Project structure plan (WBS) in project management | TeamGantt (2023)

A project structure plan (WBS) is firmly anchored in ClassicProject Management Methodologyand systems engineering, which breaks down a project into a hierarchy of deliverables and tasks. It's a simple yet methodical way to organize and understand your project scope into smaller, manageable components.

Essentially, using a work breakdown structure allows you to look at your project from the top down and break it down into the tasks and subtasks that you will complete. It is a helpful tool that defines a detailed cost or time estimate and provides guidance for the development and control of the schedule.

Why use a work breakdown structure?

There's no doubt: estimating projects can be confusing and a bit difficult. But creating a project estimate doesn't have to give you heartburn. It can be helpful to ask questions, analyze needs, and break down your scope into parts.

Creating a work breakdown structure for any plan or set of tasks will help you accurately capture the work that needs to be done for a specific project. If youAssess your projectsBased on units—whether weeks, days, or hours—using a work breakdown structure will help you understand very quickly if your estimate will exceed budget or the planned deadline.

How to create a work breakdown structure to estimate projects

Once you're comfortable with the overall process of creating a work breakdown structure, you can adapt the practice to any project—from moving your home to building a complex database of 75 offshore teams. That's right, the work breakdown structure will be your friend.

But before you start creating a WBS (and pinpoint estimates), let's go through a process that will help ensure a solid, workable estimate.

Step 1: List the key deliverables of your project

If you have a project scope, getting started with your work breakdown structure should be easy.

Don't have a scope? Turn around and talk to your clients or your boss about the scope. Starting a project without scope is dangerous because it sets the stage for what will be delivered and when.

First, sit down with your team and list what you need to deliver to achieve your project's end goal. For example, if you're building a new website, your results might include:

  • sitemap
  • wireframe
  • page designs
  • Front-End-Code
  • Backend-Code

Make sure you include all tasks and don't omit anything. For example, if you're working on a website redesign project, have you considered the content? If you miss an achievement now, you will regret it later.

That's why it's so helpful to list things as a team. A team call not only ensures that all the bases are covered. It helps you tooExpectations about who will be in chargefor deliverables and tasks while at the same time keeping the team involved in the overall process of the project. You see, you already win! 🏆

(Video) What is a Work Breakdown Structure - WBS? PM in Under 5

Step 2: Break down each result into tasks

Once you've identified the key deliverables for your project, it's time to take a deeper look at what actually needs to be done in each deliverable.

This isn't just a simple exercise where you say:Who does it and how long does it take?It goes much deeper - and that's a good thing, because it allows you to create a better estimate.

Ask your team (or yourself):

  • What needs to be done to create this result?
  • What other related project tasks will contribute to the successful completion of this achievement?
  • What are the task requirements?
  • Are we cutting any corners here? (Make sure you list everything and everyone - don't cheat yourself!)

As you complete this exercise, keep in mind that you really want to list every possible task that could go into an overall result. Remember, the point here is to account for all times so you can make a reasonable estimate. You won't succeed if you don't think it through properly.

Using the example of redesigning the website, you can split the “Sitemap” result as follows:

  • Check the current website
  • Test the current structure with 5 site users
  • Check the test results
  • Organize the sitemap in a table
  • Check out the first low fidelity release with the team
  • Revise the structure based on the team's input
  • Create a visual version of the sitemap
  • comment sections
  • Write a description of the new sitemap
  • Present the sitemap to customers
  • Check customer feedback
  • implement feedback
  • Deliver v2
  • Conduct meetings with customers
  • Complete sitemap

This task list is an estimate of the total work that needs to be done to arrive at a final sitemap.

That might not be the way you would do it, and that's okay. When you sit down with your team to discuss these tasks, just make sure you're working with a shared understanding of how things get done—or at least that you're discussing the process you want to implement.

No matter what, listing every detail will help you identify the effort required to deliver the service.

Step 3: Get granular with subtasks

Correct: you want to make your work breakdown structure as detailed as possible. The only way to do this is to examine each task you've identified and list subtasks. It's about working out the effort and determining the work that needs to be done to successfully complete the outcome.

It's a process that takes time and thought, but if you invest in it, you'll find less room for missed expectations and budget overruns in the long run. So take the next step and detail what will go into each task.

