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Work Breakdown Structure

WBS is stand for work breakdown structure is the foundation of every project because it defines and detail all
the work necessary to accomplish a projects objectives.
A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a visual tool for defining and tracking a project deliverable and all the small
components needed to create it.
The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), an internationally recognized collection of processes
and knowledge areas accepted as best practice for the project management profession, defines the work
breakdown structure as "A hierarchical decomposition of the total scope of work to be carried out by the
project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables. "
Hierarchical decomposition - The scope of work is decomposed (divided & subdivided) hierarchically. The
process of decomposing a system in a top down fashion. Hierarchical means pyramid-like ranking of ideas,
individuals, items, etc., where every level has one higher and one lower neighbor. Higher level means greater
authority, importance, and influence. First the system is divided into subsystems, then into functions, and then
Scope of work - The part of project planning that involves determining and documenting a list of specific project
goals, deliverables, features, functions, tasks, deadlines, and ultimately costs. In other words, it is what needs to be
achieved and the work that must be done to deliver a project.
Deliverable - It is an element of output within the scope of a project. There can be one or several deliverables
within a single project. A deliverable is an outcome that can be perceived and holds some value. A deliverable
represented by a WBS can be intermediate outcome leading to the final outcome or the final outcome itself.
History of WBS
In 1957, the US Navy’s Fleet Ballistic Missile (Polaris) Program was behind schedule and needed help resolving the
problem. A formula was developed to determine tasks and estimate effort needed for a project based on outcome,
which became known as PERT (program evaluation and review technique).
With PERT as a model, in 1962, the Department of Defense (DOD) and NASA published the first description of
the work breakdown structure process. But it was in 1968 that work breakdown structure was first referred to by
name. The Work Breakdown Structures for Defense Materiel Items (MIL-STD-881) established work
breakdown structures as a standard across the DOD, with templates published for specific military applications, such
as aircraft or ships. Even civilian contractors working with the DOD must use the appropriate work breakdown
structure template.
Finally, in 1987, the Project Management Institute (PMI), through PMBOK, established work breakdown
structures as standard practice for a range of non-military applications.

Types of WBS
1. Verb-oriented WBS:
A task-oriented WBS defines the deliverable of project work in terms of the actions that must be done to
produce the deliverable. The first word in a given WBS element usually is a verb, such as, design, develop, optimize,
transfer, test, etc.

2. Noun-oriented WBS:
A deliverable-oriented WBS defines project work in terms of the components (physical or functional) that
make up the deliverable. In this case, the first word in a given WBS element is a noun, such as, Module A,
Subsystem A, Automobile Engine, Antenna, etc. Since the nouns are usually parts of a product, this WBS type is
sometimes called a “Product Breakdown Structure (PBS).

3. Phased-oriented WBS:
A “time-phased” WBS is one that is used on very long projects. It breaks the project into major phases
instead of tasks. In this type, a “rolling wave” approach is adopted and only the near-term phase is planned in detail.
The Importance of a Work Breakdown Structure
A work breakdown structure lets project managers plan their work more efficiently. A project is
characterized by time-limited activities and is assigned fixed time frames and costs. When it is
finished, a project must fulfill the stakeholder needs it was designed to address.

The project management has to plan for the schedule, the fixed costs and the functional
completeness of the project and assign responsibilities. The WBS helps make this planning
consistent and provides for effective project execution.
The main purpose of a WBS is to reduce complicated activities to a collection of tasks. This is
important for the project manager because she can oversee the tasks more effectively than the
complex activities. Tasks must be measurable and independent, with clearly defined limits. All the
project work must be included in one of the tasks and the tasks must not include any non-project
Because the WBS tasks are measurable, the project management can assign specific costs to
each task. The WBS lets project managers distribute the project budget into defined packages
linked to the tasks and check to make sure that the task costs in total don't exceed the total project
The WBS is important for tracking progress in the project schedule. Because the WBS tasks
have clearly defined limits, the project management can determine how advanced the project is by
checking which of the tasks are finished. Even within each task, the project management can check
for percent completion because each task is measurable.
One of the key functions of the project management is to define the scope of the project.
The challenge is to make sure that everything within the project scope is completed without
carrying out any extra work. The WBS helps define scope by listing individual tasks that make up
the project. The project team completes all the listed tasks but no additional work.
A major criterion for project success is that it fulfills its intended purpose. The tasks of the
WBS each implement a part of the overall function. A task is only complete when it fulfills its partial
function. When all tasks are finished, all the partial functions add up to a fully functional project.
An important part of project management is to assign responsibility for the work. With a
WBS, the project management assigns responsibility for each of the tasks. The task manager is
responsible for completing the full scope of the project on time, within the budget and with all of
its planned functionality intact.
Steps to Develop a WBS
To achieve project’s purposes properly you need to follow a specific way of executing a breakdown
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.

