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Research Aims and Objectives

Work Breakdown Structure is an important tool in project management that is used to breakdown a number of activities that are associated with the project into different phases and sub-phases (Harrison & Lock, 2017). A work breakdown structure is generally developed when there are a large number of activities with complex relationships between them and sufficient clarification is needed regarding the priorities and interrelationships between the activities.

This particular research is based on the study of work breakdown structures and their roles in development of a suitable project management plan. This proposal is used to put forward some initial literature analysis on work breakdown structure and determine some research questions to be addressed in course of the research.

Research Aims and Objectives

The main aim of the research is to analyze work breakdown structure and the role played by it in the development of a proper project management plan. Accordingly, the objectives of the research are developed as follows.

  • To analyze the process of development of a project plan
  • To analyze the requirements and components of a complete project plan
  • To analyze the purpose of development of work breakdown structure in a project plan
  • To determine the benefits of the work breakdown structure on the project plan
  • To determine the drawbacks of the work breakdown structure in different types of project plans

Based on the topic of the research as well as the research objectives, some research questions can be developed that will be addressed by the end of the research. These research questions are as follows.

Why is work breakdown structure required in a project plan?

How can a work breakdown structure help to develop highly accurate timeline for a project?

What are the limitations of work breakdown structure in a project?

Rationale of the Study

Work breakdown structure is an integral part of any project management plan and hence, it is extremely important to know about it in details in order to develop sufficient amount of project management skills. To some professionals who are involved in project management department, a work breakdown structure is simply a division table that shows the phases, sub-phases and work packages of the project (Robinson, Ryan & Abbasi, 2018). However, it is not such a simple tool as it appears and it requires considerable amount of skill to develop well defined work breakdown structures especially in complex or long term projects. Hence, it is important to gain sufficient insight on work breakdown structures in order to be able to develop a proper project plan and also earn project management skills.

Literature Review

According Heagney (2016), a work breakdown structure is used to divide a particular project into several phases and sub-phases within which, there are number of interrelated work packages. These work packages are generally derived from the overall deliverables of the project and usually have interrelations between themselves. The interrelationships between the work packages of the project help to determine the priorities of the same, which are then executed based on their priorities.

As per the works of Fleming & Koppelman (2016), work breakdown structures are beneficial for the development of a suitable project timeline and schedule. Without a work breakdown structure, a timeline for the project can be estimated but it will not specify any particular time window for a particular work package and hence, it cannot be determined whether the project can be completed within the estimated time or not. On the other hand, using a work breakdown structure, specific time windows can be assigned to each work package thus helping in the development of a highly accurate project timeline.

Based on the works of Turner (2014), it has been found that there are multiple applications of work breakdown structure in a project. In addition to the project schedule, the project network diagram can also be developed from the work breakdown structure. Estimation of project budget is also possible using the work breakdown structure and bottom up cost estimation technique.

However, Kerzner & Kerzner (2017) states that a work breakdown structure has its own drawbacks and it often produces inaccurate results in cases of complex projects. In these cases, the work packages may not always have a simple or linear relationship and as a result, accurate work breakdown structure cannot be developed covering the entire project.

Research Aims and Objectives

Software project success is normally evaluated by using the set of constraints such as cost goals, time goals and project performance in the relation of project scope completion. Consequently, an organization would desire to have a software project scope accomplished within these constraints.

According to Siami-Irdemoosa, Dindarloo & Sharifzadeh, (2015), there are various software companies in continuous search for techniques that would help project managers to manage the triple constraint. It has been said by Lee, Hsu, Lee & Kuo, (2012), that project scope management is effective portion of knowledge in which a project manager should have ample skills competencies. Furthermore, project scope management makes sure that project stakeholders have the similar understanding of the kind of products the project will generate.

