Why WBS (Work Breakdown Structure)?

We all know that the main motto of Project Management is tracking and follow-up of projects in order to get the project work done “on time” and “within budget”. One might wonder as how a Work Breakdown Structure is related to finishing project on time and within budget. As the name suggests, a Work breakdown Structure is primarily used to break down the scope of the project into small manageable components which is easier to estimate, plan and control.

PMBOK defines WBS as
“A deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables”.

Now, let us look at why Work Breakdown Structure is essential to effective project management. Let us consider a case when a project manager (PM) assigns a task with 4 weeks of work to a team member. Often, during the mid-way of the task both the team member and PM lose track of how much they are complete with the task. The team member provides rough estimates of pending work and at the end either ends up putting in more efforts on the task or either delays the task. And if the task is a critical task in the project it might delay the finish date of the project. Hence, it is important for a project manager to split the tasks into manageable chunks of work so that they can get track of these individual smaller chunks of work accurately. Also, if the task is delaying, a PM would know specifically at what part it is getting delayed and they can take actions to fix that problem immediately rather than waiting for 4 weeks and then taking action on the delayed task.

A sample WBS is given below. Each box at the lowest level of WBS is called Work Package (Orange Boxes in the diagram). Each work package can be 30 – 60 hours of work.

Advantages of using WBS:
• Enables the project team to visualize and communicate the detailed scope of the project.
• Improves project team’s understanding of how the project’s scope of work would be accomplished.
• Makes it easy for a project manager or project lead to assign project work to team members.
• Makes the owner of a WBS package more accountable.
• Captures 100% scope of the project. Hence, the likelihood of missing an important task is less.
• Enables tasks to be easily delegated and managed.

Creating a WBS requires a lot of time and effort. However, it helps a PM in laying the groundwork for schedule and budget planning. The WBS lets project managers to manage 100% of project scope at a single place.

In my next blog I will explain the various components of WBS like WBS Dictionary, Work Package, and WBS Element etc. Until then for any Project Management related questions, please contact EPMA and speak with one of our experts.

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