How to create a Work Breakdown Structure?

Project Management


Today, project managers are more frequently finding high value in the creation of work breakdown structures (WBS) as they begin the process of project management. Project success may be attributed appropriately to the use of a WBS. Specifically, the Planning Process Group starts with three essential steps: scope planning, scope definition, and work breakdown structure development. The precursor to effective project management is the original structure of work breakdowns. Hence, the more clearly the scope of the project is articulated before the actual work begins, the more likely the success of the project.


WBS – Work Breakdown Structure is the process of subdividing project deliverables and project work into smaller, more manageable components. The WBS organizes and defines the total scope of the project, and represents the work specified in the currently approved project scope statement.

The essential components of the Work Break Structure are as follows:


  1. Project Management Plan

    One of the major components of the Project Management Plan is Scope Management Plan. Below mentioned is the importance of scope management plan in project management.

    1. Scope Management Plan

      The Scope Management Plan specifies how to create the WBS from the detailed project scope statement which focuses on how the project scope is defined, developed, monitored, controlled, and verified. Based on these features the WBS will be maintained and approved.

  2. Project Documents

    Listed below are the examples of project documents which can be considered as input for this process:

    1. Project Scope Statement

      The Project Scope Statement contains the details of the work that is to be performed and the work that is to be excluded. The project scope statement also focuses on describing the specific internal and external restrictions or limitations that may affect the execution of the project.

    2. Requirements Documentation

      A detailed requirements documentation is essential for understanding what needs to be produced or the deliverables that are to be achieved as the result of the project and also looks into what needs to be done to deliver the project and its final products.

  3. Enterprise Environmental Factors

    Enterprise Environmental Factors influences the organization, the project, and its outcome. Every organization has to live and work within the EEF. The Enterprise Environment Factor can be either internal or external.

    Here’s a look at both the internal and external factors that influence the WBS:

    Internal Factors External Factors
    The Organizational structure of any organizations that are involved in the project Industry standards that apply to products or services
    Information systems in an organization and their ability to share information Governmental policies, restrictions, and political climates
    Human resources which involve their skills and availability Marketplace conditions that influence pricing and availability of materials and services
    Portfolio management policies and processes Competitor information, like number of competitors, opportunities, and threats based on the competition
    Project Management Office’s policies and processes Availability of resources, both physical and labor
    Estimating, risk, and defect-tracking databases Changes in the market, either from competition or economic factors
  4. Organizational Process Assets

    • Policies, procedures, and templates for the WBS

    • Project files from previous projects

    • Lessons learned from past projects

Tools and Techniques

  1. Expert Judgment

    To create an effective WBS, expert judgment is always essential, because the expertise of the experts is used to analyze the information needed to decompose the project deliverables down into smaller parts. Such analysis and expertise is applied to technical details of the project’s scope and used to reconcile differences in opinion on how to best break down the overall scope of the project.

  2. Decomposition

    Breaking down of the project deliverables into smaller, more manageable components is called decomposition. Breakdown should not be done until the cost and schedule for the work can be reliably estimated. The level of detail for work packages will depend on the size and complexity of the project.

    To decompose the total project work into small work packages, the following activities are necessary:

    • Identifying and analyzing the deliverables and related work

    • Structuring and organizing the Work Breakdown Structure

    • Decomposing the upper WBS levels into lower-level detailed components

    • Developing and assigning identification codes to the WBS components

    • Verifying that the degree of decomposition of the deliverables is appropriate


  1. Scope Baseline

    The scope baseline is the approved version of a scope statement, work breakdown structure (WBS), and its associated WBS dictionary, that can be changed only through formal change control procedures and is used as a basis for comparison.

    Components of the scope baseline include

    1. Project scope statement

      Project scope statement is a documentation which includes the description of the project scope, major deliverables, assumptions, and constraints.

    2. WBS

      WBS is a hierarchical decomposition of the total scope of work to be executed out by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables. The WBS is finalized upon assigning each work package to a control account, which is a management control point where scope, budget, actual cost, and schedule are integrated and compared to the earned value for performance measurement.

    3. Work Package

      The work package technique comes with a unique identifier, and these identifiers provide a structure for hierarchical summation of costs, schedule, and resource information and form a code of accounts. Every work package falls under a control account. The control account is a management control point where the project’s scope, budget, and schedules are integrated and compared to the earned value for performance measurement.

    4. Planning Package

      The planning package is a work breakdown structure component below the control account and above the work package with known work content but without specific schedule activities. Also, a control account may include one or more planning packages.

    5. WBS Dictionary

      The WBS dictionary is a document that supports and provides detailed deliverable, activity, and scheduling information about each component in the WBS. Work dictionary can include information regarding the following aspects;

      • Code of account identifier
      • Description of work

      • Assumptions and constraints

      • Responsible organization

      • Schedule milestones

      • Associated schedule activities

      • Resources required

      • Cost estimate

      • Quality requirements

      • Acceptance criteria

      • Technical references

      • Agreement information

  2. Project Document Updates

    Project documents that may be updated include, but are not limited to, requirements documentation, which may need to be updated to incorporate approved changes. If approved change requests result from the Create WBS process, then the requirements documentation may need to be updated to include recommended changes.

    1. Assumption Log

      The assumption log is used to update any additional assumptions or constraints that were identified during the process of Create WBS.

    2. Requirements Documentation

      The vital feature of requirements documentation method is that it will update and include the approved changes that result from the process of Create WBS.

As the essential task of the project manager is to fulfill the stakeholder’s needs, as it is addressed in the project management plan, only a proper WBS lets the project managers plan their work more efficiently by characterizing the project by time-limited activities which are assigned with fixed time frames and costs. Thus, the WBS helps make the project management planning consistent and ensures it assists in effective project execution.

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