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’s 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

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

Tools for Creating a WBS

Although you can capture your WBS with something as simple as index cards, or pen and paper,
electronic templates and tools make it easier to record the chart, edit, disseminate to team members, and save
with document control settings so updates are recorded through the change control process.

Templates make the job easier. Your team or company may already have a template. If not, you can create
your own WBS or download one of the templates from the web and customize it. Some useful features in a template
 WBS coding field
 Component label field
 Company logo block
 Space for the team name
 Section for the project manager’s name

Organizing the WBS

PMBOK states that you can organize the WBS in several ways:
 Major deliverables and subprojects: here the major deliverables of the project or program are used as
the first level of decomposition. This is the approach we used for the Car example above.
 Subprojects executed outside the project team : you can think of this as being a little like streams within
a program. For example, if on one stream is to rollout the product globally, then the rollout project manager
can define the WBS for this component. Often a subproject will be contracted out.
 Project phases: using this technique, each phase of the project would be listed in the first level of
decomposition, with the deliverables of each phase listed in the next level. This is the approach we used for
the Project example previously.
 Combination approach: this is a combination of the organizational methods, for example, you might have
subprojects listed on the first level, with the major deliverables of each listed on the 2nd level.
What is a Work Breakdown Structure Diagram?
A WBS diagram expresses the project scope in simple graphic terms. The diagram starts with a single box or
other graphic at the top to represent the entire project. The project is then divided into main, or disparate,
components, with related activities (or elements) listed under them. Generally, the upper components are
the deliverables and the lower level elements are the activities that create the deliverables.

Information technology projects translate well into WBS diagrams, whether the project is hardware or
software based. That is, the project could involve designing and building desktop computers or creating an
animated computer game. Both of these examples have tasks that can be completed independently of other project
tasks. When tasks in a project don’t need to be completed in a linear fashion, separating the project into individual
hierarchical components that can be allotted to different people usually gets the job done quicker.

Benefits of Work Breakdown Structure 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.
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:
1. Creative Teams.
2. Technical Teams.
3. Teams that work directly with customers.
4. Internal projects teams.
5. Remote Teams.

Advantages and Disadvantages of WBS

Good project managers will always make it a point to breakdown the tasks, deliverables and activities that are
related to the project into chunks that are manageable and can be used at work.

This will also allow the team members to understand what is needed and what must be done in order to get
the desired results.

Advantages of Work Breakdown Structure:

The method of WBS is understood and used mostly by project managers since they happen to be the founder
of planning projects. This may not be surprising considering the fact that there are a few benefits which could be
gained from having a proper and well written breakdown of the work structure. If you are hoping to introduce this
method soon at your workplace, this is what you should know.
1. Boosts productivity:
The structure of work breakdown will boost productivity at your work place. It facilitates the identification of
skills which are needed to finish assignments on time. That in fact could boost the determination of people needed
for the job.
Also it will boost the determination of the best number of people who are needed for work completion.
By having the right set of people and the right number of them on the job, the members of your team in
general could help others become even more productive.
This may result in giving away the correct deliverables within time and set the needed costs which sometimes
may exceed expectations.
2. Has detailed steps:
The structure of work breakdown will allow the team members to see the delineation of steps which are
needed in giving the right products and service to all stakeholders.
The team members shall be able to understand all relationships between deliverables and steps. Plus all the
discussions which are related to the delineation of steps can help a lot when it comes to handling ambiguities and
clarifying them, narrowing the scope of projects and bringing out those assumptions which may often lead to
increasing critical issues that may affect the performance of your team in an adverse manner.
3. Boosts transparency and accountability:
The structure of work breakdown will provide for a much level of details which will make it easy for those
who are managing the projects. This may also be applied for those members of the team who are in relation with the
manager of the project and their own performance of work which is clearly a two way street that could encourage
better and effective communication.
By having a proper and well defined breakdown structure, the team will enjoy a much greater level of
transparency. Everyone will have a good idea on what everyone else should be doing and make sure to achieve all
phases which will help in boosting a sense of harmony and unity among workers.
4. Best for allocating cost and time estimates:
The structure of work breakdown will also allow for allocating cost and time estimates for all those who have
certain work packages. Such estimates may also boost a better and more realistic schedule as well as budget that the
team members will follow and thus boost better team morale.

