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Work Packages in Project Management
By Barney Austen

When delivering any piece of project work to a client, an effective project manager will ensure that the project is broken down into smaller pieces. In project management terms, this is called a work package.

In essence, it allows the project manager to create a piece of work that can be done in isolation and managed as such that will, in turn, make up part of the overall project delivery.

What Is a Work Package?

Work packages are used by a project manager to tell either a team or a team manager what is required of them. Depending on the nature of the project and also the relationship that the project manager has with the team responsible for doing the work, the instructions may be given verbally or more formally in writing.

My own view is that written communication, backed up by a conversation to clarify any points, is better as it reduces the risk of misunderstanding among the project delivery team.

At a very high level, a work package should consist of;

  1. Date the work package was agreed and the people involved.
  2. A description of the work that is to be done.
  3. Any processes, procedures, tools, standards etc that should be followed or used when undertaking the work package.
  4. Any interfaces with other work packages, products or projects allied with this work package i.e. that will be affected by it or that may affect it.
  5. Effort, cost and time determination including start and end dates.
  6. Agreement on how the sign-off on the work package will be determined i.e. how will it be agreed that the work has been done.

There are other elements that can be included but to me, these are the key aspects that should be considered. Looking at the list, it may come across as being almost as cumbersome as generating a complete project plan for each work element. This is not the case and a work package is not designed to cause more work for the project manager.

The logic behind creating work packages as part of a project is obvious. It is breaking down what can seem like a monstrous task into small recognizable pieces.

The two positive impacts of creating work packages:

  1. It makes it considerably easier for the project manager to manage the delivery.
  2. It allows the team members to see the results of their efforts more quickly and keep themselves motivated. This is particularly true when the project is running over many weeks or months. If there are no smaller goals to work towards, the team can lose sight of what they are trying to achieve and become despondent.

Work packages basically makes everything much more manageable and who wouldn’t want that?

Barney Austen is the founder of http://beta.myprojecttracker.com/ (still in Beta), an easy to use, cost effective, powerful tool to provide both business owners and project managers the key information needed to run their projects efficiently and effectively. Barney Austen’s passion is to help businesses through the provision of functionally relevant, but intuitive products. You can read more from Barney on his company’s blog, available here.

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