What is Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)? How is it helpful in Project Management?


Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a method of breaking a project into various activities and sub-activities in terms of resources, time, and cost. It is a very useful tool in project management and helps in tracking and controlling all the activities in a project. You can have clear visibility of ‘who’ in the team is doing ‘which’ task and for ‘how’ long in the entire day or a week.

WBS is a deliverable-oriented structuring of work that needs to be executed by the project team.

Project breakdown structure can be made on a weekly, hourly or daily basis. It all depends on the needs of the organization and the project. For the long-term and complex projects, experts recommend building a six-level deep WBS plan. And, the task allocation must start from the smallest unit of the organization. The upper levels of WBS define the major amount of work to be delivered, and the lower level provides detail and support for the project management process.

Essentially, WBS Work Breakdown Structure helps to have a clear top-to-bottom view of your project and break them into tasks that will get you to the completion.

Why is WBS planning important your organization?

WBS integrates the entire resources of the organization and makes them more productive. Where ‘on time and in full’ is the need of the hour, WBS ensures the effective and efficient use of your resources, time, cost, and processes. It ascertains the project delivery, and you are most likely to fulfill the need of your customer on time and in full. Your organization becomes more productive and result-oriented.

Moreover, estimating projects can be challenging and somewhat confusing. So, breaking the scope of the project, analyzing its needs, and asking questions i.e., making a WBS, can help. WBS planning assures you get granular about the activities that need to be done in a project within a given time frame. You can estimate your project based on units like weeks, days or hours and can quickly know if your estimation is going to exceed the proposed budget or timeline.

How is Work Breakdown Structure in project management helpful?

Makes independent and measurable activities

One of the primary roles of WBS is to reduce the complexity of tasks or collection of functions. WBS allows a project manager to have a detailed look over the tasks in a very simple and organized way. All the tasks have well-defined limits concerning time, cost, resources, and quality. This makes it easy for the manager to evaluate the task and measure its outcome.

Tracks progress in the regular time intervals

The work breakdown structure in project management can be of great help in tracking the status of each activity- whether it is completed, in-progress or not completed. As the limits of each task are clearly defined, the project manager can determine the current stage of the project easily and can make the changes accordingly to speed up the process.

Facilitates clear communication within the team members

Once the project breakdown structure is made, it shows the hierarchy of project activities against the deliverables. Each task is independent and measurable. The project scope, work activities, timeline, cost, and team members are clearly defined. So, all of this is easy to communicate to the company’s stakeholders as well as to the team members with the help of the work breakdown schedule. This further paves the way for smooth communication and cooperation between the team members.

Helps in taking timely corrective changes

Although the changes are unavoidable in a work breakdown schedule, if it is essential for project completion, the changes can be made. If any task, team member or any parameter deviates from the ascertain path of project completion, WBS helps manager know that in time. This helps in taking the corrective or preventive measures before the damage affects the project breakdown structure and timeline.

WBS planning if effectively done can increase productivity and encourage accountability and transparency in the organization. You can make a better estimation of cost and time. Moreover, Project breakdown structure also helps in identifying and minimizing risks and eliminates bottlenecks that can affect the project to be completed on time.