How to Improve Productivity with a Work Breakdown Structure?
Project managers who deal with complex projects confirm that the segmentation of tasks into smaller and more manageable portions makes the 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:
- What is a Work Breakdown Structure in project management?
- What is a WBS element?
- How to create a Work Breakdown Structure?
- Why use a Work Breakdown Structure?
- Who can use WBS?
- WBS and Gantt charts.
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 tasks are illustrated to reflect their relations to each other and the project in general.
This term was created in the USA in 1993.
A Work Breakdown Structure WBS proposes a 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 procedures in an organized way. However, 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 a Gantt Chart template. These components are further decomposed until a required person from the team can be assigned.
5 reasons to create a Work Breakdown Structure:
- It helps with the correct project organization.
- It assists in describing the project scope to stakeholders.
- It helps to distribute responsibilities.
- It shows the project milestones and all the points to control.
- It allows estimating costs, risks, and time correctly.
The example of a Work Breakdown Structure WBS
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 and get a Work Breakdown Structure for event planning:
Supervision, budget planning, approval and reconciliation, coordination issues.
Menu, shopping, cooking, serving.
- Area and activities
Area tables and chairs, utensils, decorations, and equipment.
Invitations, guest list, RSPVs, special needs.
Drivers, cooks, servers, hosts, cleanup.
Invitation, logistic issues, playlist coordination.
Here is one more simple Work Breakdown Structure example:
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 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 the project 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 the 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 the project vision and functions in the final stage. This breakdown structure phase is the basement of any project and it is usually developed by the whole team.
2. 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 requirements, budget opportunities, and time frames.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Assign every section
The assignment of each manageable part is the last stage of the hierarchy. A required team member will be responsible for a specific task. They will be involved in each section of work that will lead to the corresponding results.
GanttPRO is online Gantt chart software that helps create visually appealing Work Breakdown Structure. With the tool, you will easily determine project statement, divide the scope, outline deliverables with manageable tasks that can be assigned in no time.
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.
You can develop a budget and schedule by allocating costs and time estimation to specific sections of the Work Breakdown Structure.
Here are just some benefits of using a WBS:
- It shows all the work needed for project accomplishment.
- It visualizes each member’s activity and their role in the whole project.
- It helps communicate and collaborate on tasks.
- It helps avoid changes and risks such as missed deadlines, scope creep, etc.
- It contributes to cost estimation, resource allocation, and time management improvements.
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 project managers can apply.
1. The increase in communication
It does not matter whether your project has an 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 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 the details of the tasks before execution.
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
With 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.
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.
However, the scope of its application is really wide.
Software development, for example, 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 its keeping an analytical perspective of project 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 confidence in your team.
- Internal projects teams
WBS and Gantt charts: improve the planning process.
A Gantt chart is the best way to break down your project into lots of manageable tasks.
For example, in GanttPRO Gantt chart tool, you can create as many projects as you need with unlimited number of tasks.
Moreover, each task can consist of subtasks making a group of tasks out of it. Therefore, you can create a visual Gantt chart timeline that shows a WBS of your project. By the way, you can compare a Gantt chart vs. WBS.
With GanttPRO, you can:
- Create an ideal WBS.
- Assign tasks.
- Manage resources and team members.
- Collaborate with project participants.
- Track and log time.
- And do many other actions!