Why is it important to apply a (WBS) Work Breakdown Structure in Project Management?
What is a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)?
A work breakdown structure or a WBS enables the project manager to plan their work effectively. Time-limited activities mark every project confined to a fixed time frame and costs (Torkanfar and Azar, 2020). In other words, the WBS structure is mainly centered around delivery. It depends on the arrangement of the tasks that must be completed so that the final product can be achieved. The main aim of the WBS is to keep the project’s team members organized and ensure that they are focused on the project’s purpose (Amirtash et al. 2021). This can be accomplished by a lucid and concisely written work statement. In the present day, the work to break down the structure is applied mainly by the creative and technical teams that are indulged in dealing with the teams and the clients that work on the internal projects. The WBS is widely applicable in various industries, ranging from software development to engineering and construction (Han, 2021).
The WBS was developed in 1957 along with the PERT or the Programe Evaluation and the Review Technique. Primarily the WBS was used in the Defence Organisations; however, in the non-defense sectors, this concept was introduced in 1987. Since then, the work breakdown structure has been used in residential, industrial, construction, and commercial projects.
With the increase in demand for software development across various organizations, agile work breakdown structures are incorporated into the industry. In addition to this, they have become beneficial as well (Putra and Latief, 2020). Agile can be applied to construction or software development for managing projects. This is done by having an idea or vision and creating a project that relies on a list of requirements. A schedule is planned by the project management along with the fixed costs that are incurred in the project. In this regard, the WBS aids in making the plan persistent, thereby providing for the effective execution of the project.
Purpose of WBS
The chief purpose of a WBS is to lessen the load of the complex task to the set of collections of tasks. This is vital for the project manager because they can oversee the task more effectively than complex tasks. The tasks must be independent and measurable, confined to lucidly defined limits. There are various advantages to creating a WBS (Su and Zheng, 2021). It helps in defining and organizing the work that is needed. It helps in the faster development of a schedule, and this is done by allocating the effort estimates to certain sections of the WBS. The WBS identifies the potential risks that are not well defined and included in the project. It also helps offer a glimpse of the impacts of the deliverables falling behind. Several ways are provided by the WBS that helps in estimating the costs that are incurred in the projects. WBS also helps allocate resources, providing a repeatable approach (Hans, 2021). The WBS provides an effective tool for collaboration and brainstorming. Besides this, it also provides a scope to include the team members and indulge them in the planning.
Levels of a WBS
The WBS assumes a hierarchical approach, using the different levels to change complicated project items into manageable work items. The number of levels included in the WBS analysis relies on the complexity and the size of the project. Manly, there are four types of WBS levels.
- Top-level: This defines the project’s ultimate goal or the project or final deliverables of the project. Using clear language, the project’s scope is stated so the team member can understand the project goals (Hans, 2021).
- Controls Account: The main workflow throughout the project is mapped by the second level, the controls account. It also defines the goals that are to be achieved. While defining the controls in the WBS features, services and systems can be listed that have been specifically required by the customers (Amirtash et al. 2021).
- Work Packages: This level comprises a group of tasks that helps form the control account. All the tasks must be manageable so the project managers can help in monitoring and execution.
- Activities: This is the final level that assists in defining the tasks that are needed to be executed. Also, this is done to facilitate the execution of the tasks depending on the work package levels of the WBS (Putra and Latief, 2020). All these activities are crucial as they facilitate the entire execution of the project.
Types of WBS
In project Management, there are three various types of Work Breakdown Structures
- Process Oriented WBS expounds on the stages of work in the project along with the functions and steps required to complete the project and produce a comprehensive project scope (Amirtash et al. 2021).
- Deliverable-oriented WBS explains the project’s deliverables, like the tangible item that contributes to the competition of the project’s goals. In addition, it helps in providing an overview of the relationships between the various deliverables (Su and Zheng, 2021).
- Time-phased WBS elucidates the long-term projects into important phases instead of dividing them into steps, and the entire project phase goes through detailed planning.
Why is WBS regarded as important in Project Management?
- WBS has various benefits, which is why it is considered important in project managementThe primary benefit of WBS in Project management is that it helps with project deliverables. It also prevents the work from slipping through the cracks. It assists in guiding the project team regarding what must be done in a coordinated manner. In this manner, the work that is not regarded as necessary or indulged in the scope of the project can be eliminated (Emere et al. n.d.). As a result, the team can stay focussed on the project’s scope.
- Another advantage of WBS in project management is that it gives the project members an insight into where the activities will fit in the project management plan.
- WBS in PM assists in facilitating interaction and cooperation among the stakeholders and the other project team members. In this manner, the ranking of the project work is shown, and the project scope outputs are displayed. In addition, there will be smaller parts of the work, and each of them will be assigned to the project team members.
