A critical part of your project plan is the work breakdown structure (WBS). The WBS for Business & Operations Projects is a lot more than a long list of tasks. It comes from a definition of the project scope which is the business benefit that the project will deliver. The project scope is stated as a metric, an acceptance criteria, and so is every component of the work breakdown structure. Those components are the deliverables, everything that’s required to deliver the business benefit. The aim of the WBS is to give crystal-clear assignments to people working on projects and give management clear checkpoints on progress. Every successful business and operations project also includes process changes in their organization. The WBS has to include the training that will increase the capability of the users. Finally, the WBS is structured with the particular methodology that the project will employ (waterfall, agile, iterative). Main WBS – Work Breakdown Structure – Page
WBS – Business and Operations Projects: Step One
The WBS is a decomposition of the project scope. You start by breaking down the scope into 4 to 7 major deliverables. Then you break down each of those major deliverables into smaller deliverables. You continue the process all the way down to tasks you will assign to the team members. To do this decomposition, you must define every task in the work breakdown structure with acceptance criteria. Those are the specific measures the customer or user will apply when deciding whether to accept the deliverable. An example of an acceptance criteria in a project for improving efficiency might be, “Project team members can complete their weekly timesheet in less than two minutes 90% of the time.” That defines a specific end result that you, as the project manager, will use in specifying user requirements and measuring team member performance.
WBS – Business and Operations Projects: Step Two
The WBS – Business & Operations Projects will show the methodology you will use on the project to produce the required deliverables. If you and the project sponsor 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 user to assess the result and change the specifications after each iteration. On the other hand, the classic waterfall project plan would include very detailed front end planning followed by execution of the plan.
WBS – Business and Operations Projects: Step Three
The WBS needs to specify the acceptance criteria for quality control and testing. Some testing tasks should include the number of transactions or samples that you will test. That ensures adequate time is estimated for the complete testing procedure. That includes any external testing of the deliverables during development or prior to acceptance. They should appear in the work breakdown structure to ensure enough hours of work for adequate testing and quality control are included in the schedule.
WBS – Business and Operations Projects: Step Four
Finally, if you know which team members will be doing the work on your project, it is a good practice to give them an opportunity to talk about the acceptance criteria for the deliverables they will be producing. Allowing team members to take part in defining the WBS entries and their acceptance criteria gives you two benefits. First, it sets up the estimating process so your team members become familiar with the tasks they’ll be asked to estimate. Second, their participation also gives you the benefit of the team members’ experience with similar projects. That’s an opportunity for you and the team members to identify problems very early in the process.
WBS – Business and Operations Projects: Summary
The aim of the WBS is to
- give team members clear assignments that are deliverables
- communicate the project methodology you’ll use to produce the deliverables
- specify the acceptance criteria for quality control and testing
- provide management with checkpoints on progress.
This sample lecture is from our online Project Management Basics course. It focuses on creating the work breakdown structure for small business projects. The focus is on creating a project plan and work breakdown structure that are tools for making clear, measurable assignments and tracking the team’s progress on those deliverables.
To learn more about designing a good WBS for Business & Operations projects, consider taking one of our online project management courses. You’ll learn at your pace with an expert project manager as your coach.