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What is WBS

Work break down structure is the graphical representation of the scope of the project. It showed from top to down in a completed view that topmost segment of the WBS represents the project in whole and bottom-most segment represents the work package up to which we can decompose the project. It follows the 100% rule which implies that child work packages add up should represent the complete work of parent package and nothing should be left and nothing should be added besides the scope of work. The same principle follows when defining the activities after decomposing the work packages during the scheduling process.

Importance of WBS

WBS is very important part of the project management process as it is the first step towards creating the project schedule, determining schedule and cost baseline, defining resources and establishing the risks. All these processes are implemented at WBS level or after decomposing the WBS further. WBS is decomposed up to the level where it can represent the work package which can represent a unit of work or part of work which can be easily managed or assigned to any resources. Work activities performed to accomplish these work packages then defined afterward in the scheduling process. Hence WBS should be so comprehensive that no work should be left from WBS and it should be decomposed in such a way that it can be easily identified and assigned. It is also beneficial in cost estimation that two to three combined WBS attached to the control account, which not only helps in cost estimating but also controlling the cost during execution of the work.

How to create WBS

There are two types of methods for creating WBS.

  1. Department or phase wise
  2. Deliverable wise

In department wise, the work is decomposed at L2 level based on the department wise. Like if we take the example of WBS for the simple building project we found that it can be decomposed at L2 level based on drawing & engineering, civil engineering and electrical engineering department wise. Then at L3 and L4 level, it can be defined based on the deliverables too.

In deliverables wise the work is decomposed at L2 level based on the deliverable wise. Like if we take the same example of simple building project we found that it can be decomposed at L2 level based on drawing, substructure, superstructure and finishing work wise. Then further it can be defined at L3 and L4 level by any of the methods.

There is no rule that every subdivision of the WBS shall go up to the same level. At the initiation of the project, there is the possibility that many of the deliverables cannot be decomposed up to work package level and they can be left up to L2 or L3 level and future can be decomposed when the scope of work is well elaborated. This is also called rolling wave planning.

Advantage of WBS

  1. It decomposed entire scope of work up to the level where the scope can be understood and managed.
  2. It is also the basis of the control account which further added up and establish project estimate and budget required.
  3. It is also used for planning and managing the resources effectively.
  4. It is also used for defining the risk in the project as the if a WBS element is not properly decomposed can be a source of the risk.

New Technologies in WBS

Now a day there are many software are available for project management processes like MS Project and Primavera. These software show the work based on WBS level and present these on graphical schedules. However numerous software also available for only WBS creation which can also be used for solely this purpose only like WBS chart pro, WBS schedule pro, Mind view etc. Some of these are freeware and some are to be bought for using WBS chart pro is one of the freeware which can be readily downloaded for the internet and can be used for WBS creation process. Following is the video link for learning how to use WBS chart pro for creating Work break down structure.


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