Saturday, June 23, 2012

Taking the WBS forward towards a project plan

In my last post, I talked at some length about the work breakdown structure as a foundation for all that was to follow. I summarised some points worth noting when creating and manipulating work breakdown structures. One of the limitations of a WBS is that it can't incorporate that much detail. And for some of the WBS elements, you're going to want a lot of detail.

I'll come on to how much detail and for what purpose shortly. In the meantime, l include the following table which supplements the WBS elements with more detail and specifies the product descriptions which correspond to any given WBS element.

Most of the fields are self explanatory and most come from Prince 2. There are things which Prince does very well - this is one of them.

One or two things aren't self-explanatory. BCWS stands for budgeted cost of work scheduled and this is beyond the scope of this post. It's a component of earned value management for those sufficiently interested. The CAM is the Control Account Manager and while this terminology is fairly specific to aspects of earned value management, you'll discern that this is the person(s) who is accountable for the product's delivery and ensuring it meets requirements.

All the WBS elements should incorporate version control. The related products descriptions relate to specific products that will be produced during the execution of this work. The nomenclature is deliberately 'transparent' and it should be readily apparent from any product reference what the corresponding WBS element is. The schema of the product descriptions is larger and will be the subject of a subsequent post. You should note that if the WBS element doesn't output a product, there won't be a product description and this might be as far as you elaborate.

You can download the specimen template shown above here

The start and finish dates are fed back into the WBS dictionary when you've completed the scheduling work in the project plan.

A few points on the subject of detail and how to assess how much of it you need to have.

  1. Is your project intolerant around costs? Schedule? Quality? All three? This should inform the level of detail where appropriate
  2. Is the work novel or contentious. Has reference to corporate or programme lessons learned resource indicated anything about which you should be wary?
  3. Are you expecting lots of change around the specific element of the WBS or resulting products?
  4. Is product acceptance a particular concern?
  5. Is this a new supplier or one with whom there is little prior precedent?
That's a few points to be considering when assessing the degree of detail that should correspond to a particular WBS element or its related product descriptions. 

Incidentally, at this point I've still not covered where a really helpful narrative can (and should) be included. In my last post, I included an illustration of the WBS. When publishing the WBS, I always include an accompanying table with some supporting information about what a specific element of the WBS actually encompasses.

I include an illustration below of what I usually include with the WBS.

And you can download the template here

I'll deal with the product descriptions next and then we'll be in the business of assembling our project plan.

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