Consulting Project WBS

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
Dick’s Books on Amazon

A key part of a good consulting project plan is the work breakdown structure (WBS). We begin by defining the scope and major deliverables of the project with the client. This is when we start managing the client’s expectations about what the project will deliver. With agreement on the scope and high level deliverables, we decompose or breakdown each of those deliverables into smaller deliverables until we get to the level of an individual assignment that a consultant or client personnel will complete. As we work through the decomposition, we are specifying the end result we want from each assignment. We are not stating what we want the assigned person to do. As an example, we would not try to describe everything that a system contractor must do. Instead, we would specify that the subcontractor is to produce a GUI that the client’s payroll department staff can use to complete the weekly payroll in 5 working hours. That is a deliverable with the crystal-clear acceptance criteria. With every assignment in the consulting project WBS specified as a deliverable with acceptance criteria, we have clearly defined the work assignment for every team member, subcontractor and client personnel working on the project. The assignments or tasks in our WBS define exactly what a good job is for each assignment and how you and the client will measure it. WBS Work Breakdown Structure Main Page

Second, the work breakdown structure or WBS will show the methodology you use on the project to produce the required deliverables. If you and the client have decided to use an agile methodology, the WBS will include multiple iterations in the creation of each deliverable. It would include time for the client to assess the results and change the specifications after each iteration. On the other hand, if you use the classic waterfall project methodology, the WBS would include very detailed front end planning. You complete all the planning before you start work on the project.

consulting project
Third, the consulting project WBS has to specify the testing and quality control procedures you will use at various checkpoints in the project. Some of the client checkpoints may be the testing of materials. Other checkpoints may be a government or regulatory agency’s comparison of what you have completed to the approved plans. Some testing tasks should include the number of transactions or samples you will test. That ensures you will estimate enough time for the complete testing procedure. That includes any external testing of the deliverables during development or prior to acceptance. They should appear in the WBS so the resulting schedule allows for adequate testing and quality control.

Get free articles and videos like this every week

Author: Dick Billows, PMP

Dick has more than 25 years of project and program management experience throughout the US and overseas. Dick was a partner in the 4th largest professional firm and a VP in a Fortune 200 company. He trained and developed 100's of project managers using his methodology. Dick is the author of 14 books, over 300 articles and director/producer of 90 short project management training videos. He and a team of 25 project managers work with client companies & students across the US and in Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East. They have assisted over 300 organizations in improving their project performance. Books by Dick Billows, PMP are on

2 thoughts on “Consulting Project WBS”

  1. My comment relates to the same subject which I am currently researching.

    Let’s take an infrastructure construction project with multiple contractors and consultants, structured around the typical concept of OWNER, SUPERVISION CONSULTANT and CONTRACTORS. 

    The question is whether there should be just ONE WBS or one for each of the three stakeholders, particularly from the viewpoint of the Supervision Consultant.

Comments are closed.