WBS: Work Breakdown Structure

November 3, 2009
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Once the project scope document and the scope document are ready, detailed planning for the project needs to start. To do that effectively the project activities need to be defined in terms of clear tasks that can be estimated well in terms of effort and time. Break down of deliverables into well defined tasks also helps define the overlapped activities possible so that schedule planning can be very effective. Breaking down the work to easily handled logical pieces will also show up unknown areas, risks etc. quite clearly.

Work Breakdown Structure(WBS)

The WBS is a hierarchical structure of all tasks/activities related to a higher level activity ending up at the root as the complete project. To arrive at the structure one can resort to decomposition as the only effective tool. You start at a higher level with the requirements(guided by the scope document) and successively breakdown the activities. At each level the activities are geared towards delivering some part of the project deliverables, intermediate or a major one. Project scope document, requirements document and the organizational; process assets taken through successive decompositions would give rise to the WBS. The related documents are, besides the WBS structure, a WBS dictionary and the scope baseline. Project documents update also may take place.

Each lower level of the WBS defines a increasingly detailed definition of the project work. The WBS represent the scope of activities in the project in a very detailed manner and is cornerstone of validity checks on effort, cost, time estimates. The lowest level of activities is called work packages. A work package can be scheduled, cost estimated, monitored and controlled. Creating the baseline project management plan then becomes easy. At this stage the project team is able to generate the scope baseline completely. First level documents such as project management plan, activities definitions, cost estimates, budget estimates, quality plan, risk identification and procurement plans are generated at this stage.

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