PlanHammer’s WBS Software for Project Management
PlanHammer’s WBS Software
Project management is a big job. It always seems that something is always changing – there’s this dynamic aspect of it. On the surface, it appears that project managers are the overseers and the taskmasters that only serve to get in the way of getting things done, but when you look under the hood, there is a lot more going on than meets the eye.
What Is a WBS Chart?
A WBS chart is short for a work breakdown structure, which are generated using any WBS creator. It is a visual overview and communication tool that gives the project managers the tools necessary to manage their resources, communicate with other project managers, and provides expectations for a manager’s contribution.
What Are They Used for?
WBS are but one part of project management. They act much like an outline, enabling everyone to see all of the tasks involved in an aesthetically pleasing format that’s easy to understand.
The Importance of the WBS Creation
Before you begin the project, you must work backward. This backward view of things enables the WBS to exist. You see, you start with the project goal. We’ll call it the project scope. From there, you start breaking up the project scope into major deliverables to complete the project. From these major deliverables, you break up the project more and more until you end up with a series of small and measurable tasks that can be completed in a relatively short amount of time. WBS charts keep people focused on what needs to be done to carry out the project.
WBS Charts Decompose the Project
The project it needs to be decomposed. By identifying the end goal, we can begin the project decomposition by identifying the major components and or steps that must be carried out to deliver the goal.
How to use a WBS Creator
By now, you’re probably wondering how to create a work breakdown structure (WBS). As we go along, we will identify and define some terminology that will allow you to use some common language when creating your chart.
Begin with the Project Scope
We start with the project scope. This is the end goal. This is the goal that, when the goal is met, the project will have been carried to fruition. The planning process begins by writing down the project scope in a single phrase or sentence. Let’s take a relatively common example and use the construction of an office building. The project scope would simply be called, “The Office Building Construction Project.”
Define the Major Scope Deliverables
The major scope deliverables are the first level down from the project scope. Using our example, we have to think to ourselves about what is needed to complete the office building construction project. You have some major scope deliverables. You can’t have a building without a foundation, electricians, plumbers, floor installers, drywall installers, and roofers all coming together with a major goal in mind.
Divide the Major Scope Deliverables
Once the major scope deliverables have been defined, it’s now time to divide them into major scope categories. For the purposes of our example, let’s focus on one major scope deliverable and see how we can decompose it to ensure the delivery of the applicable major scope deliverables.
Let’s concentrate on the electrician. If this building is going to have electricity, the electrical project manager must know exactly what to do to get from where the project is – a building with no electricity or wires running through it – to where it needs to be. This project manager will divide his major scope deliverable into major scope categories. The first thing he may do is ensure that all of the workers have access to some sort of electricity for power tools. This usually consists of the city electric company inserting a pole into the ground and running wires from the city power supply to this pole and equipping it with an outlet, thereby providing electricity in a temporary capacity for the workers.
Another major scope category may be to ensure that there is a power supply meter on the side of the building from which the electricians may draw electricity from. The next major scope category will be to run the wires from the power supply meter to every floor and every room of the building. Next, the electrician may elect to install outlets, light switches and light boxes for each room. Do you see where we’re going with this? Dividing the major scope deliverable of electricity into smaller categories can ensure that the project manager can deliver on his expected contribution to the project as a whole. Major scope categories are at the second level of the WBS chart.
Decompose the Major Scope Categories
Each of the categories is then divided even further into smaller, manageable tasks. One task may be to ensure that the power meter outside has electricity. Another task may be to run some wires to each floor, thereby ensuring that each floor has access to electricity. The next task may be to run wires from the entry point on each floor to each room. Next on the list might be to install the outlets and hook up the electricity. After that, light switches and lights may come next. Skilled and experienced project managers are able to sit down and determine each of the major tasks that must be completed in order. Finally, the tasks get completed.
Use an Online WBS Software Tool
Major projects – such as the construction of a multistory office building – can range in the hundreds of millions of dollars. No matter how well one may meticulously plan the project and create the WBS chart, it will never be followed to exactness from the time of its creation. Things will come up. Delays will happen. Materials may get damaged. Construction workers may call in, get fired or quit. Every time that a major task changes, a new chart must be drawn up.
That’s not the case with a WBS creation tool such as PlanHammer. Its WBS creator is a browser-based service that gives people various levels of administrative freedoms, specific credentials, and one common place for everybody to log in and see what’s been done, what needs to be done, and what tasks and activities can’t begin until another task or activity has been completed.
Check Your Work for Completeness
When you’re not wasting valuable resources such as printer paper, printer toner, and the typical delays that are inherent in a printed chart, the project saves time and money. Online tools such as PlanHammer’s WBS software allow you to check your work for completeness, make changes and edits, and allow for a much faster and thorough level of communication than does the conventional printed method.
What PlanHammer Is and Isn’t
PlanHammer is a dynamic project management and WBS software. Its capabilities extend far beyond what one may expect from a WBS chart. Before we go and create our PlanHammer credentials and create your project, let’s discuss some of the finer points of what a WBS chart is and what it isn’t.
A Team Activity
It is a team activity. Online collaboration capabilities of this WBS creator enable many people to log in at the same time and make edits to the project plan in real-time. No one person – even if this person is the head project manager at the top of the chain of command – can create a chart alone. One person may be enough to define the scope and the major project deliverables, but more people are needed as each deliverable and category get broken down. WBS creation is a team activity.
It Does Not Account for Time
One of the inherent drawbacks with plain old WBS charts is that they do not account for time. There are no deadlines and no way to look at the chart and determine which activities need to get done at any given time. Many activities cannot be started until another operation has ended. The electrical team cannot go in there and run the wires from the first to the fourth floor until the fourth floor has been built.
The WBS Creator Delivers an Overview, Not a Book
It is an overview, not a book. A ton of information that can be conveyed in a small amount of time via such a chart. However, it is a task identification chart – nothing more and nothing less. PlanHammer, besides its main WBS software, has other project management tools that can provide more detail.
It’s a Communication Tool
WBS charts are communication tools. Many more people beyond the project managers must have access to the information that such a chart can provide. These people include stakeholders, crew leads and more.
It Lowers the Project Risk
A dynamic online and planning software reduces the project risk by increasing its chance of success. One way or the other, a project must be managed. It must have a budget, resources and more. The completed charts which are generated by this WBS software put the entire project in a virtual box with firm boundaries. Once the tasks are identified, it can keep the project focused.
The WBS Creator in PlanHammer
The work breakdown structure creation software in PlanHammer is but one part of a multifaceted project management software suite. We can begin by identifying some of the tasks in list view, which then are organized into a WBS chart from the outline. These tasks are further put into other project management tools such as Gantt charts.
From the chart view, you can see your tasks visualized in a tree diagram. Clicking a task hides or shows the tasks underneath it. Double-clicking allows you to edit the title. Hover over one and click the little blue icons to change how the sub-tasks are displayed. Clicking the plus icon on the left, right, top, or bottom adds a new task.
A WBS chart is an overview of the tasks that must be completed, so all you’ll see are your tasks visualized in the tree diagram. Other tools are necessary for more depth and project coverage, luckily if you are using PlanHammer you have them in addition to our WBS Software.