Saturday, May 01, 2004

Creating a WBS

A Project Plan is a statement of what the project team intend to do in order to meet the project’s objectives and provide all project deliverables within the constraints of Time, Cost and Quality. Planning is the process of establishing objectives and choosing the most suitable means for achieving these objectives prior to taking action.

When a project manager is assigned to a project, he must first gather all the background information prepared by the sponsoring organization. These documents must be thoroughly reviewed to be certain that the scopes of works are well defined to ensure familiarity of the owner’s objectives.

To facilitate the planning process, each project must be subdivided into tasks that can be assigned and accomplished by the organizational units or individual. In planning a project, the project manager has to structure the work into small elements that are manageable, independent, integratable and measurable. The project planner must be careful to include everything that must be done in order to be successful. Failure to address all required activities could destroy both the schedule and budget of the project.

For any project size, it is necessary to develop a well-defined work breakdown structure (WBS) that divides the project into identifiable parts that can be managed. A WBS is a deliverable-orientated grouping of project elements that organizes and defines the total scope of the project. It is a convenient method for deriving a complete breakdown of each of the key stages into smaller elements. WBS provides the basic data for:

1. The final schedule of all activities and tasks;
2. The basis of building a project budget;
3. Project budget and cost control;
4. Project tracking;
5. Status reporting;
6. Network development;
7. Performance measurement; and
8. Resource assignment and control.

WBS is used to structure:
i. The activities to be undertaken;
ii. The timing of these activities (schedule);
iii. The resource requirements to complete them;
iv. The responsibility of individuals for them.

The basic aim is to split the project into tangible deliverable items. The more work packages we split the project into, the more interfacing with other people, departments, functions or even companies there may be. However the less work packages there are, the harder it will be to budget and estimate resource requirements.

A simple Work Breakdown Structure consists of the following:

4.Work packages

The typical processes for preparing a WBS are as follows:

i. Break the project down finer details until all tasks are identified and each task can be individually planned, budgeted, scheduled, monitored and controlled.

ii. At each work task, identify the necessary inputs, specification, end result, contractual conditions, resource requirement, organizational responsibilities, preliminary estimated time and dependencies.

iii. Liaise with project team to review time and cost estimates. Check interdependencies of tasks resources and personnel.

iv. Aggregate resource requirements, time, costs and sub-task relationships to next level of the WBS. Repeat up to the top level of the WBS. This step would achieve a total budget. Other costs such as overheads, marketing, contingencies may also be included.

v. The Aggregate schedule information will provide us with a project master schedule including milestones. This would give us a comprehensive guide to the project showing contractual commitments, interfaces between departments and a complete list of activities with estimated time and precedence. Time contingencies for any unforeseeable delays may be added.

vi. Compare with basic project plan to identify potential misunderstandings, problems and schedule slippages. Take corrective actions if required.

The WBS is a communication tool, providing detailed information to different levels of management. The items at the lowest level of the WBS are often referred to as the work packages. A work package is a portion of the project that may be assigned to an organization, functional department or individual for completion. It may be further divided into tasks and subtasks. A work package represents units of work at the level where the work is performed. It contains clearly defined start and finish dates. Work Packages should include the following components:

1. Clearly defined ownership;
2. Clearly defined start and end dates that are representative of physical accomplishments;
3. Results that can be compared with expectations;
4. A specific budget;
5. A structure that minimizes the required documentation.

The WBS is often used to develop or confirm a common understanding of project scope. It is normally presented a chart form (see figure 1.1). As soon as the WBS begins to take shape, it begins to help the project manager and planning team to crystallize the work that has to be done. If we need to add and/or omit any work scope, we just insert or delete boxes in a WBS. If scheduling and resources have already been allocated, the schedule, resource, and cost impact and the effect of those work items will also be removed. Using the WBS, you can decide the most important key stages and assign their completion milestone status.

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