Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is one of the most important project management techniques that serve as the basis for effective project planning. The WBS breaks down the total project work into more manageable components and hierarchically outlines all the tasks that must be completed by the project team in order to achieve project objectives and produce project deliverables. The lower WBS levels generally provide more detailed information about the project work than the upper WBS levels.  The lowest level in the WBS is called the work package and depending on the size and complexity of the project, the work effort required to complete the work package could be anywhere between 2 and 80 hours. The project manager and the project team have to be cautious when developing the WBS because excessive level of details results in inefficient use of time and resources while insufficient level of details may result in poor definition of the tasks. The main reasons for developing the WBS are to:

  • Provide clear outline of the total project scope
  • Create accurate schedule and cost estimates
  • Organize the tasks in the most logical sequence for completion
  • Provide the basis for monitoring progress and controlling project execution
  • Help build the project team
  • Accurately determine resource needs
  • Assign responsibilities to the project team members

To ensure higher levels of commitment and support for the project and improve coordination of planning activities the WBS should undergo several revisions to incorporate constructive feedback from the key project stakeholders. The WBS for a large project should have a version control in place to keep track of the changes and ensure that the project team works with the most current WBS. To meet specific needs of the project the WBS can be organized and presented in a number of ways.  For example, the WBS can be based not only on the major project deliverables but also on project phases, subprojects or milestones, task categories, functional disciplines, or departments involved. The WBS in chart format as illustrated below is visually appealing and it enables the project stakeholders to clearly see and understand the total project work required to develop the training course. However, the WBS prepared in outline format is easier to create and maintain.

 

Work Breakdown Structure