According to Miller, (2008), the work breakdown structure is a process infringement an engineering project down into subproject, subtasks, work packages, and tasks. It is a vital tool which links objectives with resources in a rational framework. It has become a vital status monitor at the time of effective functioning as the achievement of subtasks is evaluated against the project plan. While the work breakdown structure has been broadly used in a number of other engineering applications, it has shown only barely been formally pertained to software projects, for a number of causes.

Work Breakdown structure has two criteria such as it has to elaborate on the person doing the task what an effective job is before they start, building an apparent performance expectations. It has to be explicitly measurable. It is not required for the meeting to determine whether the job is completed. According to Fleming & Koppelman, (2016), those two criteria are not easy to develop. It is one of the difficult components of the art of project management. It is required for the company to decide what they want at the end of the result of the assignment and after that modify that end results into a metric.

It has been analyzed that there are various organizational aspects that impact the structure of the WBS development approach by entailing the development of the organization in the field of application, the experience project management member in the area of the expertise subject and the availability and convenience of relevant project history.

Oladimeji, Folorunso, Akinwale & Adejumobi (2011), stated that the organization has been placed on the scheduling of projects since the early days of project management. Afterwards the major success or failure criteria were connected to the key pillars of project management. Siami-Irdemoosa, Dindarloo  & Sharifzadeh, (2015), stated that it is project management is hard to manage and it is required for the company to implement effective strategy for the purpose of bringing growth within the business. It has been analyzed that the projects that infest in schedule and budget can still be divided into quality and specifications by the client. A project remarked in the form of success by the team of project management in relation to schedule and budget which can be observed as a failure by the customer in case of not meeting the requirements.

Research Questions

WBSs can be improved from top-to-bottom or from bottom-to-top. The top-to-bottom approach permits for less starting assumptions about the structure of the project, since it starts with recognizing only the key project deliverables, objectives and the requirements, as against to initiate with the most explained, least level work aspects in the bottom to top approach.

It has been found that in the top-to-bottom approach, the Process Development recognizes and elaborates entire key project needs, group similar units and tasks or deliverables, more elaborated aspects until a work scope and cost can be divided to each aspect (Fleming & Koppelman, 2016). There are various levels required in the WBS relies on the size and complexity of the project, organizational constraints, technical uncertainty and the assessment of contractor management of need.

According to Lee, Hsu, Lee & Kuo, (2012), there are some approaches to WBS development such as task-based, time-based and deliverable based. In the context of task-based, it has been analyzed that the project works in relation to the actions of the task which should be completed to build the project deliverable. These tasks could be any verb such as improve, optimize, develop, run etc. Time-based approach elaborates the project work in relation to time phases in place of tasks or deliverable. This method utilizes wide-spread iterations and sometimes become a genuine issue to handle the project. Cost-based approach elaborates project work in relation to cost but this is seldom utilized. It has been found that the initial method in developing a WBS is utilizing guidelines.

According to Harrison & Lock (2017), guidelines remain to give content, form and a project framework that is relied upon limited criteria and standards of the organization. The possible result of the project can be attained by the companies as per own guidelines. It is vital to evaluate the past project temples, regarding documentations, illustrations for past growth projects, and vital information- all that is utilized for the advantages of the WSB design. There is another approach such as analogy approach which is facilitated for the project (Heagney, 2016).

It is an effective technique that uses ordnance of the file of WBS that already based for same kind of project in past. The project manager can review an earlier project WBS for a new project at a recent company due to efficiency of same method for all projects.  The top-down approach is the third technique for maturing a WBS.

It is regarding start-up of huge aspects of the project and then shattering them down into more effectual structures Brotherton, Fried & Norman, (2008). This approach considers the greater module or task in the project and break down, more and more information is added. Bottom-up Approach is the next approach which initiates with the team members; the team members recognize and create lists of all the explicit responsibilities and performance that are associated to the project. It is straightforward approach that can become into a group and it can be completed in the easiest way (Siami-Irdemoosa, Dindarloo & Sharifzadeh, 2015).

