Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the The Open University & The Open University Business School's online course, Business Fundamentals: Project Management. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second NARRATOR: In this video, we will show you how to create a work breakdown structure for your project. The work breakdown structure, or WBS, has a hierarchical structure. The box at the top represents the whole project. You can design your WBS around either what you were going to produce at the end of the project, or around the activities involved. In this case, we’ll focus on the final output, our company meeting.

Skip to 0 minutes and 31 seconds So far, we have these three jobs: the venue, the catering, and the programme. Now it’s time to think in more detail. In this case, we need to find a location, identify what is needed for the events, and provide accommodation for the people attending. So now, we can fill in all the other boxes. You notice that the numbering is quite important, because it allows us to identify what the parent of each work package is. So what is missing? What about our participants? You can now fill this box with your new element. You can add new subtasks the same way.

Skip to 1 minute and 13 seconds While using PowerPoint is fine for a simple project, it can be difficult to add more subtasks and to provide further details about a project. That is why one common approach many companies use is to prepare the WBS in a spreadsheet. This is how the project would look in Excel. You can follow the same principals for other spreadsheet programmes. As you can see, we are just reproducing what is in the PowerPoint but in a different form. And so we have transferred our WBS from PowerPoint to Excel. Using a spreadsheet means it is a lot easier to add in any extra details you need. Now, we can use the WBS to add details on the work packages.

Skip to 1 minute and 58 seconds For example, who is the person responsible for each task? It is possible for work packages to have different people responsible for them, compared to the higher level elements in the WBS. This is because the responsibility could reflect the hierarchy inside an organisation. You can see that the management of participants is assigned to Riann. Nevertheless, there is a work package assigned to Sarah. So while Sarah is responsible for organising support for the project, Riann is responsible for the overall management of the participant’s work stream, including supervising Sarah’s work.

Drafting a work breakdown structure

This video shows you how to draft a WBS for the company event using the course PowerPoint template.

You can download the examples shown in the video WBS overview and the WBS spreadsheet in the WBS company event examples zip file below. In the next step you will fill these documents out for your own project using the templates in the next step.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Business Fundamentals: Project Management

The Open University