Greetings Gantt´s children, we welcome you to a new video of the Project Scheduling Glossary. Today we are going to answer this question: what is a WBS (Work Breakdown Structure)? Let´s start. Are you ready?
What is a WBS (Work Breakdown Structure)?
Imagine that you are the coach of a soccer team and you have nine months ahead of you where you have to play three different tournaments and each tournament consists of a series of back and forth matches. Also, you know that in each game you must play against a team of eleven players. If you intend to get to the games without having structured the season, you have a high probability of not achieving your goals and that you will not get to eat the nougat at Christmas. Therefore, you should organize the season to try to win the largest number of tournaments and use all your players efficiently.
The same happens in a project. The size of a project requires that the scope of the project have to be broken down into small portions that are easier to understand, plan and control. This decomposition into small pieces of work is what we call WBS.
How is the WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) shown?
There is something else we want you to know. There are two ways to represent the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS): as an organization chart hierarchy; or through a list of packages, each with its unique identification number. Alexander the Great already said it: “divide and conquer”.
What is the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) for?
There are two characteristics that all WBS must meet:
- to provide transparency to the project. The execution of mega-projects requires a high degree of transparency. This is where the WBS becomes a good control tool. The WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) is in turn composed of another series of lower structures called work packages. Similarly, WBS is essential for creating a workstream and planning project costs.
- to make the scope of the project understandable. You know what Albert Eisntein said: “you understand something when you are able to explain it to your grandmother”. Well, the WBS of a project has that objective. The scope of a project may not be too clear. In other words, the WBS is for the Project Manager what an organization chart is for the managers of a company. It shows the hierarchy that summarizes all the elements of a project.
- to identify the “make or buy”. The WBS also serves to clearly identify which elements of the project we create and which are subcontracted or provided by third parties, such as suppliers, clients, consultants, etc. Outsourcing some project packages always means greater dependency and higher risk during the project execution phase. So the decision to do it yourself or to outsource certain packages must be seen in the WBS and thus be able to do the regular monitoring of it.
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