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All About Work Breakdown Structures WBS

The project management or accounting software used on major projects usually identifies categories of costs in terms of a chart of accounts. Work breakdown structure is a project management tool that breaks down a project into a hierarchy of deliverables and tasks. It offers a visual way to all the deliverables as well as tasks and subtasks in a project, ensuring nothing gets overlooked and making it easier to manage all aspects of a project. You can add as many WBS levels as needed to reach the project’s completion. Along with deliverables, you will also want to identify the phases of the project. You will want to think about what types of work are required for project completion.

Additionally, you could add how many hours it would take to purchase such attire and the overall cost. When it comes to the hierarchy, work breakdown structures usually consist of a minimum of three levels. To visualize and help you understand those levels better, we will create a WBS chart for a classic project plan. Let’s assume that the project we want to complete is a wedding coming up in a few months. The primary purpose of the WBS is too plan the schedule for the project.

Task budget

If the deliverable is not a product, then it must provide a specific and measurable outcome. For example, if you’re creating a WBS for a professional service, define the products or outcomes from that service. Nor is the WBS a scratch document that may or may not be used for the project. It is an important part of your project management documents.

You should assign each work package to a specific team or individual. If you create your WBS right, there will be no overlap in work and responsibilities. You can move individual tasks up and down with a drag-and-drop feature. Since a WBS is a hierarchical structure, it usually consists of three to four levels. The number of levels of the work structure will depend on the size and complexity of a given project.

List Your Project Deliverables

Each level of the WBS breaks down, or decomposes, deliverables to more specific and measurable chunks. Having measurable chunks supports your control over a program or project. There are many online resources and software tools to help create a WBS. One effective way at the start is to use Post-It® notes or an electronic equivalent to list deliverables and activities. By doing so, tasks can be readily moved around on a wall or screen, allowing the grouping, hierarchy, and sequence of activities to be easily modified as needed. The management organization is the applicant/licensee staffing assigned to the administrative and technical oversight of the project.

definition of work breakdown structure

Typically, it comes with a dictionary—a document that briefly describes each deliverable and a work package. It helps project team members understand the scope of the tasks they must complete to deliver the work. A Work Breakdown Structure is a hierarchical outline of the tasks required to complete a project.

International guidance on decommissioning cost structure and its practical implementation

Calendars are great tools for creating a WBS and they give you a different visual experience from the options above. To start your structure using a calendar, you can import an existing spreadsheet or start building a new project within your calendar software. From there, your breakdown structure will get a bit more complicated depending on the scope of the project. Level two of your WBS will include subtasks, otherwise known as dependencies, of the parent task. Remember the 100% rule while creating the Level 1 deliverables. Add the date when the task needs to start in the planned start date column and when it should be completed in the planned finished date.

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By breaking down the project into smaller components, a WBS can integrate scope, cost and deliverables into a single tool. While most WBSes are deliverable-based, they can also be phase-based. Read on to learn more about what a WBS can do for your business. Although the work breakdown structure WBS is a key input to these project management processes and deliverables, the WBS cannot, in and of itself, act as a substitute for or represent any of these on its own. Work breakdown structure in project management visually outlines a complex and multi-step project.

Make your work breakdown structure work for you

Podio is a web-based project management software that offers a variety of features, such as task lists, file sharing, a social newsfeed, and more. Basecamp is a web-based project management software with a focus on collaboration. It offers a variety of features including to-do lists, file sharing, a message board, and a real-time chat function. Some people employ a Gantt chart, while others use a network diagram. All of them, however, break down the many stages and substages required to put together the final project deliverable in a visual manner.

  • Continue adding and indenting list items until you reach the work package level.
  • The purpose of work breakdown structure software in project management is to organize and define the scope of your project.
  • This is potentially a complex project, but a WBS chart will take that complexity and boil the project scope down to simpler tasks to make the project manageable.
  • Tracking these deliverables at the WBS level can help you make sure that no deadline or budget constraint falls through the cracks and that your project stays on track.
  • The last step is the documentation of the created work breakdown structure.

This helps to ensure that the necessary resources are available when they are needed. Microsoft Project automatically adds the WBS codes, based on the outline structure of each task/activity. However, you can create specific codes by clicking the Project tab, choosing WBS from the menu bar, and clicking Define Code. The level of detail provided should be less for WBS elements that are higher in the hierarchy and more detailed for lower-level elements. Don’t worry if your structure is not completely symmetrical or balanced; many tasks and deliverables will offer more details than others.

The Project Workflow: An Automatic Progression of Your Project

At WBS Level 1 it shows 100 units of work as the total scope of a project to design and build a custom bicycle. At WBS Level 2, the 100 units are divided into seven elements. The number of units allocated to each element of work can be based on effort or cost; it is not an estimate of task duration. The work breakdown schedule includes the start and completion dates for all tasks, activities, and deliverables defined in the WBS.

definition of work breakdown structure

It is ultimately up to the organization to determine which WBS type to use for their project. Different projects may require different types of work breakdowns. It is also possible to create a WBS that combines both process and scope. This can track both the project’s phases of work and the specific deliverables needed.

Why Use a WBS In Project Management?

Both of these look the same visually, but they present information in different ways. The main difference is the way they divide the work at the second level. This manner of a work division makes any project seem more approachable and manageable. In a way, that is what a WBS is — a graphic representation of a project being divided into smaller, more manageable chunks.