WBS (work breakdown structure) is a critical phase in project management. It is usually presented as a hierarchical structure, starting with the overall project at the top, followed by sub-projects, work packages, and finally tasks.
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What Is Work Breakdown Structure in Project Management?
The main purpose of WBS is to ensure that all of the necessary work is included in the project plan, and to provide a framework for assigning responsibility and tracking progress.
The first question: Why do we use WBS for project management?
- Enables more readable projects
- Work is simplified and looks straightforward
- Indicates the project milestone and checkpoint
- Helps estimate project scope, time, risk, and other factors
- Gives a better understanding of the project to stakeholders and customers
- Provides a framework for managing and delegating work
- Serves as a great decision-making tool
- Ensures that no unnecessary task is included in the scope
WBS can be severed as input to five key project management activities:
- Cost estimating
- Cost budgeting
- Resource planning
- Risk management planning
- Activity definition
Work Breakdown Structure Examples
Let’s learn more about the work breakdown structure by looking at an example of the Aircraft System.
- Level 1 (This is level one) This is the first level. Now dividing the system into sub part named: Air Vehicle & Training
- Level 2 (This is level two) We can further divide the Air Vehicle into sub parts and Training into sub part like: Air Vehicle into Receiver, Fire control & communication & Training into Equipment and Depot
- Level 3 (This is level three) Now that we've understood the importance of WBS (work breakdown structure), let’s focus on the approach that we follow in creating WBS.
A typical WBS might look something like this:
- Project initiation
- Monitoring and controlling
- Project closeout
Each of these project phases would then be further broken down into smaller, more manageable tasks. For example, under execution, you might have sub-tasks such as 'design website', 'build website', 'test website' and so on.
Approaches to Develop WBS
- Guidelines: When organizations prepare guidelines to create the work breakdown structures (WBSs)
- Analogy approach: This could be very helpful if you have a similar project, you could tailor it to your project; for example, if you have an eCommerce website and have already worked on a similar kind of project. That is simple to break down based on past experience.
- Top-down approach: Top-down approach states that you need to take the biggest task or module in the project and break it down. It requires more logic and structure, and generally, it is a preferred method for creating WBS. This approach will identify the solution first and then dissect the solution into smaller steps required to implement it.
- Bottom-up approach: This is very straightforward. Pick the specific task that can be easily done and complete it. The bottom-up method is ideal for brainstorming a solution to a problem.
- Mind-mapping technique: This is a very useful technique that most project specialists use and it was especially created for project managers. In this approach, we need to write the task in a non-linear, branching format and then create the WBS structure. There are many mind-mapping tools available in the market. They enable users to write and draw pictures of ideas in a non-linear format.
Points to be noted when making a WBS:
- Ensure that the WBS is the sum of all the work involved in your project
- While the WBS list is for an individual, multiple people can work on this
- The Work break down structure must be consistent in the way work is going to be performed
- Project team members need to be included in the WBS so that things run smoothly
- Each WBS must be documented in a WBS dictionary to ensure the accurate understanding of the scope of the project.
How to Create a Work Breakdown Structure
Creating a WBS is generally one of the first steps taken when starting a new project as it provides a clear and concise framework for all subsequent project planning.
When creating a WBS there are a few important things to keep in mind:
- Start with the big picture: Begin by breaking down the major deliverables of the project into smaller, more manageable pieces.
- Work from the top down: Once the major deliverables have been identified, start decomposing them into smaller and smaller elements until you get to the level of detail that is appropriate for your project.
- Keep it simple: A WBS should not be so detailed that it is impossible to understand or use. The goal is to create a tool that will be helpful in planning and executing the project, not to create a document that is so complicated it becomes useless.
- Be consistent: Once you have decided on a format for your WBS, be sure to use that format throughout the project. This will help to ensure that everyone involved in the project is using the same terminology and understanding the work in the same way.
- Make it flexible: A WBS should be flexible enough to accommodate changes that occur during the course of the project. As the project progresses and more information becomes available, the WBS can be updated to reflect the new understanding of the work.
Characteristics of a Work Breakdown Structure
There are many different ways to create a work breakdown structure (WBS), but there are some common characteristics that all WBSs share.
First, a WBS always starts with a clear and concise statement of the project's overall objectives. This ensures that everyone involved in the project understands what needs to be accomplished.
Next, the WBS is decomposed into smaller, more manageable pieces. This decomposition can be done in a number of ways, but it is typically done by breaking the project down into phases, tasks, and sub-tasks.
Finally, each element in the WBS must be assigned to a specific individual or team. This ensures that everyone knows who is responsible for what and that no task falls through the cracks.
Creating a well-designed WBS is critical to the success of any project. By following these simple guidelines, you can be sure that your WBS will be an effective tool for managing your project.
What is the Difference Between WBS and a Work Breakdown Schedule?
When it comes to project management, there are a variety of different tools and resources that can be used in order to ensure the successful completion of a project. Two of the most commonly used tools are the work breakdown structure (WBS) and the work breakdown schedule (also referred to as WBS). While these two tools may appear to be similar, they actually serve two very different purposes.
A work breakdown structure is a tool that is used to break down a project into smaller, more manageable tasks. This type of structure is often used in order to create a detailed plan of action for a project. A work breakdown schedule, on the other hand, is a tool that is used to track the progress of a project. This type of schedule can be used to identify any potential problems or delays that may occur during the course of a project.
Recommended Project Management Software
There are a lot of different project management software programs available on the market today. Choosing the right one can be a daunting task. To help you make the best decision for your needs, we've compiled a list of our top picks for project management software:
Asana is a cloud-based project management software that enables teams to collaborate on tasks and projects. It is available in both a free and premium version. Asana's features include task lists, drag-and-drop assignment, file sharing, project templates, calendar view, and more.
Basecamp is a web-based project management software with a focus on collaboration. It offers a variety of features including to-do lists, file sharing, a message board, and a real-time chat function. Basecamp is available in both a free and paid version.
Trello is a web-based project management software that uses the Kanban methodology. It offers features such as task boards, card views, due dates, and more. Trello is available in both a free and paid version.
Wrike is a cloud-based project management software with a focus on real-time collaboration. It offers features such as task lists, Gantt charts, file sharing, and more. Wrike is available in both a free and paid version.
Podio is a web-based project management software that offers a variety of features, such as task lists, file sharing, a social newsfeed, and more. Podio is available in both a free and paid version.
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