- Incorporating WBS in project management helps prevent changes, although they are an inevitable part of the project. Thus it is necessary to use corrective and preventive actions that help avoid the primary cause of changes in the project. In PM, WBS helps show the project scope’s fragmentation and the task that is needed to be executed.
- In project management, WBS helps form a basis for assuming time, cost, and staff. This is regarded as one of the most important benefits of implementing WBS in project management. This is because it becomes difficult to make assumptions about the requirements of the time, cost, and staff allocated for a huge amount of work. Deviations might happehe assumptions are made over large work packages. However, if the work is broken down into minor parts, it will be untroubled to do an estimation. Thus, the project can be made more manageable by incorporating the WBS in the project management.
- The foundation of every project is the WBS in project management. The WBS shows the snapshot of the project work in the project management and the deliverables that are needed to finish the project’s scope.
- As the WBS project management can show the fragmented pieces of work along with the deliverables, it is easy to estimate the project cost.
- The risk associated with every item in the WBS Project Management can be easily identified.
- As the WBS is incorporated into the project management, the work packages can be assigned to the parts of the organization or the individuals. As the work or the deliverable is broken down into smaller pieces, it helps execution, management, and coordination and makes monitoring easier.
What happens after the WBS is created?
Figure: Activities completed after the creation of WBS
(Source: Self-created )
At the core of every critical activity in a project, the Work Breakdown Structure is located. These are described below as follows:
- The project’s activity list shows the various activities that will be performed throughout the project so that the project scope can be completed. As the WBS shows the work and the project deliverable in the project management, the activities that will be performed can be extracted from the work packages under the WBS.
- In a project, the network diagram shows the interrelationship between the various activities of the projects. This helps in determining the project schedule.
- Staffing in the WBS helps to determine the necessity of human resources in the project. As the WBS in PM helps show the deliverables and the project work, it also helps determine the staff capable of completing the project. This comprises the skill set, the number of staff needed, and the competency requirements.
- With the help of WBS in PM the estimating is done. As the WBS shows the entire outline, the fragmented pieces of work, and the deliverables required o be finished, it is adopted as a primary input in time, cost, and resources along with the other estimations.
- With the assistance of WBS in project management, scheduling is completed. Scheduling refers to finalizing of commencing and the finishing dates of the entire project, respectively.
- Budgeting can be finished after completing the cost estimations of the WBS in PM as the project budget highlights the total money needed to finish the entire project.
- Based on the WBS Project Management, quality management activities are planned.
- Amirtash, P., Parchami Jalal, M. and Jelodar, M.B., 2021. Integration of project management services for International Engineering, Procurement, and Construction projects. Built Environment Project and Asset Management, 11(2), pp.330-349.
- Torkanfar, N. and Azar, E.R., 2020. Quantitative similarity assessment of construction projects using WBS-based metrics. Advanced Engineering Informatics, 46, p.101179.
- Han, X., 2021. WBS-free scheduling method based on database relational model. International Journal of System Assurance Engineering and Management, 12(3), pp.509-519.
- Putra, A.S.P. and Latief, Y., 2020, April. Analysis of safety cost structure in an infrastructure project of cable-stayed bridge based on Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). In IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering (Vol. 830, No. 2, p. 022075). IOP Publishing.
- Su, J. and Zheng, X., 2021, April. Application of WBS in pricing management of prefabricated concrete construction project. In IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science (Vol. 719, No. 3, p. 032014). IOP Publishing.
- Hans, R.T., 2021. Deliverable-Oriented Work Breakdown Structure: A Software Project Scope Verification Tool. Current Topics on Mathematics and Computer Science Vol. 1, pp.59-65.
- Emere, Chijioke, Innocent Musonda, and Chioma Okoro. “A review of critical project management techniques to enhance construction SMEs project performance.” In The Construction Industry in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Proceedings of 11th Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) Postgraduate Research Conference 11, pp. 521-528. Springer International Publishing, 2020.
- Define WBS.
Ans: A work breakdown structure or a WBS allows the project manager to plan their work in an organized manner. Time-limited activities mark every project and are confined to a fixed time frame and costs.
- Describe the different levels of WBS.
Ans: The different levels of WBS are top-level, which defines the ultimate goal of the project controls account, mapped by the main workflow, work packages that help form the control account and activities that help define the tasks needed to be completed.
- What are the types of WBS?
Ans: The types of WBS are process-oriented, time-phased, and deliverable-oriented.
- State the purpose of WBS.
Ans: The main purpose of a WBS is to lessen the load of the complex task, and also it is important for the project manager because they can oversee the task compared to complex tasks.
- State any advantage of WBS in project management.
Ans: In project management, WBS helps form a foundation for assuming time, cost, and staff. This is considered one of the most significant benefits of incorporating WBS in project management.
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