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A Practical Perspective of WBS via PMP and MS Project 2007 – Part I (#1 in the series A Practical Perspective of WBS via PMP and MS Project 2007)
By Satya Narayan Dash

WBS is a very simple and straightforward way for estimation. It is also the recommended estimation technique during the scoping phase. In this article, we will understand the basics in WBS estimation technique as defined by PMP and practically implement it through MS Project 2007.

What is it?

As the name suggest it is the breakdown of the work to be performed or the deliverables. In PMI terminology, it is known as the work packages. Normally “decomposition” technique is used to get the WBS. However, in real world, templates and forms are taken up most of the time.

To have the WBS, you must have the Project Scope Statement. The scope statement is the collection of project requirements with the acceptance criteria. Without scope statement, you can NOT develop the WBS.

How does it look like?

Say you are going to develop an IT system. At the top of the WBS (called as the Level – 1) is the Project Deliverable. You can subdivide and build an inverted tree structure for the project requirements. At the bottom, i.e., at the lowest level, it is always the Work Package.

But how will you know that you have got your work packages. Following are the tips:

  1. A work package can not be broken down further
  2. A work package can have time estimation for it
  3. A work package can have cost estimation for it
  4. A work package can be assigned to a person or a group of persons

After you have created the WBS, each work package will have an identification number with it so that it can be easily read. Below is a sample WBS.

Sample WBS

Figure 1: Sample WBS

What are the Main Characteristics of a good WBS?

Following are the main characteristics of a good WBS.

  1. The above 4 mentioned
  2. It is broken down to the level from where only individual activities can be started
  3. Each level should have an unique identification number
  4. It can be used as a communication tool with the key stakeholders
  5. It can be used as a team building tool

WBS Dictionary

For each work package, a detailed description is required which is found in the WBS Dictionary. It will be have the WP number, name, description, person assigned to, an estimated time, an initial level of cost, and account number.

A sample WBS dictionary will look like:

WBS Dictionary

Figure 2: WBS Dictionary

So is it worth it?

This helps in tracking. As per PMI terminology, the Scope Baseline is formed via “Project Scope Statement”, “WBS” and “WBS Dictionary”. In real world, it is very much likely that they will change. Hence baselining and re-baselining can be done to track the project changes.

Satya Narayan Dash is the Principal Consultant and Founder of Teleox® Consulting, Bangalore, India. Prior to that, he was Project Leader with Wipro® Technologies and a Project Leader with AdventNet®, Inc. He has rich experience of 8+ years in product development, and architecture in Java® and J2EE® based Telecom solutions. As a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) from Project Management Institute (PMI®) and MS Project 2007®, he has trained hundreds of project managers and consultants. He holds a Bachelor Degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from National Institute of Technology, Jalandhar, India. He can be contacted at email:

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