Introduction to the Work Breakdown Structure

A plan is required for the successful accomplishment of both contract and corporate objectives. It needs to define all effort to be expended, assigns responsibility to a specially identified organizational element, and establishes schedules and budgets for the accomplishment of work. The foremost step in the planning process after project requirements definition is the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

The Work Breakdown Structure breaks down the work into smaller elements, thus providing a greater probability that every major and minor activity will be accounted for. It is structured in accordance with the way the work will be performed and reflects the way in which project costs and data will be summarized and eventually reported.

The Work Breakdown Structure provides a common framework from which:

  • The total program can be described as a summation of subdivided elements.
  • Planning can be performed.
  • Costs and budgets can be established.
  • Time, cost and performance can be tracked.
  • Objectives can be linked to company resources in a logical manner.
  • Schedules and status-reporting procedures can be established.
  • Network construction and control planning can be initiated.
  • The responsibility assignments for each element can be established.

Preparation of the Work Breakdown Structure also considers other areas that require structured data, such as scheduling, configuration management, contract funding, and technical performance parameters.

Last but not the least, the Work Breakdown Structure may also act as a communications tool, providing detailed information to different levels of management.

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