5. Identifies risk in a better way:

One of the best work breakdown structure benefits is that it identifies all risks and threats that are ahead of
you and reduces the chances of them. You have to keep this in mind that boosting risks in your project will not be
completely eliminated but they could be minimised so that they post dangers to the accomplishment of the team.
The risk may also be used to track a project log, reviewed during projects and its execution. The best thing
you can do here to check risks is to see all the branches in the breakdown structure and identify one which has less
6. Boosts progress in monitoring:
The breakdown of work structure may also be used very easily to identify and quickly see the deliverables
that are affected due to any delays in the project or because of certain work packages or maybe sub deliverables.
The faster you will get the source of such delays, the better the impact will be.
Also having good participation in the evaluation of WBS will boost much deeper motivation and

Disadvantages of Work Breakdown Structure:

Despite having so many benefits of a work breakdown structure, there are a few cons that comes with the
work breakdown structure. Keep reading this section to find out what the possibilities are and how you can find a
solution to them.
1. Having a step by step approach is a pain!
The thing with work breakdown structure is that it has to do list approach which could be quite a pain since it
stems from the belief of your manger that the WBS is done step by step. Ultimately this could lead to
micromanagement which may not be attractive to some team members.
2. The problem of requirements:
When you keep a certain deliverable on the WBS, you could end up breaking down into the activities which
are required for its creation.
3. No Buying in processes used:
The project team will be using all its experience and expertise that could be used to get down the specifics
of such deliverables in a natural manner that the WBS could be drafted with some input from all the members of its
4. Having plenty of tasks to do at one go:
Having team members, you get to become more productive and hold them accountable for reaching such
achievements instead of just finishing a list of tasks. Due to a general rule, the WBS tasks must have durations between
a week and around 8 weeks.

5. The orientation:
The structure of work breakdown could become the outcome of oriented but not prescriptive methods.
Methodology may change without any changes of the planned outcomes. Deliverables or maybe planned
outcomes must never be closely blended with the other methods and actions.
6. Having more than 100% of WBS:
A very important design principle of WBS is applying 100% percent rule which will state what it includes and
its project scope at the same time. But there are times when we actually hear people say they have around a 110%
of themselves during a certain project. Even though that is perfectly alright for individual, a project could be
doomed to failure in case the WBS may be included more than 100% of the scope. It is also a good measure against
scope creep and we have a good idea of the problems that such a creep can cause.

7. Can’t get you correct details:

Anyone who has used such a method in life will definitely agree with this one point. It is definitely hard to
find the best and most accurate level of details when it comes to WBS. Since you have to fit just one on the page, it
will become extremely difficult to find what exactly the tasks are and what must be the creation of them added to
the WBS. This may lead to creation of useless and vague tasks under which you will have a list of non-similar tasks.
8. Becomes outdated quite fast:
Even the WBS method can dictate the project and schedule the whole thing, it does become outdated after a
point. This is probably because the schedule of the project will change the execution of such projects but the WBS
shall always be the same. When you update the WBS, you will not have any project manager who can help.
9. An overall summation:

PERT/CPM for Project Scheduling and Management

Brief History of CPM/PERT

CPM/PERT or Network Analysis as the technique is sometimes called, developed along two parallel
streams, one industrial and the other military.

