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WORK BREAKDOWN STRUCTURE

Work breakdown structure


Work breakdown structure (WBS). A work breakdown structure is a deliverable oriented grouping of project
elements that organizes and defines the total scope of the project. Work not in the WBS is outside the scope of the
project. As with the scope statement, the WBS is often used to develop or confirm a common understanding of project
scope. Each descending level represents an increasingly detailed description of the project elements. A WBS is
normally presented in chart form as illustrated in Figures; however, the WBS should not be confused with the method
of presentation - drawing an unstructured activity list in chart form does not make it a WBS.

Each item in the WBS is generally assigned a unique identifier; these identifiers are often known collectively as the
code of accounts. The items at the lowest level of the WBS are often referred to as work packages. These work
packages may be further decomposed as described further.

Work element descriptions are often collected in a WBS dictionary. A WBS dictionary will typically include work
package descriptions as well as other planning information such as schedule dates, cost budgets, and staff assignments.

The WBS should not be confused with other kinds of "breakdown" structures used to present project information.
Other structures commonly used in some application areas include:

• Contractual WBS (CWBS), which is used to define the level of reporting that the seller will provide the
buyer. The CWBS generally includes less detail than the WBS used by the seller to manage the seller's work.
• Organizational breakdown structure (OBS), which is used to show which work elements have been
assigned to which organizational units.
• Resource breakdown structure (RBS), which is a variation of the OBS and is typically used when work
elements are assigned to individuals.
• Bill of materials (BOM), which presents a hierarchical view of die physical assemblies, sub-assemblies,
and components needed to fabricate a manufactured product.
• Project breakdown structure (PBS), which is fundamentally the same as a properly done WBS. The term
PBS is widely used in application areas where the term WBS is incorrectly used to refer to a BOM.

Work breakdown structure templates. A work breakdown structure (WBS) from a previous project can often be used
as a template for a new project. Although each project is unique, WBSs can often be "reused" since most projects will
resemble another project to some extent. For example, most projects within a given organization will have the same or
similar project life cycles and will thus have the same or similar deliverables required from each phase.

Many application areas have standard or semi-standard WBSs that can be used as templates. For example, the U.S.
Department of Defense has defined standard WBSs for Defense Materiel Items. A portion of one of these templates is
shown as Figure 1.
Figure 1: Sample WBS for Defense Material Items:

A I R C R A F T S Y S T E M S

P r o j e c t T r a i n i n g D a t a A i r V e h i c S l eu p p o r t F a c i l i t i e s T e s t &
M a n a g e m e n t E q u i p m e n t E v a l u a t i o n

S y s t e m s E q u i p m e Tn et c h n i c a A l i r f r a m O e r g a n i z a C t i oo nn sa t l r u c Mt i o o n c k - U p s
E n g i n e e r i n g O r d e r s L e v e l
M a n a g e m e n t

S u p p o r t i nF g a c i l i t i e E s n g i n e e r i En ng g i n e I n t e r m e d M i a a t ie n t e n a O n p c ee r a t i o n a l
P M A c t i v i t i e s D a t a L e v e l T e s t

S e r v i c e sM a n a g e Cm o e mn tm u n i c Da te i p o on t D e v e l o p m e n t a l
D a t a L e v e l T e s t

N a v i g a t i o n T e s t

F i r e C o n t r o l

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WORK BREAKDOWN STRUCTURE

Decomposition. Decomposition involves subdividing the major project deliverables into smaller; more manageable
components until the deliverables are defined in sufficient detail to support future project activities (planning,
executing, controlling, and closing). Decomposition involves the following major steps:

(1) Identity the major elements of the project. In general, the major elements will be the project deliverables and
project management. However, the major elements should always be defined in terms of how the project will
actually be managed. For example:
The phases of the project life cycle may be used as the first level of decomposition with the project deliverables
repeated at the second level, as illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Sample WBS Organized by Phase


S O F T W A R E P R O D U C T
R E L E A S E 5 . 0

P R O J E C T P R O D U C T D E T A I L C O N S T R U CI N T TI OE NG R A T I O N
M A N A G E M R E NQ TU I R E M E D N E T SS I G N & T E S T

P l a n n i n g S o f t w a r e S o f t w a r e S o f t w a r e S o f t w a r e

M e e t i n g s U s e r U s e r U s e r U s e r
D e m o n s t r aD t ei o m n o n s t r aD t ei o m n o n s t r aD t ei om n o n s t r a t i o n

A d m i n i s t r a t Ti o r na i n i n g T r a i n i n g T r a i n i n g T r a i n i n g
M a t e r i a l s M a t e r i a l s M a t e r i a l s M a t e r i a l s

• The organizing principle within each branch of the WBS may vary, as illustrated in Figure 3.

