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.

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

Why Use a WBS in Project Management?

Significant project management process groups and knowledge domains, like the following, benefit from a well-designed work breakdown structure:

A WBS in project management also aids in avoiding typical problems, including missed deadlines, scope creep, and cost overruns.

Why is a WBS Helpful for Project Management?

For several reasons, the WBS in project management is a valuable tool. Initially, it divides the Endeavour into digestible, bite-sized pieces, making it less intimidating.

Second, it offers a road map for the many people and teams engaged in the project. Many projects require numeral teams to work simultaneously, and they must all work together and communicate for the completion of the project. The many individuals and teams can concentrate on their unique duties and deliverables while also understanding how their part fits into the project by adopting a WBS.

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
  • Planning
  • Execution
  • 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.

Types of WBS

Deliverable-Based Work Breakdown Structure

This is a hierarchical decomposition of the work that is deliverable-oriented. If it sounds complicated, don't worry; what it means is that you'll examine the overall project scope and divide your work into deliverables that support it. This method works well for projects with a limited duration and an obvious goal. Creating your annual revenue report is one example.

Phase-Based Work Breakdown Structure

Here, you construct work packages containing tasks using project phases. Then, these task groups are finished gradually. Therefore, a phase-based WBS should be used for lengthier projects with ambiguous goals. For instance, you intend to increase retention by 20% over the following three years.

Types of WBS Charts

Work Breakdown Structure List

This collection of tasks, work packages, and deliverables is also known as an outline view. A WBS in project management can occasionally be created using the most straightforward way, which is all you need.

WBS Tree Diagram

The WBS tree structure portrayal, which is the most prevalent type, is an organizational chart including all the same WBS list components (deliverables, phases, work packages, and tasks) but depicts the progress or workflow in a diagrammatic manner.

Work Breakdown Structure Gantt chart

A Gantt chart functions as both a timeline and a spreadsheet. The Gantt chart is a WBS in project management that is more versatile than a static task list or tree diagram. You may link dependencies, designate milestones, and establish a baseline with a dynamic Gantt chart. The most prevalent version of project management software is this one.

Project Manager lets you quickly create a Gantt chart depiction of your work breakdown system in just a few minutes. 

WBS Elements

WBS Dictionary

A document that lists all WBS components is known as a WBS dictionary. It's a crucial feature of a WBS in project management since it makes it easier for stakeholders and project participants to comprehend the vocabulary of the WBS.

WBS Levels

The WBS levels determine the hierarchy of a WBS element. The three layers of most work breakdown structures are the project's main deliverables, control accounts, project deliverables, and work packages.

Control Accounts

Work packages are grouped into control accounts, which are then used to assess their status. They are employed to regulate particular project scope elements. The execution project phase, in our example, could be a control account because it is related to several deliverables and work packages.

Project Deliverables

The intended output of project activities and work packages are known as project deliverables. We can see several project deliverables in our WBS example, including the project budget or interior design. They both emerged from lesser jobs and work packages.

Work Packages

A work package is the "lowest level of the WBS," according to the project management institute's (PMI) definition in its project management body of knowledge book (PMBOK). This is so that a team member or department can be given a work package, a collection of related activities that is manageable in size. These work packages are a vital component of the WBS because, as a project manager, you can predict their costs and duration.


Your work packages are comprised of your tasks, which determine the scope of your project. You can specify each task's requirements, status, description, owner, dependencies, and length using a WBS in project management.

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:

  1. Start with the big picture: Begin by breaking down the major deliverables of the project into smaller, more manageable pieces.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

WBS Software

The final deliverable of a project is outlined using work breakdown structure software, along with the steps required to complete it.

The procedure is facilitated in several ways by software. Some people employ a Gantt chart, while others use a network diagram. All of them, however, break down the many stages and substages required to put together the final project deliverable in a visual manner.

Must-Have Features of WBS Software

Break Tasks Down

The tasks that get you there and the deliverables are both crucial to specify, but most tasks need to be further broken down to be finished. Subtasks can help in this situation. They are a component of a trickier task, so you need that functionality in your WBS program.

Link Dependent Tasks

All tasks are not created equally. Before one can start or stop, another must first do so. If you don't spot these dependent jobs immediately, they can become a bottleneck later in the project's execution phase. It is crucial to have a task-dependence feature.

Set Task's Priority and Duration

Creating a workable timetable is the goal of WBS software. Therefore, you require features that contribute to this process by specifying the importance of the work so that you can determine which phase it belongs to, as well as by outlining the task and providing an estimated completion time.

Keep Your Team Working

The WBS in project management establishes your tasks and deliverables. Still, you must have a method for allocating resources to your team while the project is in the execution stage to keep the jobs going as scheduled. That contains a function to guarantee a balanced workload for them.

Get a High-Level View

Your project's on-time completion depends on your ability to track your progress. The plan is created using a WBS program, and you need features to keep it updated throughout each project stage. You may see the overall environment across several parameters using dashboards.

Make Better Decisions

You'll need a reporting feature that can offer crucial project statistics on progress and performance as you move from the planning to the execution stage. You can use this information to inform your decisions and guide the project to successful completion.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Preparing for PMP® Certification? Take this test to know where you stand!

Want to become a project manager in 2023? Simplilearn's PMP® Certification Training Course covers emerging trends, new technologies and practices, and core competencies required from a project manager. Enroll Now!

We hope this has provided more detailed information about PMP® Certification Training. Please feel free to share your views and thoughts.

PMP is a registered trademark of the Project Management Institute, Inc. 

Our Project Management Courses Duration And Fees

Project Management Courses typically range from a few weeks to several months, with fees varying based on program and institution.

Program NameDurationFees
Post Graduate Program in Project Management

Cohort Starts: 26 Jul, 2024

6 months$ 3,000
PMP® Plus36 Months$ 1,849

Get Free Certifications with free video courses


Learn from Industry Experts with free Masterclasses

  • Career Masterclass: How to Successfully Ace the PMP Exam on Your First Attempt in 2024

    Project Management

    Career Masterclass: How to Successfully Ace the PMP Exam on Your First Attempt in 2024

    21st Nov, Tuesday9:00 PM IST
  • How to Successfully Ace the PMP Exam on Your First Attempt in 2024

    Project Management

    How to Successfully Ace the PMP Exam on Your First Attempt in 2024

    5th Mar, Tuesday9:00 PM IST
  • Panel Discussion: The Startup Career Strategy - The Highs and Lows

    Career Fast-track

    Panel Discussion: The Startup Career Strategy - The Highs and Lows

    30th Jul, Thursday9:00 PM IST