CPM was the discovery of M.R.WALKER of E.I.Du Pont deNemours and J.E.Kelly of Remington Rand,
The Framework for PERT and CPM
I. Define the Project and all of it’s significant activities or tasks. The Project (made up
of several tasks) should have only a single start activity and a single finish activity.
II. Develop the relationships among the activities. Decide which activities must
precede and which must follow others.
III. Draw the “Network” connecting all the activities. Each Activity should have unique
event numbers. Dummy arrows are used where required to avoid giving the same
numbering to two activities.
IV. Assign time and/or cost estimates to each activity.
V. Compute the longest time path through the network. This is called the critical path.
VI. Use the Network to help plan, schedule, monitor and control the project.
Essential Parts of a WBS
What’s included in a work breakdown structure? The following are some features created in the WBS process.

1. Terminal elements (aka work packages): Terminal elements, usually referred to as work packages, are the lowest
parts in a WBS, beyond which a deliverable cannot be decomposed further. Work packages should be independent of
other tasks, and they should not be duplicated elsewhere in the project. Another way to think of work packages is as
the smallest manageable task that can be worked by an individual or team. Break the task down any further, and you
run the risk of creating a to-do list and micromanaging team members.

2. WBS coding: Work breakdown structure elements are usually numbered in decimal sequence from top to bottom.
For example, the indicates that the element is on the fourth level of the hierarchy. Numbering makes it easier
to identify the level of the task the element represents when referring to it out of context of the WBS chart.

3. WBS dictionary: The WBS dictionary describes in detail each component or task in the WBS hierarchy. It can even
link to documents that further define and support the element. The WBS dictionary supports the principle of mutual
exclusivity of work, in other words, no overlap, because each deliverable and sub-deliverable is so well defined that
little duplication of work or responsibility is possible.

Design Principles of WBS

Drawing a work breakdown structure can be straightforward. But the following tips are some design principles
to help you achieve the best results.

1. Focus on deliverables, not methods.

Think about the what, not the how. The key purpose of a work breakdown structure is to define the main deliverable in
terms of the small deliverables that form it. If the deliverable is not a product, then it must provide a specific and measureable
outcome. For example, if you’re creating a WBS for a professional service, define the products or outcomes from that service.
When you focus on a specific deliverable, no matter at what level of the breakdown, the team or individual responsible
knows exactly what is expected and what a good job looks like. You are less prone to add items that are outside of the project
scope as can be the case when creating a list of tasks. When team members focus on a deliverable, rather than checking off to-
do list items, they’re encouraged to use their initiative and problem-solving skills to foster innovation.

2. No overlap (also called mutual exclusivity).

Be sure there is no overlap in scope definition among tasks in your WBS. Not only would this result in a duplication of
effort, but would likely cause confusion regarding responsibility, effort, and accounting. To avoid this, create a WBS dictionary
to describe each component in detail.

3. Follow the 100 percent rule.

To eliminate work that doesn’t contribute to the deliverable, ensure that the sum of all resources in WBS, whether
time, money, or anything else, add up to 100 percent. In other words, the elements in level two total 100 percent, and the level
three and lower elements roll up into the level two percentage. Your finished project should never total more or less than 100

4. Look at the level of detail.

Generally, work packages should provide work that can be completed by a team or team member within a reporting
period. If status meetings are weekly, then the work must be completed within one week. Another way to determine effort is
through the 8/80 rule (noted above), which says that a subtask should not take less than eight hours or more than 80 hours to

Here’s another way to determine the level of detail in elements:

 If your team is less experience and needs more oversight, make work packages smaller and shorter.
 If you have a deliverable that might take longer to complete or cost more than was budgeted, again, break the project
into smaller deliverables with shorter work time. With a more frequent reporting and review time, problems can be
surfaced and solved sooner.
 If some deliverables are not known, you can enter as much information as you know currently, and then update the
document as you know more details.
1. Outline View
The outline view presents an easy to view and understand layout for the WBS. It is also a good layout to use
when developing the WBS because you can easily make changes, especially since the Microsoft Word auto
numbering feature updates the WBS Code automatically.

2. Hierarchical Structure
The hierarchal structure is similar to the outline view but without indentation. Although this format is more
difficult to read, it may be useful where you have many levels and indenting each level would make the table too
large to fit into a document.

