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CS615 - Software Project Management - Lecture Handout 33

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Work Breakdown Structure

WBS- A Mandatory Management Tool

The WBS as a project management tool

Mapping WBS for Cost Management

In a product-oriented WBS, functional categories of work may form "cost accounts" within a WBS element. Cost account managers are responsible for a functional area’s contribution to a WBS element. Cost accounts from several departments or functions may combine into one WBS element.

Internal department planning for a cost account will be made up of individual work packages. A work package will typically have its own budget and schedule.
Work packages should be small enough to be executed by individuals or small groups in a single department, and they should be of relatively short schedule duration. A small project might define a maximum work package size as two weeks of effort. Larger projects will assemble larger work packages that can be appropriately managed and controlled.

The project manager will have to decide to what degree employment of various details of WBS implementation will benefit the efficient management of the project. On a very small project, a formal WBS may serve no useful purpose, but
it can become valuable if project size or complexity start to increase.

As an organization’s project management environment matures, or as larger size and complexity are encountered, application of the WBS concept can evolve from an ad hoc list of tasks, to time-phased activity lists, task lists clustered by project deliverables and services, or an end-product focused WBS fed by cost accounts and work packages.

If you are using MS-Project or a similar project management software application, you may encounter the WBS as a vertical list with indents to show structure. This will be compatible with the Gantt View data entry screens. While some software packages provide a separate WBS view, you could prepare your WBS in the vertical format using a word processor, and then cut and paste your WBS into your project management software package.

Mapping WBS for Cost Management


  • The WBS is a useful tool provided it is constantly updated.
  • It should be updated periodically together with the project development plan and the project schedule.
  • It is reasonable to expect the WBS list to have tasks added, modified or even removed as project development progresses.