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Project Management Work Analysis

Explore how to best break down a project's objectives into smaller and more manageable tasks to be assigned to various team members.


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In a previous project management article, we discussed financial analysis and its importance. If we decide that the project is profitable, the next step is to analyze the work scope. Basically, the project's objective will be broken down into smaller and more manageable tasks that will be assigned to team members. Two methods will be used in this process: work breakdown structure (WBS) to decompose the project into smaller tasks and responsibility assignment matrix(RACI) to determine the roles and responsibilities of each team member. Both methods are described below.

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

A work breakdown structure is a deliverable-oriented decomposition of a project into smaller components. It is a tree structure that shows a subdivision of effort required to achieve an objective, starting with the end objective and successively subdividing it into manageable components in terms of size, duration, and responsibility.1

The work breakdown structure is created by dividing the final deliverable into sub-deliverables and then dividing the sub-deliverables into work packages (activity or group of activities). There are a few principles that need to be considered during the process. The most important one is the 100% rule. It means that the work breakdown structure should include 100% of the project scope and should capture all deliverables, including project management. The rule applies at all levels within the hierarchy: the sum of the work at the "child" level must equal 100% of the work represented by the "parent" and the WBS should not include any work that falls outside the actual scope of the project, that is, it cannot include more than 100% of the work. It is important to remember that the 100% rule also applies to the activity level. The work represented by the activities in each work package must add up to 100% of the work necessary to complete the work package.2 Other work breakdown structure design principles are:

  • Work packages should be independent and unique across the structure
  • The activity or group of activities at the lowest level of the hierarchy should not take more than 80 hours of work to be completed
  • Elements should be numbered sequentially to reveal the hierarchical structure. For example, an element numbered 1.1.2 would represent a second element at the third level in the structure


The work breakdown structure was developed by United States Department of Defense and it is widely used in project management and systems engineering today. Its main advantages are providing the basis for budgeting and scheduling, as well as identifying potential risks in a project.

Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RACI)

Responsibility assignment matrix is used to determine the roles and responsibilities of each team member regarding the project tasks. As its name says, it is a matrix where tasks are represented as rows and team members as columns. The cells of the matrix contain roles of each team member in completing each task. There are four key responsibility roles in the RACI model:

  • Responsible — the person who does the work to achieve the task
  • Accountable — the person who is accountable for the correct and thorough completion of the deliverable or task, and the one who delegates the work to those responsible. 3 There must be only one accountable specified for each task or deliverable4
  • Consulted — the people who provide some information about the project and with whom there is a two-way communication
  • Informed — the people who are kept informed about the progress of the project and with whom there is a one-way communication

Each task must have someone who is responsible and someone who is accountable for it. Also, a task can have one, and only one, role accountable. Finally, discuss and agree the roles in the RACI matrix with your stakeholders before the project starts.

Some of the advantages of the RACI matrix are resolving undefined accountabilities, eliminating confusion regarding the roles and responsibilities, eliminating duplication and improving decision making. RACI matrix is especially useful on projects where team members are working in different organization units.

Tips

  • Divide the project scope into smaller tasks by using work breakdown structure method
  • Start with the final deliverable and divide it into sub-deliverables
  • If possible, divide the sub-deliverables into smaller sub-deliverables. When that is not possible anymore, further divide the smallest sub-deliverables into work packages
  • Continue decomposing the work packages until it makes sense and until you have reached the level where each package takes less than 80 hours to complete
  • Adhere to the work breakdown structure principles: the total amount of work at the "child" level must be equal to the 100% of the work represented by a "parent" element, the elements of the structure must be unique and sequentially numbered
  • Use RACI matrix to determine the roles and responsibilities on a project

 

More Articles in this Series

Footnotes

1. ["Work breakdown structure", Wikipedia, Retrieved February 23, 2015 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work_breakdown_structure]

2. [Practice Standard for Work Breakdown Structures (Second Edition), published by the Project Management Institute, ISBN 1933890134]

3. [Smith, Michael (2005). Role & Responsibility Charting (RACI) (PDF). Project Management Forum]

4. [Margaria, Tiziana (2010). Leveraging Applications of Formal Methods, Verification, and Validation: 4th International Symposium on Leveraging Applications, Isola 2010, Heraklion, Crete, Greece, October 18–21, 2010, Proceedings, Part 1. Springer. p. 492. ISBN 3-642-16557-5]



   
Vojislav is a web developer, designer and entrepreneur, based in Belgrade, Serbia. He has been working as a freelancer for more than 6 years, having completed more than 50 projects for clients from all over the worlds, specializing in designing and developing personal portfolios and e-commerce websites using Laravel PHP framework and WordPress content management system. Right now, he works as a full-time senior web developer in a company from Copenhagen.
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