WBS – Simplify your Work to save Cost and Time


Let’s discuss a scenario, you bought a piece of land in the outskirts of the city. It is a calm and quite place, surroundings with green lush nature. A pleasant escape from the busy and noisy city life. You love to build a house there to stay forever.

So, as planned, you have started to build your house, and hired the Laborer, Masons, Carpenters etc., and also purchased the raw materials. Fixed a specific time period to complete the work.

Coming to the most important part is the budget. For that, you take expert opinions from your friends and neighbors, who had previous experiences when they built their houses and also discussed with some senior experienced persons. Finally, you set the overall making cost of your house.

Finally, the work began. Everything goes as planned. The foundation works began. The workers laid the foundation, then started constructing pillars, started brick works and so on. After some time, when your house was around eighty percent completed, suddenly you noticed that you are out of budget. All the allocated budget consumed and the house is only eighty percent completed. And also, you are out of the scheduled time for completion of the house.

You have already calculated the overall budget, then why you require more money now to complete the house? And, why the works are taking more than the scheduled time? So, let us analyze where the money is spent so far –

  • While laying the foundation, some 5-7% budget spent on digging the soil and prepared the base of the house
  • Another 9-10% budget used for laying the concrete foundation including raw materials
  • Each pillar costs around 5% of budget, and there are 8 pillars in total
  • The brick-works took around 10-15% of allocated budget
  • And the list continues…!

So, where is the problem? Why all the allocated budgets spent, while the house is only eighty percent completed?

Let’s find out the reasons for Failures

  • You set the overall budget but failed to paid attention into details
  • You, scheduled the overall completion time of the house but failed to calculate the time per activity

How this situation can be avoided at the first place?

Yes, this type of situation would have avoided, if we considered each components/phases of work by paying attention to the smallest part of the work while estimating the budget and schedule.

Now, try to relate the same situation in a project you are working on. Whether it is a software project or any industrial project. You can visualize the same situation can happen in many projects across the companies, where without proper estimation, the projects may end abruptly with loss of revenue, delayed in product handover etc., and overall a bitter working experience for the stakeholders, including Partners.

To rescue the projects to fall in such situation, the Project Managers across the industries creates a useful chart called, the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). Creation of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a process of decomposing the complex project work into smaller parts, which can be easily manageable and easier for planning later.

Benefits of Work Break Down Structure (WBS)

  • It helps to estimate the project works more accurately
  • Project Budget and Schedule can be more accurately estimated
  • Project Managers and other stakeholders can track the schedule of the project in an easier way.
  • It helps in assigning the work to the project resources
  • Project risk can be foreseen before it happens
  • At any point of time, the WBS chart can help stakeholders to see the Project’s progress and scope covered so far

Creation of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

While creating the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), the first and foremost work is to decompose the project scope into smaller packages till the lowest level. The following processes can be followed −

  • Identify the top level scope at the top of the hierarchy
  • Start decomposing from the top levels
  • Simplify the work by dividing them into the next level and so on
  • Decompose till the lowest level which cost and time duration can be estimated and managed

(The beside diagram is just for example purpose, do not represent the full project scope.)

In this diagram, you can notice that the top level represents the high-level work, and, it further decomposed to lower levels components. The naming convention for the second level can be used as x.x, while the third level identified as x.x.x.

We should consult the experts and take their help while breaking the larger components into smaller ones. The experts may consist of technical people, individual or any group having technical knowledge on the same area, or previously worked on the similar projects, having knowledge of similar historical information or experts. Also, we can take references from templates and other artifacts preserved in the organization repository or from industry experts having similar project experience.

The WBS created as a hierarchical diagram, so it is not possible to mention the detail descriptions there. So, to understand the details of work packages, another important document is called, WBS Dictionary.

WBS Dictionary

The WBS dictionary contains the detailed scope, activity, and their scheduled information of each of the components of WBS. The project team takes the details from WBS dictionary to understand the WBS. The work package identifier used in the WBS are mapped to the WBS dictionary to track and found the details. The WBS dictionary should have following details −

  • Identifier
  • Description of the work
  • Assumptions
  • Constraints
  • Schedule
  • Related Activities
  • Resource information
  • Quality Measures to be taken
  • Cost estimation
  • Acceptance criteria
  • References

The identifier is a unique numeric or alpha-numeric value helps to identify the cases. The description should be provided to understand that work package.

Assumptions should be mentioned (if any), which helps to know more details on that package.

The WBS is the foundation of project planning. The success of the project depends upon it. All the project management planning, estimation of budget, resource allocation and activity duration can be planned by using the WBS.

Published on 17-Jan-2020 12:27:36