The work breakdown structure (WBS) is one of the most important tools you can use when
managing a project.
What is a WBS?
It is simply a chart or outline of your projects deliverables. Large or complex deliverables are broken down into
smaller components. The lowest level components for each deliverable are known as Work Packages.
Here's an example of a work breakdown structure...
Project Management Workbreakdown Structure Examples
Here are four key aspects to keep in mind when you develop a WBS...
- 100% Rule: Together, all of the Work Packages defined in the WBS make up 100% of the project's
scope of work. This also implies that anything that is not in the WBS is not part of the project.
- Mutually Exclusive: Each component in the WBS is a distinct, non-overlapping, component of work.
- Non-Balanced is OK: You don't need to break down each deliverable into the same number of components.
- No Sequencing: The WBS does not show the sequencing of work. It only identifies "what" work is needed.
Let's take a look at why the WBS is so important for managing projects.
Benefits of the WBS
There are several benefits to developing a WBS for your project...
The first benefit is that all of the work to be done by the project is identified. Because of
this, by reviewing the WBS with project stakeholders you will be less likely to omit any work needed to deliver the
desired project results.
Second, it allows for more accurate cost and schedule estimates. Having identified the key
deliverables in the Project Scope Statement, it is possible to estimate costs and schedule. But because they are
at a high-level, they will be "ballpark" estimates. Breaking down each deliverable into smaller components will
enable you to provide a more accurate and detailed schedule and cost estimate for your project.
Third, the WBS provides a basis for resource requests and task assignments. By breaking down
each deliverable into distinct work packages, you will be able to determine the skill sets needed to complete
the work as well as the number of people needed for each task.
Finally, a WBS will enable you to provide clear status reports on project progress since
each work package is a measurable unit of work.
Having a clear picture of your project's scope is critical for it's success. A project management work breakdown
structure is a key tool for bringing clarity to your project's scope and effectively managing your project.