Why Work breakdown structure is No 01 important for a project?


Proper coordination and planning are the vital ingredients of a successful project. A project consists of many unimaginable tasks and work elements. The secret of accurate planning is identifying these many tasks, dividing them into small manageable tasks, and creating coordination between tasks. A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a systematic and refined way of planning and coordinating these small sub-tasks. The proper distribution of these subtasks supporting the project’s need will allow users (project management team) to do a thorough assessment of each work element of the project.

There are two known structures for presenting the WBS: 

  • Graphic boxes 
  • Text indents

Graphic Boxes 

In the first method (graphically in boxes), the work breakdown structure (WBS) presents the flow from top hierarchy to bottom hierarchy(s). It follows dividing the main task into several subtasks, and all these (sub) tasks will divide furthermore into several levels (See Figure A). This method will wrap complete project elements into a small piece of paper.

Graphic boxes

Text Indents

Most project management software follows this method. It shows a level-wise hierarchy, same as a page of content. See below figure B,

work breakdown structure
Text Indents

The division of tasks is the most crucial part of preparing a WBS. There are many methods of subdividing the work scope. 

There are different types of work breakdown structures used in the industry based requirement of the project or organization.

Different types of work breakdown structures

Below are the different types of work breakdown structure (WBS).

  • Organization breakdown structure
  • Product breakdown structure
  • Contract breakdown structure
  • Cost breakdown structure
  • Location breakdown structure
  • Transport breakdown structure
  • System breakdown structure
  • Project life-cycle structure

Here is an in-depth look at each of the above methods.

Organization Breakdown Structure

This hierarchical model describes the functioning of the organization or a company. The model highlights resource management, project planning, cost allocation, and work management, among other activities in an organization.

Work breakdown structure captures all the project elements in an organized manner. By breaking down large complex projects into smaller, simpler ones, a better organization and management framework is created for both current and future projects.

Because this work breakdown structure facilitates resource allocation, measurement, task assignment, and project cost control, there is a need to bring it in during the earlier stages of the project.

Here is what an organization breakdown structure looks like:


Product Breakdown Structure

Commonly referred to as PBS, a Product Breakdown Structure is a hierarchical structure of a business’s products or outcomes. You can think of it as the project shopping list.

It breaks down the main product of your project into its constituent parts. 

The PBS comprises internal and external products. The former is built by the project, while the latter is either brought in or supplied by a different project.

The aim of a PBS after completion is to give confidence that there is a clear understanding of everything that is required. Its other objective is to define the relationship between the main product and its constituent parts.

The figure below represents a sample Product Breakdown Structure.

work breakdown structure
Product Breakdown structure

Contract Breakdown Structure

A Contract Breakdown Structure (CBS) is a hierarchical model representing the relationships between the contractor and client. And also this structure shows the contractual responsibility and obligation of the each party.

Below is a sample CBS which used in management contracting method.

Contract Breakdown structure

Cost Breakdown Structure

Before the commencement of a project, all its elements are evaluated and budgeted for. Then, a certain amount of money is allocated to each of the elements. This is the system that we used largely in the construction industry. This will be prepare based on the critical path analysis of the project. Contractors can monitor and control their cash flow based on this. And also they can do resource allocations based on the CBS.

Here is how a sample looks like

work breakdown structure
Cost breakdown structure

Location Breakdown Structure

Just as the name suggests, this WBS represents the physical work location. You will find this a suitable addition if your project is spread over the place, such as road projects, power line projects. Based on LBS project managers can arrange, and monitor resources and supervision personals.

Here is a sample Location Breakdown Structure for a power line project.

Location Breakdown Structure

Transport Breakdown Structure

For projects characterized by heavy loads, carnage, and transport limitations will be used in determining their breakdown structure. But this will not be used in the construction industry mostly.

System Breakdown Structure

This is a pictorial representation of a systems breakdown that cuts across other breakdown structures. It is helpful during the commissioning of products. This allows handling projects that consist of complicated systems.

To better understand this work breakdown structure, carefully study below example

System Breakdown Structure

Project Life-cycle Structure

Projects too have life cycles that begin from idea conception right to the completion stages. Therefore, for proper planning, it is wise to group projects into phases. This way, every member of the project team knows what is expected at what time.

Project Life-cycle Structure

WBS Templates

You need not worry about creating the above WBS from scratch as templates are available. Therefore, you can use past work breakdown structures for future projects as long as they are standard. With standard WBS, consistency and completeness are assured as it now serves as a checklist.

WBS Levels

With each WBS level, complex tasks are sub-divided into simpler doable ones. For practicality, keep the levels at three or four as anything above that could be unwieldy.

Here are some of the factors affecting WBS levels:

  • Risk level
  • Detail level
  • Level of control
  • Work package value
  • Working hours

To sum it up, project planning and control are necessary for the success of any project. This is the reason you need to utilize WBS to break your work into manageable packages.

Benefits of Work breakdown structure (WBS)

Divide works into manageable and solo tasks.

The main benefit of WBS is it divides complicated work into many simple solo tasks, which can be managed easily. The flow of works will be very smooth. The WBS level should be simplified to maximum possibilities, such as a project divided into packages, and Packages can be divided into several jobs. Jobs can be divide into small tasks, And tasks can be divide into the location of work. 

Easy to predict timeline and setting milestones

It is easy to calculate the timeline for each small task rather than calculating a time for complex works. Adding estimated timelines for each task will give an accurate timeline for the completion of the main project. 

Can estimate more accurate costs and easy to control the budget.

WBS allows the project team to calculate each task more accurately. Assigning and controlling the cost of a small job is simple than controlling a significant work.

Easy to create responsibilities

WBS will allow easy assigning of responsibilities between each party of the project. 

Easy to monitor the progress

Since milestones are set in the WBS for each task, it is easy to monitor work progress. 

Watch below video for more insight

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