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WBS

What Are The 4 Aspects of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)?4 min. read

A project is a complex endeavor and the aim of the project management is to make sure that this complex project work is organized with the help of process groups and project management knowledge areas. In the scope management knowledge area, the required work is defined. PMP scope management also ensures that all of that work and only that work is done. Create Work Breakdown Structure process is the 4th process of the Scope Management according to the online PMP course. Work Breakdown Structure is abbreviated as WBS and Create Work Breakdown Structure process mainly aims to produce the WBS of the project.

What Is The Objective of WBS?

As we mentioned before, a project is a complex endeavor and there has to be many deliverables and work during the whole project life cycle. As the PMI certification training describes, the main objective of Create WBS process is subdividing those project deliverables and project work into smaller and manageable components. This is mainly done for better estimation, better management, better coordination and better monitoring. WBS is a part of project planning process and WBS is one of the three parts of Scope baseline, together with WBS Dictionary and Project Scope Statement.

WBS

Let’s consider an e-commerce shopping website project. If we ask the team to give their estimates to complete the project, it will be very hard for the project team to provide their estimates. But if we divide the project into smaller parts such as Database, Screens, Services etc. and then also subdivide these major parts into smaller pieces such as login screen, payment screen, member profile screen etc. providing estimations, assigning activities, coordinating and monitoring the project will be easier respectively.

WBS simplifies the project team’s work and with these subdivided smaller parts, the outcome of the project, as a whole, is ensured to be successful.

4 Aspects of WBS

There are 4 aspects of WBS that helps the project manager to better manage the project. Let’s go over these 4 aspects one by one.

WBS

  1. WBS provides a structured vision of what has to be delivered. It includes major packages that need to be delivered and smaller deliverables that will complete these major parts respectively. By this way, smaller deliverables of the project can be visible to the project team.
  2. WBS helps to better understand the project. Because it is actually the hierarchy of project deliverables that will accomplish the completion of the project product. Therefore, WBS will show which deliverables will help to complete which part of the project work and how that will fit into project product respectively.
  3. WBS shows the hierarchy of deliverables. By this way, it can be easily seen what needs to be completed to finish a work package in the project.
  4. WBS can be organized by phases or major deliverables. This means if there is not a product in the project, and a service will be delivered instead, phases of the project can be broken down further as well. For instance, analysis, development, testing, integration etc. can be major phases of a project. Or if there is a product, there will be deliverables such as screens, databases, infrastructure etc. for a software project.

An Example of WBS

Now, let’s go over a sample WBS.

WBS This figure above shows a sample work breakdown structure for an aircraft manufacturing project. As you see, the final product is the Aircraft System. So that is put on top of the hierarchy.

This figure above shows a sample work breakdown structure for an aircraft manufacturing project. As you see, the final product is the Aircraft System. So that is put on top of the hierarchy.

Then on the second level, major deliverables and activities that constitute an aircraft system are shown. These are Project Management, Training, Data, Air Vehicle, Support Equipment, Facilities and Test and Evaluation. As you see, WBS shows both project management activities and also product deliverables as well. Project management is actually not part of the product, aircraft system. But it is in the WBS. In the 3rd level, work packages that are under each major deliverable are listed. For instance, Air vehicle is a major deliverable and work packages that will complete this major deliverable are Airframe, engine, communication system, navigation system and fire control system.  

WBS

And for activities like project management and training, further activities and each training that need to be delivered are listed. For instance, for training major deliverable, there are three trainings that need to be delivered. These are Equipment training, facilities training, and services training.

It is critical here to know that, work packages consist of “nouns” instead of “actions”. As you can see, work packages are nouns such as technical orders, base buildings, operational test etc. Project activities are actually written in actions such as “complete the operational test” and this is not a convention used in WBS.

In short, WBS is like a to-do-list for the project manager and the project team. It is created during the planning process and it’s an important part of Scope baseline. A solid Work Breakdown Structure means better estimation, better management, better coordination and better monitoring for the whole project.

WBS

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