Rationale of the Study

It is an ideal technique for brainstorming a resolution to a concern. The last technique of WBS is mind mapping technique which is a very effective technique for the project manager. This technique elaborates the process of brainstorming by developing a branching structure that creates the ideas and thoughts linked with the project. The organization need to develop the task into non-linear and then build the structure for WBS (Robinson, Ryan & Abbasi, 2018). After completion of the mind mapping approach, it can be utilized in improving a top-down or bottom-up approach WBS.

It helps to develop a project plan in which eight steps are encompassed. Initially, it is required for the business to write a project scope statement. A project statement outlines the deliverables of what the company plan to generate by the end of a project (Kerzner & Kerzner, 2017). After that, it is essential for the company to develop a work breakdown structures and break the deliverables into pieces. The third step entails the breaking each work package into tasks in which to-do-list is being prepared for each package of work. Project dependencies should be determined in an effective way and after that determine the total time required for each task (Turner, 2014).

According to Norman, Brotherton & Fried, (2010), a breakdown structure is a disintegration of the employment requires completing a task. This structure is managed in a hierarchy and created to permit for definite and rational groupings, either by performance or deliverables. The WBS has the capability to recognize the standard Project Scope Statement and provides as an untimely underpinning for effectual schedule progress and cost estimation. It is the responsibility of the project managers in the company to improve a WBS as a precursor to an effective project schedule. Turner (2014) noticed that WBS should be escorted by a WBS dictionary, which elaborates the elements of WBS.  

The main aim of improving a WBS and WBS dictionary are collecting the knowledge regarding work that requires to be completed for a project to logically as well as proactively plan out the project to completion (Kerzner, 2018). It would be helpful in the organization all activities into manageable aspects that would attain project objectives.

It has been found that the WBS must not be standing documents. WBS creation is considered as the subject to project management progressive description, and as latest knowledge becomes known, the WBS should be changes to show that knowledge. A project team that has effective amendments to its WBS should position the Change Management Plan for Project for direction on management of amendments to project scope (Robinson, Ryan, & Abbasi, 2018).


Below is a described WBS example with an imperfect number of managing levels. The below list elaborates key features of the sample WBS:

  • Hierarchical Levels – entails three levels of employment
  • Numbering progression – utilizes summarize numbering as an exclusive recognizer for entire levels
  • It has been found that the level one is 1.0, which exemplifies the project level.
  • Level two is encompassed at the summary level, and often the level at which reporting is done.
  • Level three is 1.X.X (1.1.1, 1.1.2, etc.), which exemplifies the work enclose level.
  • Lowest stage depictions – uttered by verbs and substance, like “create the menu.”

The illustration of Banquet is defined below:

 In the context of WBS numbering, every level item has a different allocated number in order that work can be recognized and follow over time. It has been analyzed that WBS may have changing numbers of disintegration levels, but there is usual schedule for how to number each level so that jobs are numbered in a unique way and effectively summarized. The way of decomposing the general convention is described below for the purpose of making a better understanding regarding WBS structure.

  • Level 1 – Elected by 1.0. This level is considered of the WBS and is generally the project name. another level
  • Level 2 – Elected by 1.X (for instance- 1.1, 1.2).  This level is the synopsis level.
  • Level 3 – Elected by 1.X.X (for instance- 1.1.1, 1.1.2). This third level encompasses the sub-aspects to each level 2 synopsis element.   This attempt constants down until more and more subsidiary levels are allocated for all work necessary for the complete project.

Literature Review

In case of proper subordination of tasks, most project forecasting tools will mechanically number tasks by utilizing the above convention.

 According to Sutrisna, Ramanayaka & Goulding, (2018), there are various ways of disintegration work of the project and making a WBS, the most uncomplicated and efficient process is to exercise some figure of visual display of the deliverables or performance. Supremely, all Team Member of Project would assemble and suggest all work needed for inclusive project deliverable productively. Participation of all members in this process amplifies the possibilities that the outcome WBS will be inclusive (Uzair, 2010). Classically, team members initiate but recognizing entire deliverables of the project and then disintegrated them one at a time into a systematic way of the elaborated activities needed to complete the deliverable (Fulford & Standing, 2014).

