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23 September 2022 | Posted by angela.tuduri

WBS in projects - A deadly weapon

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is one of the most important elements in project management. WBS allows us to define and group work items, supporting communication between stakeholders and helping in the organization of the overall scope of the project.   

When defining the project scope, developing a breakdown structure allows us to break down the tasks into small components that identify the deliverables to be generated by the project itself. 

What is a breakdown structure   

The Project Management Institute, in its PMBook standard, identifies a WBS as a hierarchical decomposition of the total scope of work.   

Project managers use WBSs to organize and keep track of the tasks that must be completed before a project can be completed. A breakdown structure typically starts with high-level tasks and then breaks them down into smaller, more manageable parts.   

This can help project managers better understand what needs to be done and when, as well as identify any potential risks or areas that may need more attention.  

"The WBS shows an organized structure of all the effort required to complete the project and should be oriented to the project deliverables that are the result of the effort and not the effort itself." PMI   

By providing a clear overview of the tasks to be completed, decomposition structures ensure that the entire team is on the same page and working toward the same goal.  

If you are planning to use a WBS for an upcoming project, you will need to consider certain aspects such as understanding the project's objectives and scope among others.   

Types   

There are two types of breakdown structures in project management:   

  • Project-based WBS. A process-oriented breakdown structure will indicate the parts of the project through phases, stages or steps.   

  • Deliverable-based WBS. On the other hand, a report-based structure will mean that the project is defined through deliverables.  

How to create a WBS   

The main purpose of creating a breakdown structure is to help managers and teams understand the work to be done, ensuring that all necessary tasks are accounted for. The development of a WBS usually begins with the identification of project deliverables.  

To get a breakdown structure formed we must:   

  • Identify the project stages or phases. Recognize the main objectives to achieve success of the project. Consider the scope and risks when delimiting the project.   

  • Define the deliverables. What tasks should we perform before finishing a project? In this phase, we must take into account all the deliverables in the first phase of decomposition. You will find it easier to divide them by relationship or area. This way you will be able to identify the necessary subtasks in the next stage.   

  • Break down the deliverables. Break down the deliverables into small tasks that are identified as activities, defining dates, costs and resources needed to produce the deliverables.   

  • Define work packages. Assign work packages to the team so that everyone has a clear understanding of the corresponding tasks.   

Each element within a WBS should contain scope, time, budget and responsible party.   

100% Rule   

One of the most important bases in a breakdown structure is the 100% rule. This rule is one of the most significant principles that directs the development, breakdown and evaluation of a project.    

The 100% rule as stated by PMI is defined as: "It states that the WBS includes 100% of the work defined in the project scope and captures all deliverables - interior and exterior, interim - in terms of the work to be performed, including project management".  

This standard allows us to clearly identify all aspects of a project. From the scope to the budget, resources and time; favoring its achievement.  

The importance of creating WBS in projects  

The breakdown structure has become a lethal weapon in project management. The project manager needs to have access to the broken-down information to be able to elaborate all the steps of a project. 

Benefits  

The WBS is important in project management because:  

  • It helps to define the scope of a project, its deliverables and specific tasks.  

  • Prevents excessive changes.  

  • Improves the planning of deliverables and tasks in a project.  

  • Keeps the team in line with the main objective.  

If you want to train in project management and expand your professional skills, at La Salle URL we have pioneering programs focused on project management in Spain. We are the only Spanish university to achieve a double accreditation from the PMI: GAC and ATP.  

With the Master in Project Management you will be trained in the skills required by project management professionals, and you will be able to access the PMI - PMP and CAPM accreditations.

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