Determine Work Breakdown Structure


A Work Breakdown Structure is a means determining a project plan. Learn about the basic steps for using this process to plan a project. 


The first thing when planning a project is to look at the task order and dependencies of the project. Often, some tasks must be completed before other tasks can start.

Some tasks may be more effectively done during certain seasons of the year or at certain stages of the project. For example, if you were remodeling a home, you could paint after you put in the carpet. But it would probably be more efficient to paint before you put in the new carpet so  you don't have to bother with laying drop cloths. Whichever way you decide to do it, you should not do both together. That would just be silly.

There may be special situations where it would be optimal for two tasks to start at the same time, or for one task to be partially complete before another task starts. Workfront can handle these situations or any others that may arise. Therefore, the next step is to set the order and dependencies for the tasks within each objective. Set the task scheduling constraints—for example, set complete 'As Soon As Possible,' or 'Finish No Later Than,' on tasks that have no dependencies. This works well if tasks need to complete close to the beginning or the end of the objective.

Task Durations

With the ordering of tasks settled, estimate the time it will take to complete the tasks. Because the duration is an estimate,  set an optimistic value, and a value that acknowledges that projects don't always go as planned. Consider factors that might affect tasks, such as weather, power outages, supplier difficulties, or other unforeseen events.

Assuming that something won't go wrong for every task, estimate task schedules somewhere between optimistic value and  worst-case-scenario value. If similar projects have been completed in the past users should have a good idea where to set this value. The type of project and the likelihood of unforeseen events should also be taken into account.

For example, if your project can easily be delayed by natural disasters, then you should probably schedule task times closer to your worst-case-scenario value. However, if your project is a collaboration of several authors to write a textbook, then you could schedule tasks taking into account only a few factors like computer crashes or sick days.

Add the task lengths into Workfront at this point. This is completed by editing the duration times for the tasks, or the fixed dates, depending on the task constraint.

Now is the time when Workfront's gantt chart becomes really valuable. Open it and look at whether the tasks for each objective fall into the time specified to complete the objectives. If they do not, determine whether to add more people or resources to a task in order to accomplish it quicker. Users can add some optional objectives, such as additional features to a computer program, or that need to remove some objectives. Using this technique over time, should add or remove projects from the long-term schedule.

Users may consider saving the project as a template. If several of the same types of projects will be completed,  a template will save  many steps in the future. If the workforce has little turnover, consider waiting until after user assignments are made to save  template. Regardless of when a project is saved as a template, user assignments or specific tasks  can be removed during template importation. Users can also save project objectives as templates and then import only those that you need.

Determine Skill Sets   

With the project scheduled, evaluate the workforce and consider whether the personnel with the proper skills to complete each task. If not, acquire those skills through a new hire or by contracting the work out. In this case, you might want to make this a task in your project and add an appropriate time value to it. Will this affect your ability to complete your project on time? You will also have to look at the cost of adding additional resources, but you can take care of that during the cost/benefit analysis a little later in the planning process.

Manage Resources and Assign Tasks  

Now determine who will accomplish each task. There are tasks that anyone can do, and some that require people with specific talents. Workfront lets you assign tasks to individuals, to job roles, and to teams. For example, you may have a task that requires you to write computer code for a feature of a program. If you have a team of programmers, you could assign this task to a team and any of your programmers can do it. Alternatively, you can assign a task to individual users.

At this point in the planning stage, determine whether there is  adequately staff to complete the project. When users are added to a project, Workfront can show the resource utilization of the user. Managers can see the total number of hours the person is assigned on other projects during the time frame of your project. Managers can also see the user utilization in terms of average hours and a total utilization percentage for the duration of the project. This allows users to view if a specific user has time to work on the project.

If the users  are not available, Workfront gives you the ability to find users who are. Using a user utilization search or the Team Builder to find a list of users who have not yet been assigned tasks for the duration of the project. Upon completing the search, if a user is unfound this indicates  a need to hire or contract for more people.

After tasks are assigned, use Workfront's resource grid to look at the project and see how many hours each day it will take users to complete all assigned tasks. The resource grid displays this information for both users and job roles. It shows over or under-utilized users, and allows you to make adjustments if task assignments are not optimal.

NOTE: As long as the project has a status of Planning, tasks assigned to users do not appear in their task lists.

Do a Cost/Benefit Analysis

Now do a cost benefit analysis. If this is done after tasks are assigned visibility on additional resources to  either get a task done quicker, or get multiple tasks done at the same time will display. Nonetheless,  determine whether the cost of adding these resources makes financial sense. Workfront has budgeting tools that help accomplish this.

Determine Review Points for the Project

Next, to determine what the review points will be for the project. For now,  only set the dates for the reviews. When the dates come to review the project, Workfront shows all the information needed to know how the project is progressing. Managers can see what tasks were late and early, audit trails to see who changed status on tasks and when, and histories of issues, including how they were resolved and when they were closed. On review dates  determine what steps to take and replan the project, if necessary.