 Stallsworth, (2013), stated that WBS has major two kinds such as Deliverable-oriented WBS and Process-Centred WBS. A deliverable-oriented WBS is created about the wanted deliverables of the project. This kind of WBS will possibly involve the features such as Level 2 things are the names of all vendor plan deliverables that are anticipated to be needed as part of a contract. Level 2 should also involve any organization deliverables tasks. It has been analyzed that Level 3 things are major functions needed to generate the Level 2 deliverables. Extra levels are utilized relying upon the scale of the deliverables and the extent of detail needed to reliably assesses cost and schedule.

According to Reh, (n.d.), state broad projects obtained as Firm-Fixed-Price contracts are well effective to the deliverable-oriented approach.  Arranged this way, interim progress against deliverables can be expressed by the project managers in order to decide the ratio of the work that is complete. It has been found that a deliverable-oriented WBS and its connected programme can be perplexing to interpret because their items are not prepared in sequence at the uppermost level.  They are, however, very helpful in representative progress against constricted deliverables.

It has been stated by Schwalbe, (2011), that a process-centered WBS is equal to a deliverable-oriented WBS despite that it is controlled, by stage or steps in a procedure sooner than by deliverables.  The advantage of process-centred WBS is that it motivates the addition of process-needed deliverables, like System Development Life Cycle (SDLC) deliverables.  The team of the project management should make certain that all contractual deliverables are liable for the WBS. There are various activities in this process which can be included under this process in which Level 2 performances are schedule or phases highlights.

These activities can be SDLC stages including planning, organizing, initiating, coordinating and many more. In the context of Process-centred WBS the level 3 activities are cover those activities that need to accomplish level 2 milestone or phases. Different tasks are involved for any task that should be completed in various phases. Along with that it has been found that additional levels are utilized relying on the time of the schedule and the stage of feature needed to reliably anticipated cost and schedule. According to Brotherton, Fried & Norman, (2008), in the process of WBC, all deliverables can be recognized, and the entire task is involved. This inclusiveness will decrease the risk of “off balance sheet”, which may have unfound influences on the schedule of the project.

Schwalbe, (2011), argued that there are some limitations of WBS which can impact the entire business of the company and it is required for the business to consider weak factors as well at the time of implementing WBS within the company. The limitations of WBC are step by step process, having plenty of tasks, lack of observations, excess cost and time. Schwalbe, (2011), argued that it would require active management of interfaces because lack of proper attention towards project management can reduce the effective outcome of the company.

The work burdens of employees are increased due to the implementation of the WBC and management functions such as organizing, monitoring, planning and review. It is required for the business to give attention in the proper way to the structure because it can create potential demarcation concerns. It has been found that WBS method can speak the schedule and project the entire aspects; it does become outdated after a point. This is almost certainly because the agenda of the project will transform the implementation of such projects but the WBS shall all the time be similar. When you modernize the WBS, it is required for the project manager to have the expert that can help in resolving the issues.

Fulford & Standing, 2014), criticized the improvement of work breakdown structure is surely not easy. The process of WBS is having difficulties and can bring the issues for the company if the project manager does not effective strategy and knowledge to handle the structure. Along with that, it has been analyzed that it would take so many hours for improvement. It would be full of effort and due to lack of effort one can face the challenges. There will also be a information relocate and implement of brainpower. The huge there is a range of the project of the company, the bigger the WBS will be. It is necessary for people to give the input and then check the portion they are anticipated to do.

At last, it also anticipates the company to have a modification. The first iteration is roughly right and when the project amends, the WBS does too. Hence, it is necessary for the company to select the option of WBS wisely after considering the weak points.


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Fulford, R., & Standing, C. (2014). Construction industry productivity and the potential for collaborative practice. International Journal of Project Management, 32(2), 315-326.

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