Work breakdown structure

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A work breakdown structure (WBS) in project management and systems engineering, is a tool used to define and group a project's discrete work elements in a way that helps organize and define the total work scope of the project.[1]

A work breakdown structure element may be a product, data, a service, or any combination. A WBS also provides the necessary framework for detailed cost estimating and control along with providing guidance for schedule development and control. Additionally the WBS is a dynamic tool and can be revised and updated as needed by the project manager.[1]

Contents

Overview

The Work Breakdown Structure is a tree structure, which shows a subdivision of effort required to achieve an objective; for example a program, project, and contract. [2] In a project or contract, the WBS is developed by starting with the end objective and successively subdividing it into manageable components in terms of size, duration, and responsibility (e.g., systems, subsystems, components, tasks, subtasks, and work packages) which include all steps necessary to achieve the objective.

The Work Breakdown Structure provides a common framework for the natural development of the overall planning and control of a contract and is the basis for dividing work into definable increments from which the statement of work can be developed and technical, schedule, cost, and labor hour reporting can be established.[2]

A work breakdown structure permits summing of subordinate costs for tasks, materials, etc., into their successively higher level “parent” tasks, materials, etc. For each element of the work breakdown structure, a description of the task to be performed is generated.[3] This technique (sometimes called a System Breakdown Structure [4]) is used to define and organize the total scope of a project.

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