Exploring Work Breakdown Structure in Project Management

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a hierarchical subdivision of the work to be performed by the project team and is part of Project Scope Management. But what does WBS mean, and what happens if you don’t give it the importance it deserves?

As a project manager, if you prepare a list of activities to be performed for the project directly after getting the approved project charter, it’s highly inefficient. A list does not allow you to break the project down into small pieces. This makes it difficult for you and your team members. In this article, we’ll take a look at the advantages of a work breakdown structure.

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What Is a WBS?

The WBS is a project management tool which breaks a project into smaller and more manageable pieces. The deliverables and output are divided into small pieces called “work packages.”

A work package should be designed in such a way that you can:

  • Estimate the cost for the created work package
  • Schedule the work package
  • Monitor and control the work package

When Should You Create a WBS?

Ideally, a project manager should create the WBS in the planning stage after collecting all the requirements for that particular project—including stakeholder requirements. 

Who to Involve in Creating the WBS?

According to the PMI®, creating the WBS should ideally involve:

  • Project Manager
  • Project Management team
  • Project team
  • All the identified stakeholders

Is ITTO Required in the WBS?

ITTO stands for Inputs, Tools, Techniques, and Outputs. Generally, we need input as project scope statement, requirement documentation, and Organizational Process Assets (OPA) information for creating the standard WBS. The outputs are finalized WBS, WBS dictionary, and the scope baselines. Scope baselines are then monitored, verified, and controlled throughout the lifecycle of the project by the assigned project manager. And the tool used to create WBS is decomposition.

What Is the WBS Dictionary?

A WBS dictionary is the work/activities defined for every work package in WBS. This is useful if new members join your project midway through, they can refer to this dictionary so help them understand their role.

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When WBS Can Be Used?

  • If a new member joins your project &
  • When the client or stakeholders ask for a scope change.

One of the work breakdown structure benefits is that it is an essential tool in modern-day project management—the PMI especially recommends it. The interesting thing to note on WBS is it can be reused again and again for several projects if the nature of future projects demands the same nature of the output. If the nature of the projects is different from the current one, then also it can be used with some simple changes. 

Conclusion

Don’t confuse WBS with Network Diagram. The latter describes the sequence of the activities while the former only describes what work needs to be performed in each work package, without sequencing the activities.

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