Using the website redesign as an example, you can break down the “Test the current structure with 5 website users” result even further:

  • Recruit users
  • Schedule meetings
  • Write test script
  • Conduct 5 sessions
  • Compensate users for time
  • Write down findings and recommendations

This one task proves that every single item can be expensive to an extent! This example included not only 6 subtasks, but also an item that requires payment to a party outside of the project.

(Video) Project Management: What is a Work Breakdown Structure?

You will want to know about all expensesBeforescope of your project, and your customers will too. Make sure you consider them early so nothing comes as a surprise when you're knee-deep in your project.

Step 4: Format your PSP and estimate the work

Traditionally, you'll find work breakdown structures in flowcharts, which are similar to website sitemaps. This format works well because it presents a hierarchy of tasks and is easily numbered and referenced.

But some people like to list them on whiteboards or paste them into spreadsheets. Here it is not the format that matters, but the completeness and accuracy of the tasks contained. You can create your work breakdown structure in any format that is convenient for you. (We've included a few examples below to get you started.)

Once you've listed all of your tasks and subtasks in a format that makes sense, you should double-check and make sure you've included all possible tasks and subtasks.

Once confirmed, go through the list and discuss each task in terms of effort. This can take minutes, hours, days or weeks - it really depends on how granular you need to be and how your organization values ​​projects. By assigning a time increment to each task, you can total an overall estimate of the time (and possible cost) and create a project plan when you're ready for that step in your project.

When you're done, you'll know if you're operating in scope, out of scope, or actually on another planet. It's true: you might do this exercise and find that you've articulated too much time or effort to get everything within the scope of the project. The good thing is, you've established the baseline for what's needed, and as a group you can flatten tasks to fit scope or timeline (and help yourself).Avoid the awkward due date dance).

Manage project scope with a quick work breakdown structure

Sometimes you get requests to expand your project scope. In this case, you need a quick (but solid) estimate to levitate from a team or a client - just to make sure you're covering your bases with this new thing. You may not have the time to get the team together to go through the above steps, but using a work breakdown structure in this case to quickly outline a set of deliverables can be extremely helpful.

In fact, creating a quick work breakdown structure yourself can be very helpful when a client tells you they have X dollars to spend or X days to get something done. Planning your tasks to arrive at an estimate makes it easy to explain what can and cannot be done. And if your estimates are too high, you can refer to your work breakdown structure to quickly negotiate scope down.

For example, if I needed to reduce the cost/time of creating this sitemap, I could probably remove the "Test current structure with 5 site users" step from my "Sitemap" effort (although that might be risky and I might not want to do that). Use the work breakdown structure to your advantage in this way, and you'll not only create a project estimate that fits a specific budget, you'll develop a solid set of project requirements.

Examples of work breakdown structures

Now that we've talked about how to use a work breakdown structure to estimate your projects and manage project scope, let's look at some simple examples of work breakdown structures to help drive your ideas.

Example of a flowchart for a work breakdown structure

Here is an example of a work breakdown structure in the form of a flowchart. This format is great for simple projects that don't necessarily need an estimate. In this flowchart example, we showed you how to use a work breakdown structure to plan a vacation.

(Video) How to build a WBS in Microsoft Project

Project structure plan (WBS) in project management | TeamGantt (1)

Just remember that a flowchart can get messy if your project breaks down into too many tasks and subtasks. If you have a complex project ahead of you, consider a different format.

Example of a work breakdown structure list

We took our time designing this list example, but your work breakdown structure can be just as easily scrawled on your favorite notepad or whiteboard. Here's how you can use a work breakdown structure to estimate your time for an upcoming move.

Project structure plan (WBS) in project management | TeamGantt (2)

Example of a work breakdown structure table

If your project has a long list of tasks and subtasks, and you want to capture both time and budget estimates, a spreadsheet may be useful.

In this work breakdown structure example, we used a simple spreadsheet to estimate the cost and effort of a website. You can add columns and rows as needed, and even set up formulas that calculate costs based on estimated time and hourly rate.

Download our Free Excel Work Breakdown Structure Spreadsheet Template!

Project structure plan (WBS) in project management | TeamGantt (3)

Example of a Gantt chart for a work breakdown structure

Do you want to be one step ahead of your project plan? Try setting up your work breakdown structure as a Gantt chart!

Here's an example of how we used task groups and subgroups to break down a website build in TeamGantt.

Project structure plan (WBS) in project management | TeamGantt (4)

It's easy to add or remove tasks to fit your scope, and you can use TeamGantt's hourly estimate feature (available only on the advanced plan) to enter time estimates and see the numbers add up - no calculator needed!

