.
- Always put deliverables in the first couple of levels
- Only move from deliverables to tasks when you’ve pushed down several levels, and have gotten to packages that are reasonably small and estimable.
- The tasks to be performed are always in support of a deliverable.