PM4DEV Blog

Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

Scope Management

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

The Project Work Breakdown Structure is an outcome oriented analysis of the work involved in the project and defines the total scope of the project. It is a foundation document in project management because it provides the basis for planning and managing the project schedule, budget and requests for changes. The WBS is developed in the form of an inverted tree structure, organized by objectives; it looks like an organizational chart, which helps the project team visualize the whole project and all its main components.

The WBS is a hierarchy of all project work, it is a vertical breakdown, moving from the project goal to the tasks or subtasks. This decomposition process allows a good level of confidence in estimating the final project schedule and budget. It shows all the work that needs to be accomplished. The WBS contains 100% of all the work in the project.

At the top level is the project ultimate goal, the second level contains the project outcomes, the third level has the project outputs, and the fourth level with activities. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, the WBS may contain a fourth level that describe the tasks.

The size and complexity of a project will determine the number of levels a WBS needs. For some projects, additional levels may be included to represent intermediate objectives. Other projects may choose to structure the WBS by the geographical locations the project will work, or group the objectives by the communities participating in the project.

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is an important planning tool used to define a project in terms of its outputs while providing a method for breaking these deliverables into meaningful work units. The WBS allows the project manager to clearly describe the hierarchical nature of the work to be performed and establishes a foundation for other elements of the project planning documents including the project’s resource plan, budget, implementation plan, and project schedule.

With the WBS, the project manager will be able to describe the outcomes of a project in a way that is clear to the project team, while at the same time capturing the order and sequence of the work necessary to produce those outputs. The WBS provides a means for carefully detailing the outputs of the project and facilitates the identification of specific the work elements, and groupings required to deliver each element.

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The Project Charter

The Project Charter is a communication tool that provides high-level information about the project. It is usually developed once the project has been approved by the donor, and its use is mostly internal to the organization.

The charter identifies who is the project manager, the purpose of the project,  its objectives, scope, constraints, assumptions, risks, and deliverables. These headings are commonly found in terms-of-reference and project contract documents. When initiating a project, it is important that all parties involved agree in considerable detail what the project is to achieve before it starts. Failure to gain formal agreement almost always leads to some expectations not being met.

The nice thing about the Project Charter is it provides a quick way of delivering all the important project information to stakeholders, without having to complete a full Project Document. It's a lot more digestible for busy stakeholders who may not have time to wade through a lengthy document when looking for a quick, but detailed overview of the project.

Most Project Charters contain the following information:
 

  • Background - Provide background information that includes the reasons for creating the project and mentions the key stakeholders who will benefit from the project result.
  • Objectives - Describe the project goals and link each of them with related, SMART project objectives.
  • Scope - Provide a high-level description of the deliverables or results the project is meant to achieve.
  • Schedule - Provide a high-level schedule of the start and end of the project, including significant milestones
  • Constraints - Identify the specific constraints or restrictions that limit or place conditions on the project, especially those associated with the project scope.
  • Assumptions - Specify all factors that are, for planning purposes, considered to be true. During the planning process, these assumptions will be validated.
  • Risks - Outline the risks identified at the start of the project. Include a quick assessment of the significance of each risk and how to address them.
  • Deliverables - Define the key deliverables that the project is required to produce in order to achieve the stated objectives.
  • Governance  - Describes how the project will be governed, and who is involved. Describes the approval process for major changes and the levels of authority in the decision-making process.
  • Roles and responsibilities - Defines the major roles and responsibilities of team members and key stakeholders.

Project Charters are useful documents that help you ensure that everyone knows the goals of a project. They minimize any confusion about what must be done within it and explain how things should be done. Using a Project Charter can help your project team get a good start by creating a positive and productive work environment, where everyone knows what their roles and responsibilities are.


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