(Video) Work Breakdown Structure | Project Management | Invensis Learning

When you're ready to assign and schedule work, all your tasks are already waiting for you. Your team can track time right in the app, so you can monitor hours to keep track of the project budget.

Import your work breakdown structure into TeamGantt

Did you know you can turn your work breakdown structure into a Gantt chart? This is true!

Simply import your work breakdown structure as a CSV file. We've even created a free template to help you import your work breakdown structure into TeamGantt faster.

Download our free work breakdown structure Gantt chart template to get started!

After downloading the Excel template, follow these steps to turn it from a blank slate into a complete project Gantt chart:

  1. First, make sure you have access to a TeamGantt account that allows more than 1 project. Don't have an account? No problem!Start a free trial with the plan that's right for you!(Pro tip:Select the Advanced Plan trial if you want to include itEstimated hoursin your import.)
  2. Copy the blank spreadsheet into a clean worksheet and complete your work breakdown structure with all project details.
  3. Save your new work breakdown structure document as a CSV file.

Eventually followthis guide to importing a project via CSV.

Cancel it now!

As with any tool or method, you need to do what's right for your project, your team, and you. Maybe the steps and examples described here don't work for you. That's okay!

If you apply the principles that the work breakdown structure encompasses—listing deliverables and tasks—toCreate your own estimate, find an accuracy you may not have found in the past. And if you stick to these estimates, you can use them for future projects as well. That's a bonus!

Go from project estimate to plan in no time

Want to save time and effort on your next project? With TeamGantt, you can turn your project estimate into a full-fledged plan without getting bored.

You will have them allcharacteristicsFrom drag-and-drop simplicity and team collaboration to customizable views and workload management, you need to ensure projects are completed on time and under budget. And it all comes with a simple and intuitive interface that anyone can use.

Try TeamGantt for free today!


What is project plan and WBS? ›

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a project management tool that takes a step-by-step approach to complete large projects with several moving pieces. By breaking down the project into smaller components, a WBS can integrate scope, cost and deliverables into a single tool.

Is WBS and project plan the same? ›

They're not one and the same. A WBS is a logical decomposition (breaking into smaller pieces) and hierarchal representation of work needed to execute a project. This decomposition of work is called a "work package." The level of decomposition is based on the extent to which the project will need to be managed.

What are the 4 levels of WBS? ›

What are the 4 WBS levels?
  • The top level. The top level of a WBS states the project's title and the final deliverable. ...
  • Controls account. Next, list the controls account WBS level underneath the top level. ...
  • Work packages. The work packages level of a WBS appears underneath the controls account level. ...
  • Activities.
Jun 15, 2021

Which comes first WBS or project plan? ›

A WBS should be created before a detailled project plan as it is a basis to estimate the resources needed and to create a cost and time schedule. What is not mentioned in the WBS, will not be part of the project's scope and therefore not be delivered.

What are the 5 types of WBS? ›

The phase-based WBS displays the final deliverable on top, with the WBS levels below showing the five phases of a project (initiation, planning, execution, control and closeout).

What is the structure of a project plan? ›

A typical project plan consists of: A statement of work, a resource list, work breakdown structure, a project schedule and a risk plan. Having a well-developed project plan is one of the critical success factors for projects.

What are the 3 levels of work breakdown structure? ›

Work breakdown structure levels

Level 1: Major deliverables. Level 2: Deliverables that can still be broken down. Level 3: Can be assigned to the team to complete the third level deliverables.

What is WBS example? ›

For example, you have a project that consists of two global parts or key tasks. These tasks will contain certain subtasks that must be followed strictly one by one. These subtasks can also have a list of activities in a smaller hierarchy. All this makes up a WBS structure.

Is a Gantt chart a WBS? ›

Work Breakdown Structure examples

A Gantt chart can be considered one of the famous WBS examples. You can organize your Work Breakdown Structure as a Gantt diagram that links task dependencies and reflects project milestones.

What is standard WBS structure? ›

Overview. WBS is a hierarchical and incremental decomposition of the project into phases, deliverables, and work packages. It is a tree structure, which shows a subdivision of effort required to achieve an objective, for example, a program, project, and contract.

