Developing A Work Breakdown Structure For Projects: The Practical Steps

Work Breakdown Structure For Projects

    In my previous article, I talked about all that you need to know about work Breakdown Structure for projects. In this article, I want to talk about how to develop a work Breakdown Structure for projects. Follow me as we look at that together in this article.   

The guidelines…

#1 Reference material

There is a need for you to gather the reference materials and other inputs you will need. Some of the materials include the scope statement, requirement documentation, a WBS template, constraints and assumptions, constraints and assumptions and other planning inputs that may impact scope definition.

#2 Organisation

You have to determine how you are going to organise the work of your project. Regardless of the organisation, these elements represent the level directly below the project name on your WBS. The WBS can be created using various methods. Subdividing the project into phases s the first level of decomposition and then subdividing the phases into product and project deliverables is the second level of decomposition. The project can be subdivided into major deliverables, which can be the first level of decomposition. Making the subprojects conducted outside the organisation the first level of decomposition and the supporting contract work the second level of decomposition.

#3 Major deliverables

You need to identify the major deliverables or subprojects for the project.   The major deliverables should be listed in the scope statement or contract, but your team may think of more deliverables that are necessary to achieve the project’s objectives.     If you are organising your project work by major deliverables, this step will represent the level directly below the project name.   If you are organising your work by some other method, the major deliverable will probably be two levels below the project name.    

#4 Sufficient decomposition

You have to analyse each element to determine whether it is sufficiently decomposed. Can each deliverable be adequately scheduled, budgeted, and assigned to an individual person or group?   If yes, you have reached the work package level; decomposition for this element is complete. Skip the next step and go to step 6. If not, further decomposition is required for this element.    

#5 Subdeliverables

Break down each WBS element into Subdeliverables until you reach the work package level. For each element, ask yourself, ” In order to create this deliverable, what Subdeliverables will we have to produce?”. Repeat step 4.

#6 Validate your WBS

There is a need for you to validate your WBS using a bottom-up approach. Starting at the work package level, ensure that:

  • The lower level complaints are necessary and sufficient for the completion of each decomposed item.
  • Each element is described as a deliverable and is distinguishable from all other deliverables.
  • Each element can be adequately budgeted, scheduled, and assigned to an individual person or group.

  Remember that, although it is not necessary to have the same number of levels for each deliverable, a disproportionate number of levels may indicate that the deliverable is inappropriately decomposed.   Analyse the element to determine whether one of the high-level components should be broken into two or more Subdeliverables should be combined.     Make the necessary modifications before moving to step 7.  

#7 Project code

Using your Organisation’s or project code of accounts, assign a unique numeric cost code for each element, indicating its branch and level on the WBS for cost performance tracking and reporting.    


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