WBS in Project Management

What Is WBS in Project Management?

A work breakdown structure, or for short, WBS, is a chart that defines the deliverables needed to complete a project, or the tasks that need to be completed to create those deliverables.

A resource planning visualization tool, it helps you and your team see clearly what needs to be done and maps the relationship between deliverables or tasks.

Read on to find out more about a work breakdown structure in project management, its benefits and best practices, and how to create one.

WBS in Project Management – Understanding

A WBS is hierarchical, with higher-level deliverables or tasks depicted at the top and related tasks depicted below them with arrows that map out the relationships between them.

Tasks or deliverables are usually put into boxes that can be color-coded to make it easier to see related tasks or deliverables. Main tasks or deliverables can branch into sub-tasks or deliverables, which in turn branch into smaller units.

wbs-in-project-management-scheduleA WBS is important because it provides a detailed view of the project. It enables the team working on the project to understand the requirements for each member. It also provides an overview of the project outcomes and the order in which these need to be completed.

A WBS differs from a Gantt chart because it shows you what your team is supposed to do rather than when they are supposed to do it. WBS may also seem similar to Critical Path Project Management. But the latter focuses on defining the core activities that need to be completed on time, without delays, for the project to be finished successfully.

WBS in Project Management – Benefits

WBS has important benefits for project managers and their teams, making the time investment it requires worthwhile. Here are the key advantages of this approach.

  • Gives you a better overview of your project – The time you put into creating a WBS enables you to break down the project requirements into deliverables you can more fully understand.
  • Makes roles and responsibilities clearer – WBS makes you assign tasks to team members and add due dates to them. Each team member will know how their work contributes to the project goals.
  • Enables activity tracking – With WBS, each task is detailed, assigned, and scheduled so that you can keep track of them and ensure work on the project progresses as planned.
  • Ensures tasks are completed on time – WBS breaks down deliverables into the smallest tasks, reducing confusion and optimizing the team’s workflow.

WBS in Project Management – How to Create

Now let’s see how you can actually create a WBS.

  1. Create an overview of all high-level deliverables and tasks. While you can do this with pen and paper, it’s easier to use WBS project management software.
  2. Assign the tasks into sequence to determine when each should be completed.
  3. Estimate the effort for each task. Discuss this point with team members if necessary and get their expert options.
  4. Schedule each task. Based on the effort estimation project deadlines, schedule tasks.
  5. Assign resources to tasks. You may find this step easier if you first define a critical path.
  6. Review the completed path with your team. Make any changes and adjustments if needed.

WBS in Project Management – Best Practices

wbs-in-project-managementWBS is a powerful project management tool. To make sure you’re using it effectively, follow these essential best practices.

  • Focus on the deliverables, the products of the development process. Do not just list activities.
  • Don’t get bogged down in the details. Your WBS should be easy to view, update, and manage. Adding too much detail by breaking down deliverables into micro-components can be counterproductive.
  • Avoid overlapping components. The deliverables you list should be mutually exclusive.
  • Ensure that your WBS is aligned to the resources available. It has to be realistic to work.
  • Get help planning and sequencing activities if necessary. For your WBS to be effective, consult with subject matter experts.

In the end, investing time in creating a WBS in project management pays off. You’ll be able to tackle the project with more clarity and efficiency and complete it successfully.

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