Work Breakdown Structure

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A work breakdown structure is a deliverable-oriented grouping of the work involved in a project that defines the total scope of the project. Since many projects involve many people and many different deliverables, it is important to organize and divide the work into logical sections based on how the work will be performed. The work breakdown structure is a foundation document in software project development management because it provides the basis for planning and managing project schedules, costs, resources, and changes. There are several approaches a manager can use to develop a work breakdown structure. These approaches include using guidelines, the analogy approach, the top-down approach, the bottom-up approach, and mind mapping. If guidelines for developing a work breakdown structure exist, it is important to follow them. Some organizations prescribe the form and content for work breakdown structures for particular projects. Many projects for the U.S. Government require contractors to prepare their proposals based on the U.S. Government provided work breakdown structure. These proposals must include cost estimates for each task in the work breakdown structure at a detailed and summary level. The cost for the entire project must be calculated by summing all the costs of all the lower level work breakdown structure tasks. When the U.S. Government personnel evaluate cost proposals, they must compare the contractors costs with their own estimates. A larger variation in costs for a certain work breakdown structure task sometimes indicates confusion as to what work must be accomplished. Many organizations provide guidelines and templates for developing work breakdown structures as well as examples of work breakdown structures from past projects. Sample work breakdown structures for a wide variety of projects in various industries, including projects for telecommunications, web design, and the service industry, are available on the internet and from...
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