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Work breakdown structure – part 2

Simple steps

The project management team will be made up of specialists from various areas and departments.
It will be up to the project management team members to generate the tasks required within their area.

This work load can be broken down, as necessary, into constituent elements, for example, design, testing etc.
These will represent the basic building blocks of the schedule within any one project stage.
These can be brainstormed and agreed.

Each member of the project management team can then be assigned the responsibility for one or more of these.
It is then his or her job to break down that work element into manageable parts or tasks.

Within the PRINCE2 methodology there are similarities to the Work Package.
However, the Work Package is more than a series of tasks and focuses on product production.
Work Packages are used to define and control the work to be done, and also to set tolerances for the Team Manager(s).

PRINCE2 2005 covers Work Packages within the process 'Controlling a Stage (CS)' and the sub-process ‘Authorising Work Package (CS1)’.
Under PRINCE2 2009 the Work Package is also covered under the section Controlling a Stage within the sub section of Activities.

The breaking down of tasks should be done with regard to:

Identifying the tasks

The level of task detail should reflect what can be managed easily.

Assign durations

These should be realistic not padded.
They should take into account the level of resource available to work on the task.
The skill level of the resource should be taken into account.
They may be fixed durations.

Allocate responsibilities

There are two schools of thought here.
Either assign the task to the person actually carrying out the work or assign a series of tasks to one of the project team members whose responsibility it is to see that they get done.

The latter method may not assess the overall labour input easily, but has the advantage that it can create greater flexibility.
It will be the responsibility of local managers to allocate the actual tasks and assess their progress.

PRINCE2 uses a more formal approach with the control of Work Packages.

Allocate costs

Costs can be totalled easily with suitable software, provided the people actually doing the job are identified.
The trouble with this approach is one has to go to the lowest level in the work breakdown structure to get it.
It is often more convenient to prepare a schedule at a higher level of work where one or more people are carrying out work towards a specific goal, for example, product analysis.

This approach requires the person responsible to make an accurate assessment of all elements he is responsible for and total the amount.

Initial schedules, designed to gain project approval, will always be less accurate than later ones for the purpose of initiating a given stage.

Produce the schedule

This can now be produced in its basic form as a list of tasks, with durations and responsibilities together with start and end dates.
However, the next phase of looking at task interdependencies is required.

The updated schedule will then require progress review and decision point milestones.
It should then be checked against corporate objectives prior to agreement and signing off.

PRINCE2 focuses on the management of products via the process Managing Product Delivery which interfaces with interfaces with Controlling a Stage.

Under PRINCE2 2005 Managing Product Delivery allows a controlled break between the Project Manager and Team Manager, or between the Project Manager and product creation / provision by third-party suppliers.
The process needs careful implementation to avoid being over bureaucratic.
[see Managing Product Delivery (MP) - part 1]

The process Controlling a Stage describes the day-to-day handling of the stage by the Project Manager.
It begins when the Project Board approve the Stage Plan via the process Authorising a Stage or Exception Plan (DP3).
[see Controlling a Stage (CS) - part 1]

Under PRINCE2 2009 the purpose of the Managing Product Delivery process is to control the link between the Project Manager and the Team Manager(s), by placing formal requirements on accepting, executing and delivering project work.
The role of the Team Manager(s) is to coordinate an area of work that will deliver one or more of the project’s products.
They can be internal or external to the customer’s organization.
[see Managing Product Delivery - Purpose]

Under PRINCE2 2009 [see ‘The Complete Project Management plus PRINCE2’] the purpose of the Controlling a Stage process is to assign work to be done, monitor such work, deal with issues, report progress to the Project Board, and take corrective actions to ensure that the stage remains within tolerance.
[see Controlling a stage - Purpose]