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Deliverable-based Project Schedules: Part 2 (#2 in the series Deliverable-based Project Schedules)
By Thomas Cutting

The first step in developing a deliverable-based project schedule is to determine what those deliverables are. One tool used to do this is the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

Work Breakdown Structure. The WBS is a planning tool that documents the breakdown of the project into deliverables. The is accomplished by taking the ultimate product of the project and breaking it into smaller, more manageable pieces until you have identified all the building blocks of the project. If that project were to create a new home page, the final deliverable would be the completed page. Simplistically speaking, the development process could be divided into parts that included Layout, Column 1 and Column 2 with each of the columns further defined as illustrated in the picture below.

WBS Example

Get the team involved in this exercise. As the project manager, you should facilitate and document these brainstorming sessions. The key is to know when to stop drilling. One indication is based on the fact that deliverables are nouns. If you start listing verbs you are at the activity and task level and should stop. There may be a couple of key tasks you want to jot down as a reminder but you aren’t looking to detail the tasks at this point.

There are multiple ways to capture this information. Initially the diagram method works well for a whiteboard session. Using a spreadsheet or document works, too. Although it may seem logical to use a project-scheduling tool it may be premature. The tool will prompt you for more information on each piece and distract you from getting the team’s ideas out.

From our example the deliverables identified were the Design, Format, Sections 1, 2, 3 and 4. Each of these can be defined and handed to an individual or team to create.

Thomas Cutting, PMP is the owner of Cutting’s Edge (http://www.cuttingsedge.com/) and is a speaker, writer, trainer and mentor. He offers nearly random Project Management insights from a very diverse background that covers entertainment, retail, insurance, banking, healthcare and automotive verticals. He delivers real world, practical lessons learned with a twist of humor. Thomas has spoken at PMI and PSQT Conferences and is a regular contributor to several Project Management sites. He has a blog at (http://cuttingsedgepm.blogspot.com).

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