Figure 3: WBS for Waste Water Treatment Plant


W A S T E W A T E R
T R E A T M E N T P L A N T t

E a r l i e r D E S I G N C O N S T R U C T I O N L a t e r
P h a s e s P h a s e s

P r o j e c t M a n a g e m e Pn rto j e c t M a n a g e m e n t

C i v i l D r a w i n g s H e a d w o r k s

A r c h i t e c t u r a l D r a w i n Ag se r a t i o n B a s i n

S t r u c t u r a l D r a w i nE g f f s l u e n t P u m p i n g S t a t i o n

M e c h a n i c a l D r a w i nA g i r s H a n d l i n g B u i l d i n g

H V A C D r a w i n g s S l u d g e B u i l d i n g

P l u m b i n g D r a w i n g s

I n s t r u m e n t a t i o n D r a w i n g s

E l e c t r i c a l D r a w i n g s

(2) Decide if adequate cost and duration estimates can be developed at this level of detail for each element. The
meaning of adequate may change over the course of the project - decomposition of a deliverable that will be
produced far in the future may not be possible. For each element, proceed to Step 4 it there is adequate detail and
to step 3 if there is not - this means that different elements may have differing levels of decomposition.

(3) Identify constituent elements of the deliverable. Constituent elements should be described in terms of tangible,
verifiable results in order to facilitate performance measurement. As with the major elements, the constituent
elements should be de fined in terms of how the work of the project will actually be accomplished. Tangible,
verifiable results can include services as well as products (e.g., status reporting could be described as weekly
status reports; for a manufactured item, constituent elements might include several individual components plus

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WORK BREAKDOWN STRUCTURE

final assembly). Repeat Step 2 on each constituent element.

(4) Verify the correctness of the decomposition:


• Are the lower-level items both necessary and sufficient for completion of the item decomposed? If not,
the constituent elements must be modified (added to, deleted from, or redefined).
• Is each item clearly and completely defined? If not, the descriptions must be revised or expanded.
• Can each item be appropriately scheduled? Budgeted? Assigned to a specific organizational unit (e.g.,
department, team, or person) who will accept responsibility for satisfactory completion of the item? It not,
revisions are needed to provide adequate management control.

The work breakdown structure (WBS) needs special consideration as it plays an essential part in the process. It is a
hierarchical structure of project work elements in which costs associated with the lowest-level elements can be
abrogated upwards into related higher-Level sections of the project; three types are possible
1 Organization based
2. Product based,
3. Task based.

With an organizational structure (Figure (a)), work is defined according to the department within the company that
does the work. When costs are collected through the time sheet or bookings system, cost reports will show which
departments or divisions in the company have been working on the project and how much has been spent.

a) Organizational work breakdown

Company

Division

Department

Section

Group

The product or physical structure (Figure (b)) gives a cost system that relates costs to the physical elements of the
product. Here, when costs are collected, they will show what parts of the product have been worked on and how much
has been spent on designing or making each element; what it may not tell is who (i.e. what department) has been doing
the work.
(b) Product-based work breakdown

Product

Unit

Area

System

Subsystem

The task or functionally based structure (Figure (c)) relates costs to the tasks that are expected to be performed Cost
reporting in this arrangement shows what work people have been performing in terms of the tasks they normally carry
out. This system might seem to offer less than the other two in terms of control but it has much more to recommend it
in the context of performance measurement than either of the others. The reason is that in order to assess progress it is
necessary to refer to the project plan and tins is normally structured around the activities or tasks that are expected to be
performed. Because the other structure's lay their emphasis on either (a) who does the work or (b) what part of the
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product it relates to, it is often difficult to construct a satisfactory plan in those formats that fully describes the planner's
intentions, for planners think in terms of tasks rather than components or departments.

c) Task-based work breakdown


Project

Phase

Chapter

Work
Area

Task

When companies in the UK first began applying cost-performance measurement, little thought was given to the
relationship between plan and work breakdown structure and, in consequence, the technique proved to be awkward to
apply. It was not impossible, though, as the plan was m the hands of the planners who could make an assessment of
progress, while the costs were in the domain of the accountants who can normally provide the up-to-date expenditure.
By some means, progress was agreed between the two parties and some measure of performance derived. What was
lacking was a means of automatically linking the two; this is now available through software specifically designed for
both planning and costing but throws into focus another problem.

