Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Verifying the Work Breakdown Structure

The task of decomposing your project's major work elements can be difficult, detailed, and time-consuming. Once you've decomposed your project and created the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), is there a way to verify that your work is complete?

To verify that your WBS is complete, you need to ensure that the lowest-level work packages can be appropriately scheduled, were appropriately budgeted, and can be appropriately measured. Keep in mind that the work packages, which also are referred to as tasks, are the constituent components of activities, which in turn are the constituent components of project deliverables.

1. You must ensure that work packages can be appropriately scheduled.
Duration estimates were crucial in creating the WBS, but to verify that the WBS is complete, you must be able to appropriately schedule each low-level work package. This means that each work package must have a clearly defined starting and ending event.

The starting event can be the result of completing another phase or activity, but the ending event should complete the work package. If the ending event leads to another activity, the new activity should be decomposed to create an even lower level within the WBS.

In general, you should schedule the lowest-level work packages for less than three calendar weeks, or 15 business days. This avoids long duration activities whose delay could create serious scheduling problems. If the work packages in your project are longer than three weeks or you can separate tasks within the activities with distinct durations, try to decompose them further.

2. You must ensure that work packages were appropriately budgeted.
The second criterion for verifying that a WBS is complete is whether or not the lowest-level work packages were appropriately budgeted. To determine this, project managers must look at the cost estimated for each low-level work package and compare it to what they would expect it to cost based on their previous project experience.

For the WBS to be properly decomposed, the amount estimated for each work package must fall within a specified range of the expected amount.

3. You must ensure that work packages can be appropriately measured.
Measurability is the third criterion for verifying that your WBS is complete. For any lower-level work package in the WBS, there must be a sign of completion. A sign of completion is any visible indication that a work package is finished. For example, a sign of completion could be:
  • an approving manager's signature
  • the delivery of a physical product or document
  • an authorization to proceed to the next activity.
In addition to having a sign of completion, team members must be able to convey progress for a work package to be measurable. They must know how to report progress and to whom to report it.
For example, if team members can report a percent complete on an activity to a specific person, department, or team, the activity is measurable. Examples of measurable and nonmeasurable activities are provided below.
  • Nonmeasurable. "Communicate progress to others" is a nonmeasurable activity. This task has no sign of completion, so it will simply stop at the end of the project. It is not possible to estimate the progress of the task, since it has no distinct parameters.
  • Measurable. If the task "communicate progress to others" were broken down to "report weekly progress on phase one to executives," the task would be measurable. It would be possible to report what had been accomplished in the reporting period.
Work packages that are vague or too broadly defined may not be accurately scheduled or budgeted. Similarly, work packages that are unnecessary or insufficient may not be accurately measured. That's why it's important to remember that you don't have to wait until the decomposition process is complete to begin verification. You can save time and money by verifying that each work package is complete as you create the WBS.
The WBS is important for defining project scope because it defines all the work in the project. Since project teams frequently refer to the WBS throughout the project, finalizing the WBS and verifying its completeness is the key to project success.


Baskar J said...

Great share!!! it was detailed research thanks for it. The Project Manager’s first step is creating the work breakdown structure (WBS), a step that then enables subsequent planning of the work processes and schedule for accomplishing the project. After the WBS is developed, reviewed, and finalized, the structure is evaluated to determine the processes needed along with the schedule and costs required to achieve each of the identified goals. Primavera P6 tool is really usefull to level our project using both its project and activity leveling priorities Best Primavera Training
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