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Project decomposition - why should you do it?

It’s tempting just to start entering tasks into your plan and skipping the work breakdown structure (WBS), but you may be in for a surprise when you start to execute your plan.

Project decomposition - why should you do it?

Taking the time to do your decomposition allows you to work efficiently throughout your project from the initiation phase right through to its closure. WBS in project management is key in organizing the team’s work into manageable chunks. The sole tool used is called the project decomposition.

 

What exactly is project decomposition/WBS?

Project decomposition is a technique used to break deliverables progressively into smaller and smaller components. The WBS is the top layer encompassing the decomposition. Each layer provides a further breakdown of the layer above. PMBOK® defines WBS as “A hierarchical decomposition of the total scope of work to be carried out by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables.”

 

Easy Project WBS decomposition

Easy Project WBS project decomposition

 

What are the benefits of project decomposition

The work breakdown allows you to identify tasks in their granular form. When the work packages are clearly identified, they allow you to:

  • Produce more accurate time and cost estimates
  • Clarify the scope
  • Help to identify and contain risks
  • Have more control when executing the project
  • Create a more accurate plan
  • Have a better understanding of the impact when there is a change in scope
  • Utilize cost estimates for future projects
  • Influence future WBS

 

Easy Project WBS diagram

Easy Project WBS diagram

 

What are the downsides and challenges of WBS?

Despite the numerous benefits, you need to be aware of some of the downsides and challenges you can encounter while working through your decomposition such as:

 

Getting too detailed

As you are decomposing the scope, getting too detailed bring efficiencies. It will only result in wasted time and unnecessary consumption of resources. you need to determine the right amount of detail to include.

There are ways to determine the degree of decomposition. Ask yourself:

  • Are the work packages small enough to determine cost, time and schedule?
  • Are you and the team satisfied with the level of detail for the work packages?
  • Is the work package small enough to assign to a resource?

 

Managing group dynamics

The WBS is a team activity that requires strong facilitation skills to keep the team on track and encourage participation. If a team member does not feel comfortable sharing their ideas, you could lose some important information.

 

Easy Project WBS on screen

Easy Project WBS on screen

 

Treating WBS like a schedule

The WBS provides the detailed information required to meet the project’s goals and objectives. It is not a plan or schedule but a visual representation of the project that can be shared with stakeholders.

The WBS is a key component of the project management structure. The decomposition is key in supporting the creation of the WBS and has a direct influence on the overall structure of your project. Taking the time to create a WBS helps to reduce the likelihood of missed work while bringing the project to completion.

 

More information can be found on the product page and the product documentation.

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