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CS615 - Software Project Management - Lecture Handout 34

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Work Breakdown Structure

WBS- A Mandatory Management Tool

Characteristics of a High-Quality WBS

  1. Review and signoff from top to bottom
  2. Includes logical flow and is hierarchical in nature
  3. Clear and concise
  4. Provides ability to roll-up information to higher levels
  5. Receives 100% team buy-in

  6. Should have at least 2 levels: Level 1 defines 100% of the service/product/result;
    Level 2 defines the deliverables in terms of work (groupings)
  7. Project Management (and sub-contract management) at Level 2.
  8. The deliverables in the WBS must match the scope or contract (WBS should not contain work that is not defined in the scope – Scope should not describe work not contained in the WBS)
  9. All deliverables should be accounted for regardless of responsibility
  10. Every WBS element should be clearly defined – or should be clarified in the WBS Dictionary
  11. Features
    • The WBS should contains 100% of the work defined by the scope or contract
    • Development of WBS should involve the entire project team
    • Should be deliverable-oriented
    • Should captures all deliverables (Internal, External, Interim) in terms of work to be completed
  12. Usefulness
    • Should define the context of the project and clarifies the work
    • Should communicates project scope to all stakeholders in terms of the work to be completed
    • Is “in sync” with the scope statement and project schedule
    • Implies and allows for continual improvement/update of the WBS to maintain current-ness and “vitality” within the project
  13. WBS Is Not
    • A single document that substitutes for the project schedule or project plan
    • The project schedule
    • A listing of tasks or activities

Types of WBS

The two types of Work Breakdown Structures are:

  1. Program Work Breakdown Structures
  2. Contract Work Breakdown Structures

Contract WBS

A Contract WBS extends the Program WBS to a lower level in order to provide management and cost information to the Government. It includes all the elements for products (e.g., hardware, software, data, or services) that are the responsibility of the contractor. It must be consistent with the Program WBS.

Contract WBS

Contract WBS: Contractor's Responsibility

Contractors may extend the work breakdown structure to whatever level they feel is necessary to manage the program. Contractors also use the Contract WBS to define work packages. Work packages are

Discrete portions of the project that can be charged to a single organization.
Building blocks for program management and cost reporting.

Remember that a Contract WBS:

  • Is prepared and maintained by each contractor working on different portions of the program.
  • Includes the number of levels thought sufficient by the contractor to manage the program.
  • Must be updated if changes are made to the Program WBS.

Program WBS

A Program WBS is defined as "the work breakdown that covers the acquisition of a specific defense materiel item and is related to contractual effort."

A Program WBS is:

  • Tailored to each specific program.
  • Prepared and maintained by the Government.
  • Provides a basis for developing the Contract WBS.

Program WBS Levels

Typically, a Program WBS consists of the upper three levels.

WBS Level 1: The entire defense materiel item.
WBS Level 2: Major elements of the defense materiel item, which are subordinate to Level 1.
WBS Level 3: Elements subordinate to Level 2 elements.

Sample WBS

A Product WBS

WBS Sample 2: System Development Projects

System Development Projects

WBS Sample 3: Software/Hardware System Development

Hardware System Development


For detailed reading refer to:

  1. Chapter No. 6 entitled “How to handle large projects: Divide and Conquer” of “Software Project management – A Practitioner Approach by E. M. BENNATAN.
  2. Chapter 5 entitled Software Project Planning” of: SE–A Practitioner Approach by Roger S. Pressman.
  3. Chapter 7 entitled “Software Project Estimation: Tools and Techniques by NIIT