Using a wbs tool effectively

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The Importance of using a WBS Tool

WBS charts are visual documents that break down every activity in the project to ensure that nothing is skipped over, forgotten or neglected. Projects that are high value can’t afford to be skipping steps.

Imagine, just for a minute, the construction of a commercial building. The building plans can span several hundred pages long and are subject to constant editing and reprints. Starting with the project manager of a general contracting company, the building plans are broken up into large sections or chapters. Each chapter is given to another project manager who oversees their particular contribution. One chapter can plan that details the electrical layout. Another chapter describes the plumbing plans. Each of these secondary managers is responsible for leading a team to carry out their portion of the project. The electrical team takes care of the electrical wiring of the building. The carpentry team takes care of the building’s frame. There are several teams that, when all the work is completed, construct the building to completion.

Decompose your project with a WBS tool

Project management is very similar to this example. At the top, you can envision the end goal. A work breakdown structure decompose the project into smaller, more manageable tasks that can be measured using a WBS online tool. It provides a visual foundation for a project to ensure that resources are allocated strategically for the benefit of the project.

Start with the Project Scope

The beginnings of any project begin with understanding the end goal or the project scope. Begin by writing it down. Be very specific and see if you can narrow down the scope to a single sentence or title. This title becomes a project scope and goes at the very top of your work breakdown structure. The end goal in the example we’re using is the construction of a building.

Break up the Project into Major Scope Deliverables

Using the above example, the scope is broken down into several major categories. Each group is responsible for a deliverable. Once the architect has drafted the plans for the building, it is then broken down into these major categories. When constructing a building, major categories include carpentry, plumbing, electrical, flooring, foundation, roofing and more. Each of these categories works together to construct the building as a whole.

Break up Each Scope Deliverable into a Major Deliverable Category

Using a WBS online tool and the principle of decomposition, we are now at the level of one of these individual major scope deliverables. The chart then breaks down each deliverable even further. The electrical manager would take these plans and divide them further into phases of the project that his team is to work on. The first phase might include running the lines to ensure every floor of the building has electricity. The second phase may include running lines further to ensure that each room on each floor has electricity. The project continues to get broken down into stages that end with the installation of light bulbs in the completed rooms.

Break up Each Major Deliverable Category into Smaller Measurable Activities

Once the phases have been identified, the work by individual teams can begin. We begin at the first stage and recognize that electrical lines must be run from the source – the power pole – to the building itself. Once the power box has been installed in the building has electricity, the second phase may begin by running electrical lines to each floor. In this manner, each phase has a goal that can be completed in a relatively short amount of time. If you are using a collaborative WBS tool such as PlanHammer’s, then each team’s members can take care of or at least contribute to the task’s further decomposition.

Understanding Scope and It’s Importance When Using a WBS Online Tool

The scope of the project is synonymous with its goal, specifically what is and is not included in the project’s goals. At the project’s inception, the scope is usually written down. We begin by seeing where we are and identifying a problem. We then come up with this wonderful idea of a project that can solve the problem. It could be the creation of a new piece of software or the reorganization of a department within the company. If there is one benefit from using a work breakdown structure, it would be that it has the ability to keep the project focused. When projects reach beyond the originally intended scope, additional resources are used and the project gets so far off track that it can spell doom for the project. Our project starts here – by understanding the project’s scope.

Check Your Work for Completeness and Scope Coverage using a WBS online tool

Since we’re not actually completing the project at this point, we can check our work for completeness and scope coverage. This requires the collaboration of every project manager at every level. Every project manager should be aware of the primary goal – the scope – and every smaller goal that must be met to reach the principal objective.

In every project, setbacks are inevitable. It has been said that plans are made to be broken. At the same time, nothing ever gets done or started without a plan. Project managers must account for the setbacks by allowing a small level of play to be involved in every phase of the project. This is often done by ordering 10 percent more raw materials than is required. That way, if floor tiles get broken on the truck, it won’t set back the project. Making sure you have the right resources is crucial to successful project management. Resources are not limited to building materials. Time and labor are also resources that must be managed efficiently.

The end result is a document that is called a work breakdown structure. It takes the project and individually breaks down every phase of the project from the scope right down to an employee installing an electrical outlet.

What a WBS Tool Is and What It Isn’t

Work breakdown structures have a purpose. As a communication mechanism, the WBS online tool has the ability to convey and transmit information to the right people in a concise and unified manner. However, it is not the only document or project management tool available. Let’s get a better idea of what a work breakdown structure is and what it isn’t.

It Is a Team Activity

Even though there is only one WBS tool, the creation of a work breakdown structure is a team activity. It involves contributions and input from every level of management – right down to the employees. The document cannot be created by one employee alone – even if that employee is at the top. It takes the activity of every member of the organization into account and, therefore, requires their input.

It Does Not Account for Time

Work breakdown structures do not account for time. It is not a to-do list, and it is not a calendar. In the example above, it can be assumed that certain tasks must be completed before other tasks can begin. It would be tough to install a faucet in a bathroom that doesn’t have plumbing. It is more of a tool that identifies the scope of the project at every phase.

It Is an Overview, Not a Book

Because work breakdown structures are charts, they are visual. It is not a document put in paragraph format. It is a reference document that people can look at quickly to gather and understand relevant and necessary information. Expect to have the details omitted from the final document output by your WBS Tool. At the last phase of the electrical portion of the project, it may say to install outlets. It will not micromanage employees and say first to install one in this room, and then install one in that room.

It Is a Communication Tool

A WBS tool issues a project overview document that is designed to communicate the scope of the project to necessary parties. These parties include every manager that is involved in the project, the owners of the project, and possibly the stakeholders of the project. It is the preferred method to strategically allocate resources to the organization.

It Lowers Project Risk by Increasing the Chance of Success

The creation of this document can assist project managers in identifying when a project is not where it should be. By identifying every task of the project, project managers can keep the project focused. Every activity by all the members involved in the project will be working toward the completion of the end goal.

Spread the Word

Should every project use a WBS online tool? Perhaps not every project, but most of them should. By using a WBS tool, the chances of a successful project are increased. It is an excellent tool for accurate project planning, estimation, implementation and completion.

We would love to have you break down your project’s using our collaborative WBS chart software tool.