3. Tabular View
The Tabular View is a nicely organized table view of the WBS. It is a good option for organizations
which prefer table formats.

4. Tree Structure View

The Tree Structure View is the most popular format for the Work Breakdown Structure. It presents an easy to
understand view into the WBS; however, it is also tricky to create without an application specifically designed for
creating this organizational chart structure.

WBS Dictionary
The WBS Dictionary contains all the details of the Work Breakdown Structure which are necessary to
successfully complete the project. Most importantly it contains a definition of each Work Package which can be
thought of as a mini scope statement. Resources on the project will look at the WBS dictionary to determine the
scope of the Work Package they've been assigned, so it's important to be clear when writing the definition. Most
WBS dictionaries contain more information than we show in our sample. These things usually include Level of
Effort, Cost Control Numbers, Resource Assignments, Responsibility Assignments - just to name a few.

Level Code WBS Code Definition
1 1 Widget Management System All work to implement a new widget management system.
2 1.1 Initiation The work to initiate the project.
3 1.1.1 Evaluation & Recommendations Working group to evaluate solution sets and make recommendations.
3 1.1.2 Develop Project Charter Project Manager to develop the Project Charter.
3 1.1.3 Deliverable: Submit Project Charter Project Charter is delivered to the Project Sponsor.
3 1.1.4 Project Sponsor Reviews Project Charter Project sponsor reviews the Project Charter.
Project Charter The Project Sponsor signs the Project Charter which authorizes
3 1.1.5 Signed/Approved The Project Manager to move to the Planning Process.
2 1.2 Planning The work for the planning process for the project.
3 1.2.1 Create Preliminary Scope Statement Project Manager creates a Preliminary Scope Statement. Statement

3 1.2.2 Determine Project Team The Project Manager determines the project team and requests the resources.
The planning process is officially started with a project kickoff meeting
3 1.2.3 Project Team Kickoff Meeting which includes the Project Manager, Project Team and Project Sponsor
Under the direction of the Project Manager the team develops
3 1.2.4 Develop Project Plan the project plan.
3 1.2.5 Submit Project Plan Project Manager submits the project plan for approval.
The project plan is approved and the Project Manager has permission to
3 1.2.6 Milestone: Project Plan Approval proceed to execute the project according to the project plan.
2 1.3 Execution Work involved to execute the project.
Project Manager conducts a formal kick off meeting with the
3 1.3.1 Project Kickoff Meeting project team, project stakeholders and project sponsor.
The original user requirements is reviewed by the project
3 1.3.2 Verify& Validate User Requirements manager and team, then validated with the users/stakeholders.
3 1.3.3 Design System The technical resources design the new widget management system.
3 1.3.4 Procure Hardware/Software The procurement of all hardware, software and facility needs for the project.
3 1.3.5 Install Development System Team installs a development system for testing and customizations of user interfaces.
3 1.3.6 Testing Phase The system is tested with a select set of users.
3 1.3.7 Install Live System The actual system is installed and configured.

All users are provided with a four hours training class.

Additionally, managers are provided with an additional two
3 1.3.8 User Training hours class to cover advanced reporting.
3 1.3.9 Go Live System goes live with all users.
2 1.4 Control The work involved for the control process of the project.
3 1.4.1 Project Management Overall project management for the project.
3 1.4.2 Project Status Meetings Weekly team status meetings.
3 1.4.3 Risk Management Risk management efforts as defined in the Risk Management Plan.
Update Project Project Manager updates the Project Management Plan as the
3 1.4.4 Management Plan project progresses.
2 1.5 Closeout The work to close-out the project.
An audit of all hardware and software procured for the project,
ensures that all procured products are accounted for and in the
3 1.5.1 Audit Procurement asset management system.
Project Manager along with the project team performs a lessons
3 1.5.2 Document Lessons Learned learned meeting and documents the lessons learned for the project.
3 1.5.3 Update Files/Records All files and records are updated to reflect the widget management system.
The Project Sponsor formally accepts the project by signing the
3 1.5.4 Gain Formal Acceptance acceptance document included in the project plan.
3 1.5.5 Archive Files/Documents All project related files and documents are formally archived.