Work Breakdown Structure

Work Breakdown Structure

Every one of us has some goals and we plan accordingly to achieve them. One of the effective ways to reach our goal quickly is to break down larger goals into realistic achievable steps. Same goes with the project management. A work breakdown structure (WBS), as the name says, is the process or technique of dividing complex and difficult projects into smaller units. This smaller unit can be a data, product, service or any combination. In other words, WBS is a hierarchical decomposition of work that must be performed to achieve the objective.

work breakdown structure

To constructs a WBS, project managers or subject matter experts first identify the main functional deliverables and break them into tasks, sub-tasks and further into work packages. The work package is a list of tasks or “to-dos” to produce a specific or particular unit of work.

Generally few rules are followed in constructing a WBS:

  1. Two Weeks Rule: Any broken down level of the above structure cannot be smaller than two weeks of work.
  2. 8/80 Rule: Any level of work should not be less than 8hrs of work or more than 80hrs of work.

There are many ways to represent a WBS, such as Tree, Table, or List. The tree type structure is mostly used and an efficient way of representation.

Inputs of WBS:

Project scope statement and requirements documentation are the basic inputs for creating the WBS. Enterprise environmental factors and organizational process assets are also considered in this process. Organizational process assets include organizational policies and procedures for the WBS, previous project files, and lessons learned from previous projects.

Outputs of WBS:

WBS document

It includes the total scope of the project as it starts from the deliverables and then decomposes into smaller sections.

WBS Dictionary

The WBS dictionary is a document that provides detailed descriptions of the components in the WBS, such as work packages and control accounts.

Project Documents Updates

These include the requirements documentation of approved change requests

Scope baseline

The scope statement, WBS document, and WBS dictionary grouped together forms Scope baseline.

Advantages/Importance of WBS: 

  1. Easy to define, organize and manage the project
  2. Improves the efficiency of the project
  3. Helps to estimate the resources required, such as cost, time, staff, etc.
  4. Easy allocation of resources based on the importance of the task/sub-task
  5. Helps to set up milestones in the project
  6. Gives a better understanding of the project to the stakeholders
  7. Easy to identify potential risks in a given project
  8. Helps in identifying communication points and formulating communication plan across the project team

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