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How A Work Breakdown Structure Can Improve Your Project

Any project management guide will tell you that a Work Breakdown Structure is crucial in the accomplishment of completing a project. What is a Work Breakdown Structure?
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge 3rd Edition (PMBOK Guide) defines it 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.” What does it mean? Simply, it is just breaking down the work into smaller pieces of work (smaller components) for easier manageability.

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) lets you identify the necessary work components, aspects and requirements of a project at the very beginning in order to help make the project planning more complete, producing and simplifying all the initial data needed for the application and implementation of project management strategies and methodologies needed to complete the project. What the work breakdown structure does is make the kind of detailed thinking required to identify tasks and estimate timelines as well as resource requirements easier.

Other benefits to having a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is that it makes it easier to pinpoint control points and task milestones, and provides a visual aid in presenting and explaining project structure, scope and costs to approving bodies.

Improving Your Project Three Ways With A WBS

A Better Definition Of The Scope
Having a WBS helps define and organize the scope of the total project more accurately and specifically, in an easy-to-understand, more visually clear manner. The most common way of using the WBS to define scope is by using a hierarchical tree structure. This is a visual device wherein each level of this structure breaks the project deliverables or objectives down to more specific and measurable chunks. In this way, the scope is defined much more clearly, enumerating the specific tasks, control points and task milestones, helping prevent what is known as scope creep– that situation in which a a project gets delayed as sponsors and clients keep adding tasks originally not found in the initial agreements.

Better Organization
Having a WBS for your projects helps greatly with assigning responsibilities, resource allocation, monitoring the project, and controlling the project, since it is apparent at one glance the different tasks and subtasks needed to complete the project. With a WBS, defining the work and the deliverables at each phase of the project becomes more precise and concrete so that the project team knows exactly what has to be accomplished within each deliverable or phase. This also allows for better estimating of cost, risk, and time as work can be done in planning smaller tasks and using them to build up the larger tasks that they are part of. An added benefit is that the WBS provides an easy-to-understand visual aid in presenting and explaining project structure, scope and costs to approving bodies.

Better Quality Deliverables
On a WBS, the deliverables are clearly mapped out, along with the different tasks required to produce them, allowing the project manager and the team to ensure their completion. This ensures not just a better workflow, but better quality– the project manager and team members involved in producing the specific deliverables can check the details of the deliverables against requirements of stakeholders and clients to ensure that nothing has been left out or if overlapping occurs.

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