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How to Improve Productivity With a Work Breakdown Structure?

Project managers who deal with complex projects confirm that segmentation tasks into smaller and more manageable portions makes workflow much easier.

Here we’d like to focus on an interesting procedure that can help to break down each step of your project and consider all tasks to achieve the result. This article is about a Work Breakdown Structure. Here we are going to describe the following:

And if you remember how to use Agile project management methodology, identify a critical path in your projects, and set SMART business goals, it’s time to get a new level of project management competence.

What is a Work Breakdown Structure in project management?

Project management Work Breakdown Structure definition

A Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a chart where the project’s tasks are illustrated to reflect their relations to each other and to the project in general. This term was created in the USA in 1993.

A Work Breakdown Structure WBS proposes graphical nature that helps project managers predict results based on various scenarios. It is often described as a result-oriented tree that covers all project’s procedures in an organized way. But WBS can also be displayed as a tabular list of tasks and elements in Work Breakdown structure Gantt Charts.

Managers use WBS to break down their projects into easily manageable components. It’s easy to do it, using Gantt Chart template. These components are further decomposed until a required person from the team can be assigned.

Work breakdown structure and Gantt Charts for projects

5 reasons to create a Work Breakdown Structure:

  • It helps with correct project organization.
  • Assists in describing the project scope to stakeholders.
  • Helps to distribute responsibilities.
  • Shows the project’s milestones and all the points to control.
  • Allows estimating costs, risks and time correctly.

What is importance of Work Breakdown Structure in project management?

The example of a Work Breakdown Structure WBS for event planning

Let’s say, your task is to organize and manage a corporate outing or team building. Using WBS, you can describe and divide tasks as follows:

Planning: supervision, budget planning, approvement and reconciliation, coordination issues.

Catering: menu, shopping, cooking, serving.

Area and activities: area tables and chairs, utensils, decorations and equipment.

Participants/guests: invitations, guest list, RSPV, special needs.

Staff: drivers, cooks, servers, hosts, cleanup.

Entertainer: invitation, logistic issues, playlist coordination.

WBS example for projects

One more simple example:

Holiday example of using WBS

What is WBS element?

According to the hierarchical nature of a breakdown procedure, there are specific levels that must be applied to make your projects easier to manage.

A real breakdown system should contain each of the following components (or elements):

  • A project vision statement
  • Project phases that dependent on the project size
  • Tasks with deliverables

These components may have different names, depending on the company.

5 steps to develop a simple Work Breakdown Structure

To achieve project’s purposes properly you need to follow a specific way of executing a breakdown system.

Start with the project vision and statement at the top of the hierarchy. Outline all necessary tasks that will comprise the deliverables. Actually, the planning process together with vision defining and outlining the deliverables should involve the whole team’s efforts. However, every person is responsible for the specific execution of every task.

How to create a Work Breakdown Structure?

  1. Determine and describe the project statement

It can be just a sentence or paragraph that will describe project’s vision and functions in the final stage. This WBS breakdown structure phase is the basement of any project and it is usually developed by the whole team.

  1. Highlight all necessary phases

After the first step is completed, it’s time to fulfill the phases.

Maybe you will have to divide the scope into multiple phases, depending on the nature of your project. Usually, it depends on the project’s requirements, budget opportunities, and time frames.

Work Breakdown Structure and GanttPRO for projects

  1. Create Deliverables (end-results)

Outline all deliverables that must be completed within every phase. Your phases should have end-results. You need to achieve them before moving on to the next phase. Each deliverable should also have its statement describing goals and functions.

  1. Divide deliverables into manageable tasks

After creating the deliverables statements, it’s time to add another level of the hierarchy to count details. The tasks of the project should be designed as sections. One team member or a small team will be able to easily manage them.

  1. Assign every section

Assignment of each manageable part is the last stage of the hierarchy. A required team member will be responsible for a specific task. He/she will be involved in each section of work that will lead to the corresponding results.

Why use a Work Breakdown Structure?

Working with WBS, you will find many essential advantages. The important point is that a project budget can be allocated to the top stages of the breakdown system. So the department budget can be quickly calculated.

You can develop a budget and schedule by allocating costs and time estimation to specific sections of the Work Breakdown Structure.

A Work Breakdown Structure example

Let’s define more advantages of WBS.

10 benefits of Work Breakdown Structure WBS for project managers

WBS has become popular and widely used in software development because of its benefits which can be applied by project managers

      1. The increase of communication

It does not matter whether your project has internal or external direction. A Work Breakdown Structure includes communication acts on every step.

      2. A field for creativity

It sounds like a stereotype but people think that software development is only an analytical area. You have wide opportunities to develop your creative skills. While defining the project’s vision the team members may use WBS to offer creative steps for project development.

      3. Focus on end-goals

WBS helps to keep all team members focused on the end-goal. It minimizes the chance that unnecessary work is performed because the scope has been clearly defined.

      4. Details organization

Every detail is carefully accounted, that is why nothing gets lost in the project.

      5. Possible problems prevention

When the project is ready, some extra problems can occur. A Work Breakdown Structure helps to cut them by taking into consideration all details of the tasks before execution.

      6. Brainstorming

Managers use the structure for brainstorming to find useful ideas and solutions. It’s easy to list all thoughts and ideas and then scratch out the unnecessary ones.  

      7. Scheduling issues

Using WBS it becomes easy to identify which of the deliverables are falling behind your schedule. If some issues fall behind, it becomes obvious where changes need to be implemented.  

      8. Risk management

If you use WBS, you mitigate and manage risks from the beginning. It anticipates all requirements and allocates resources: money, time, and labor.

      9. Tasks allocation

When you broke down your project into manageable tasks, it becomes easier to assign these tasks to required people.

      10. Flexibility for different teams

The Work Breakdown Structure WBS is used in different environments and fields. It does not matter how large the team is, the WBS Structure will always support project execution. It also may be a great tool for customer engagement. It shows them the internal atmosphere and helps to understand the processes better.

Who can use WBS?

Usually, managers use the structure in commercial, residential and construction projects. It gives investors and customers a better understanding of everything that goes into the project development.

GanttPRO charts and WBS for project managers

Software development is performed by taking a vision and creates it based on a list of requirements. It imparts WBS the features of the ideal tool for software development.

If we try to classify the teams who may use WBS tools, we can get the following list:

  • Creative Teams. Creative people appreciate this breakdown system because it allows them to brainstorm together.
  • Technical Teams. Technically focused team members like WBS for it’s keeping an analytical perspective of project’s scope of work and its progression.
  • Teams that work directly with customers. The WBS structure is really good for specialists who develop software for clients because it meets their needs. It also helps increase customer’s confidence in your team.
  • Internal projects teams.
  • Remote Teams.

WBS and Gantt Charts: improve the planning process

Creating a Work Breakdown Structure for IT project management is not a simple task. It requires tremendous efforts and attention. Anyway,implementing software development projects is a crucial step.

No doubts that planning your project with an effective Work Breakdown Structure together with Gantt Charts will lead to success.

Gantt chart GanttPRO and WBS

If you still have any questions or unclear moments about the structure, feel free to add comments.

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