Work Breakdown Structure in Project Management

Cora Systems
February 21, 2012 — 1,776 views  

As anyone involved with Project Management knows, Work Breakdown Structure or a WBS is one of the key terms used in project management. The WBS is essential for the correct management of a projects lifecycle. It forms an important component of the planning of a project with a particular focal point being put on time management.

The core principle behind having a work breakdown structure is to divide a project into sections. Having this step by step structure in place will enable project managers (PM's) to encompass more control and visibility of their work program.

The WBS has the following objectives:

  1. Scope: The WBS will aid in the organisation and function of a project's scope by providing PM's with the elements to precisely establish the work that needs to be done within a particular project.
  2. Organization and Management: By interacting with a WBS a Project Manager can assign resources and responsibilities. This gives them the control to manage the project in a way that's structured to ensure project success.
  3. Verify that all details are covered in a project. This will prevent project change requests being issued.

The development of the WBS is the most important part of the process. If this stage is done poorly it will follow through and affect the cost and time of the project. If done correctly and thoroughly a project should sail through the plan schedule without any changes needing to be made. The first part of the process is to gather the entire project team and any other individual who will have a part to play in the project. By gathering a wide range of know-how and experience at the one time will allow a project manager to get to the smallest of details within the deliverables of a project.

Once these deliverables have been established they will need to be broken down into manageable tasks. By dividing the deliverable into smaller tasks will give the project manager more control and focus over the management of the time and cost associated with it. In fact the WBS is a foundation for the timeline of projects. Having the work broke down into manageable sections allows a PM to make a relatively close estimation on the amount of time required to complete the project. The project breakdown will allow the project manager to identify the time constraint that should be applied to the tasks. Therefore if a project manager decides not to go with a WBS they could run a risk of facing project delays. By having a timeline drawn up it will give the project manager and project team members a visual aid of what the progress of the project should be at a certain point in time.

The Benefits that are connected to the WBS include:

  • Clarity: the project team will be encouraged to seek out risk and issues in order to be prepared for it
  • Timeline: the abilities of the project team can be refined and from there an obtainable project timeline can be drawn up
  • Resources: The layout of having a work breakdown structure ensures that the project team members are answerable to the work assigned to them by the project manager. Aids in the participation and team work associated with a project

It must be noted that the work breakdown structure isn't without its faults. The process is not always straight-forward and a project manager must have the drive to deliver a worthy WBS. Even after the WBS is prepared the structure does require persistent modification.

However these limitations are minor when you compare them with the benefits that the WBS brings to the table. A well executed WBS has the power to give a PM the control and visibility needed for successful project management.



Cora Systems