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Project Managemet: Work Break Down Structure

Your next step in the project management process is to create a work breakdown structure for the trade show. The WBS should include all the tasks and their dependencies, schedule, cost, activity assignments and resource needs. The result should be a project task list with activity, scheduling description, cost and resource allocation created using MS Project or the WBS template. The information in the WBS will later be incorporated into the project management plan for the trade show event.

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Let's look first at what the WBS is and how to go about forming one:

Company owners and project managers use the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to make complex projects more manageable. The WBS is designed to help break down a project into manageable chunks that can be effectively estimated and supervised.

Some widely used reasons for creating a WBS include:
- Assists with accurate project organization
- Helps with assigning responsibilities
- Shows the control points and project milestones
- Allows for more accurate estimation of cost, risk and time
- Helps explain the project scope to stakeholders

Constructing a Work Breakdown Structure:
To start out, the project manager and subject matter experts determine the main deliverables for the project. Once this is completed, they start decomposing the deliverables they have identified, breaking them down to successively smaller chunks of work.

"How small?" you may ask. That varies with project type and management style, but some sort of predetermined "rule" should govern the size and scope of the smallest chunks of work. There could be a two weeks rule, where nothing is broken down any smaller than it would take two weeks to complete. You can also use the 8/80 rule, where no chunk would take less than 8 hours or longer than 80 hours to complete. Determining the chunk size "rules" can take a little practice, but in the end these rules make the WBS easier to use.

Regarding the format for WBS design, some people create tables or lists for their work breakdown structures, but most use graphics to display the project components as a hierarchical tree structure or diagram. In the article Five Phases of Project Management, author Deanna Reynolds describes one of many methods for developing a standard WBS.

What is a Work Breakdown Structure Diagram?
A WBS diagram expresses the project scope in simple graphic terms. The diagram starts with a single box or other graphic at the top to represent the entire project. The project is then divided into main, or disparate, components, with related activities (or elements) listed under them. Generally, the upper components are the deliverables and the lower level elements are the activities that create the deliverables.

Information technology projects translate well into WBS diagrams, whether the project is hardware or software based. That is, the project could involve designing and building desktop computers or creating an animated computer game. Both of these examples have tasks that can be completed independently of other project tasks. When tasks in a project don't need to be completed in a linear fashion, separating the project into individual hierarchical components that can be allotted to different people usually gets the job done quicker.

One common view is a Gantt chart. In a recent article, Joe Taylor, Jr. discusses the Top Ten Benefits of a Gantt Chart.

Simple WBS Examples:
Building a Desktop Computer - Say your company plans to start building desktop ...