What is a Level 4 project plan? ›

Control Level Schedule (Level 4)

Level 4 schedules are developed and maintained by a project execution team and are commonly prepared by project leads and construction subcontractors to monitor and control day-to-day work activities and serve as the foundation for measuring project progress and performance.

What are the 3 stages in project planning? ›

The phases of a project are initiation, planning, execution, and closeout.

What is the correct order of project management? ›

This project management process generally includes four phases: initiating, planning, executing, and closing. Some may also include a fifth “monitoring and controlling” phase between the executing and closing stages. By following each step, a project team increases the chance of achieving its goals.

What comes first in a project plan? ›

The first step to writing a project plan is defining what, exactly, your project is—including the project's purpose, parameters, and goals. “Clearly define your project's scope or overall purpose,” says Yazdani.

What is the purpose of WBS? ›

The goal of a WBS is to make a large project more manageable. Breaking it down into smaller chunks means work can be done simultaneously by different team members, leading to better team productivity and easier project management.

What are the two main ways of structuring the WBS? ›

There are many different types of work breakdown structures, but there are two key ways to create them regardless of type: the top-down approach and the bottom-up approach.

What are the 4 main types of structures? ›

There are four types of structures;
  • Frame: made of separate members (usually thin pieces) put together.
  • Shell: encloses or contains its contents.
  • Solid (mass): made almost entirely of matter.
  • liquid (fluid): braking fluid making the brakes.

What are the 7 parts of a project plan? ›

Let's dive into the details:
  • Step 1: Define your goals and objectives. ...
  • Step 2: Set success metrics. ...
  • Step 3: Clarify stakeholders and roles. ...
  • Step 4: Set your budget. ...
  • Step 5: Align on milestones, deliverables, and project dependencies. ...
  • Step 6: Outline your timeline and schedule. ...
  • Step 7: Share your communication plan.
Nov 19, 2022

What are the 3 main components of a project? ›

The project management triangle is made up of three variables that determine the quality of the project: scope, cost, and time. The triangle demonstrates how these three variables are linked—if one of the variables is changed, the other two must be adjusted in order to keep the triangle connected.

Does every project need a WBS? ›

Every project has a WBS, just like they all have schedules and budgets. They aren't always well done or even written down, but every project manager has some idea of what they are doing, how long they think it will take and how much they think it will cost.

What is the 8 80 rule in WBS? ›

Another good measure is the “8 – 80” rule, which recommends that the lowest level of work should be no less than 8 hours and no more than 80 hours. Level of detail for work packets should be documented in the WBS Dictionary or the Project Management Plan.

What are deliverables in WBS? ›

A deliverable-oriented WBS (also known as product-oriented WBS) decomposes the project scope into smaller and more manageable deliverables. Deliverable are tangible components that need to be delivered to complete the project.

How do I create a WBS project? ›

How to create a work breakdown structure and why you should
  1. Include 100% of the work necessary to complete the goal.
  2. Don't account for any amount of work twice.
  3. Focus on outcomes, not actions.
  4. A work package should take no less than 8 hours and no more than 80 hours of effort.
  5. Include about three levels of detail.

What are the 6 benefits of using WBS in a project? ›

WBS benefits
  • it defines and organizes the work required.
  • it facilitates the quick development of a schedule by allocating effort estimates to specific sections of the WBS.
  • it can be used to identify potential scope risks if it has a branch that is not well defined.
  • it provides a visual of entire scope.

What is WBS and example? ›

For example, you have a project that consists of two global parts or key tasks. These tasks will contain certain subtasks that must be followed strictly one by one. These subtasks can also have a list of activities in a smaller hierarchy. All this makes up a WBS structure.

What it means WBS? ›

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a chart in which the critical work elements, called tasks, of a project are illustrated to portray their relationships to each other and to the project as a whole.

What are the three types of work breakdown structure? ›

Work breakdown structure is generally divided into three distinct types: deliverable-based WBS, phase-based WBS, and responsibility-based WBS.


1. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) in Project Management Explainer Video
(Terrena Hooper)
2. The Work Breakdown Structure
(Michael Ogunseyin)
3. Project Management | Work Breakdown Structure
(American Water College)
4. ProjectLibre : Managing projects using Work Breakdown Structures in ProjectLibre
(ProjectLibre project management software)
5. Chapter 5- Project Planning - Scope and the Work Breakdown Structure - Part 1
(Eric Magidson)
6. Construction Project WBS – Examples to Get You Started
(Plan Academy Inc.)
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