Work breakdown structures used in the past have tended to be product based, and this was encouraged by the US
Department of Defense (DoD) as its contracts define a work breakdown structure as a 'product-oriented family tree.
This arrangement helped the DoD's own Project Managers to account for what the money was being spent on; that is,
they could relate expenditure to items of procured hardware. It also helped them to estimate and compare the costs
associated with developing various items of defense equipment and from their point of view this made considerable
sense. The WBS that was imposed under this arrangement is called the contract work breakdown structure as it is
specifically designed for reporting against the contract statement-of-work which is normally written in terms of the'
hardware to be acquired. However the implementation guide to the DoD’s C/SCSC procedure goes on to define a
relationship between the organization structure and the work breakdown structure. Where these two structures meet a
cost account is created. The significance of the cost account as the principal means of cost collection has not really
been appreciated in the UK and the term is little used; much more stress is laid on the WBS as the principal means of
cost collection. As for the project plan, this was normally contained within a network but, due to the failure of
PERT/Cost, the DoD did not insist on the use of networks for project planning and some contractors avoided using
them.

However, given the abundance of cheap and effective project management software, that approach is now antiquated as
all contemporary software makes use of a network as the principal data model for the project. The difficulty comes in
integrating the plan and the costs; in many companies the WBS coding is used for cost reporting as staff use it on their
time sheets, Purchasing put it on their requisitions, etc., but often this coding has no relationship to the activity coding
used on the project network. Before the days of software that could perform both network analysis and cost-
performance calculations, this did not greatly matter, provided progress could be agreed between the cost accountants
and the planners. However, the relationship between the plan and the WBS becomes vitally important once it is decided
to integrate the two in a computerized environment.

The best and most direct method of updating the project plan is from the data that is captured by the time-bookings and
purchasing systems as it is the most accurate and up-to-date information, but as has been said, it is often coded
according to the WBS rather than the plan. Some contemporary software will allow WBS codes to be attached to
activities in the project network but they can only be used as a method of summarizing costs associated with related
groups of activities; they cannot be used as a means of directly updating any activity because several activities can all
have the same WBS code and the software can have no way of distinguishing between them.

Relating the work breakdown structure to the project plan

Both the WBS and the project plan represent two sets of structured knowledge but any system that forges a link
between two sets of data demands a discipline of its own that must be recognized and understood. If that discipline is
built in at the onset, then the process of control will be much easier; try to put it in when the project is under way and

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things may become awkward. By creating a WBS that allows the network to be coded directly from it, a way can be
found to structure both the network and the WBS such that they are precisely related and mutually compatible. The
most convenient way of doing this is to use the WBS coding as the key code for activity numbering in the network.
This appears to run contrary to the network coding systems that are currently fashionable, but this is the basis of the
new discipline. It will be realized that this is a fundamental decision; it will affect the whole project data structure and
has to be taken at the start. Furthermore, it imposes a discipline of thought upon the project planners that they will not
have been used to previously.

For complete cost control, any WBS must satisfy the criteria that the work packages are
(a) mutually exclusive and
(b) collectively exhaustive
i.e. no work should appear twice and all work must be covered. The principle must not be violated and apply equally to
the network. In this respect, a matrix type of work breakdown is particularly useful as it lends itself to generating all the
required packages and can also be used to draw the top-level network directly from the matrix. The figure shows a
sample of a WBS based on a matrix.

The most significant feature of the figure is that the WBS is expanded by including the principal tasks that the staff
normally performs, as well as the main subdivisions of the project and the responsible sections of the organization. This
feature takes the WBS one step further towards the project plan than is normally the case. The principal tasks that any
department of a company can perform are termed 'major tasks' and they are the lowest level in the WBS. A major task
is thus the point at which the project plan and the WBS meet. To define the major tasks a careful look will be needed at
what each department actually does as discrete, identifiable and controllable functions. Examination can often reveal
that seven or eight functions can he used to completely define the scope of tasks that a department undertakes. The
arrangement of these major tasks, on the basis of the order in winch they are performed, will be the starting-point for
the project plan.

