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Best Practices in Project Management: Creating a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

This is the third in a series of articles highlighting the best practices that banks and other organizations should consider
before engaging in a large scale teller image capture project. This series highlights best practices as defined by the Project Management Institute, Inc. (PMI) in their Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK®). The first article addressed developing a project charter, the first step to be undertaken before launching a major project and the second article focused on defining the project scope.

In this issue we will discuss the next step in the project planning process, creating a work breakdown structure (WBS). According to PMBOK, a WBS “is the process of subdividing project deliverables and project work into smaller, more manageable components.” The WBS breaks work down into packages that cannot logically or practically be broken down further. Once the work is decomposed into tasks, subtask, and work packages, these activities can then be sequenced and the duration and resource requirement of each work package can be estimated. Each of the steps of the WBS can then be defined and logged into the WBS dictionary, a document that describes each activity in more detail. If an activity is not documented in this phase, then the activity is not considered a part of the project.

Creating the WBS allows the project manager to develop a schedule for the project, estimate costs associated with the work packages and the project overall, and determine a budget for the project. With the understanding of the resource requirements, the project manager can also begin to work on a human resources plan to ensure that the right people are available and committed when they will be needed on the project. The human resources plan is a crucial step — whether the organization is project oriented, broken out by functional responsibilities, or a matrix organization. Planning is an important phase of any project and in future issues we will look at other important pieces of the planning puzzle to ensure a successfully executed project.

For more information or if you have questions, please contact Paul Rupple, PMP at (847) 446-2285, or by email.


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