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Why breakdown a project?

Improves project control

Any project, no matter how short, can be broken down into smaller parts.
It would be madness to run a project with one task that starts at ‘A’ and is designed to finish at ‘B’, with absolutely no idea what happens in between.
The tricky part is to decide in what manner the project is broken down.

There are other clear benefits in dissecting a project.

Create clear milestones

Dissecting the project can then create clear milestones which will:

  • Clarifies progress

Smaller project plan sections make it easier to follow progress by establishing clear milestones.
These provide a valuable opportunity to take a step back and assess the status of the project and consider any decisions which may need to be taken.

Project management is carried out by exception and the Project Manager will assume everything is on track unless members of the project management team say otherwise.

  • Improves decision making

Such milestones provide an opportunity for review and thus provide a framework for good decision making.

  • Motivates team members

In addition, when a milestone has been reached and a degree of success has been achieved, it is very important that team members can get due recognition.
This will continue to motivate the team.

This could not be achieved without milestones based upon recognisable success criteria.

Easier for individuals and departments to manage

Smaller sections within any plan or schedule are easier to manage from a manager’s viewpoint or within a department.
Smaller parts of the schedule will last a shorter time and it makes it easier to predict and estimate costs, potential risks and resource needs.
Planning for the next stages will start as the current one nears it end.

This is known as horizon planning.

Costs and budget

Control and management of expenditure is easier over a shorter period of time.
This is because the estimation of durations, resources, equipment needed etc is easier over a shorter time frame.

Short term predictions are more accurate

Short term predictions are always more accurate, allowing the manager to add more detail when considering the next period (or phase).
Breaking down a project into smaller parts improves project control.

PRINCE2® methodology promotes the use of stages to aid project control.

Under PRINCE2 2005 projects, whether large or small, need a focus on delivering business benefits, either in their own right or as part of a larger programme.
The continuing correct focus of the project should be confirmed at the end of each stage.
[see Managing Stage Boundaries (SB) - part 1]

Also, under PRINCE2 2009 [see ‘The Complete Project Management plus PRINCE2’] a project is planned, monitored and controlled on a stage-by-stage basis.
Management stages provide senior management with control points at major intervals throughout the project.
[see Principles - Manage by stages]

PRINCE2® is a Registered Trade Mark of the Office of Government Commerce in the United Kingdom and other countries.