In figure it will be seen that a formatted sheet has been used to create the WBS. Along the top the major responsible
departments have been defied. Design, Drawing Office, Purchasing, etc. Within them what functions they perform have
been specified: supervising, modeling, scheming, designing, etc. At the side the main elements of the work to be
undertaken can be inserted; these can be subdivided in to two: Phase and Chapter, alternatively they can be subdivided
according to the product structure if cost reporting is required in that format. Inserting a cross in a box in the matrix
will indicate the identification of package of work that has to be performed and one worthy of control in its own right.
This arrangement produces a task-based WBS as it has the tasks that each department is expected to perform as its
lowest level. A Work Package Number can be derived directly from the position of the cross in the matrix. In this
example, it is a four-digit number made up from the elements:

1st digit: the Project Phase - i.e. a major subdivision of work within the project as a whole (for example,
phase one, prototype design and construction).
2nd digit: the Chapter - i.e. a major subdivision of work within a project phase (for example, chapter two,
design and drawing of the main item of development in phase one).
3rd digit: the Work Area Code - i.e. the area of the company in which the particular skill is to be found (for
example, work area code is the Drawing Office). Work area code 9 is reserved for bought-out
materials and other items of expenditure that do not consume labour but incur costs.
4th digit: the Major Task Code - i.e. the particular activity that is required to be done (for example, major task
5 in work area 1 is Design Support). Major tasks 9 and 0 are left free in all cases and can be used to
specify any special tasks that are not easily defined by the pre-designated numbers. There is also a
work area code 0 which has free fields that can be used to specify any other miscellaneous activity
that does not easily fall into any of the other categories.

Once the WBS has been established, all the work packages in the project will have been identified. The Project
Planning Engineer, in conjunction with the Project Manager, must use judgment in selecting an item to be the subject
of a work package in its own right. For example, a major task in the design area may be meetings and liaison'; in a
large project with regular liaison meetings with the client, this may be a significant item of both time and cost and
worthy of special control. In a smaller project, even though there will be meetings, these may be considered as part of
the normal design process and not singled out. The greater the number of identified work packages, the greater will be
the detail contained within the reporting, but this must be set against the extra complexity of ensuring that times and
costs are correctly booked to a multiplicity of task codes.

A basic network should be constructed using the work packages or major tasks to lay out the main logic and establish
overall timescales. The major tasks themselves will be too large and general for both control and precise logic
definition; hence they will have to be broken down into minor tasks or activities. These activities will specify a

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definable amount of work to the same level as would be expected in a normal network but they must all emanate from,
and be contained within, their own work package; activities which cross work package boundaries are not allowed. The
activities are numbered by adding an extra digit, or digits, onto the work package number from which they arise. This
approach will be seen by some planning engineers as robbing them of some of the freedom of thought that they had
previously enjoyed and resistance to using it may be encountered. However, this resistance must be overcome; the
point to make is that planners should no longer think of planning for activities alone, but planning for the total project
control process which includes the costs.

The major advantage of this approach is that just one number is used throughout; there is never any need to transpose
data from one coding system to another m order to update the network with progress or generate the costs associated
with work packages. It means that the network can be updated with progress directly from the data generated by the
time-bookings and accounting systems as the codes in both systems arc identical. There is no need to employ 'data
capture sheets' which require staff to record their working hours against both the cost code (work package number) and
the activity number; when such methods are tried, either staff do not bother to fill them in, or when they do, half the
time they are filled in incorrectly. The benefits of using a single code number throughout cannot be overstressed; an
arrangement that involves independently maintaining two sets of data in parallel while keeping a strict relationship
between the two but using different codes can be one of the biggest sources of errors and confusion, particularly if the
project is large and the plan subject to frequent changes.

Figure shows the basic logic in precedence form drawn from the matrix of Figure, while Figure shows the expansion to
form the detailed network. Figure gives further information as the activity boxes contain details of tin-grade of labour
to be used along with the estimated hours and the activity duration in days.

In the example in the figure, a standard system of labour coding has been used; this is to be recommended where it is
wished to plan company-wide across a range of projects calling on the same resources. In this simple, the labour coding
system is made up of two letters and a digit. The two letters indicate the job; the first letter indicates the discipline:

M = Manager
E = Engineer etc.
Thc digit at the end indicates the hourly charge rate for costing purposes.

Thus activity no 131101 (Design Supervision of the prototype) requires 1000 hours of technical management time over
a 500-day period at charge rate 1. With the project plan expressed in this form, it can be loaded into a project
management computer system.

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