Breakdown Structures – A Powerful Project Management Documentation Format


Documentation & maintenance of documentation is one of the hardest and important activities in Project Management. Hundreds of plans, mails, progress tracking, change requests, document updates, contract documents, etc are few examples of documentation events in project life cycle. There are three main formats used to represent information in documents.

1. Text format – This is most used format as we are trained to write paragraphs & pages from our childhood.

2. Tabular format – This is used when a matrix or log type of information representation is required i.e. responsibility matrix, risk log.

3. Tree hierarchical format – This type is used to depict whenever parent-child relationship exists between different elements. This is the prevalent type used in all “Breakdown Structures”. If you analyze you can see, basic structures built-in Mind mapping is very much tree hierarchical in nature. That’s why Mind Mapping technique can be used directly into your project documentation.

Project Management Documentation formats

Project Management Documentation formats

Breakdown structures

Breakdown structures are important document formats throughout Project Management Life Cycle. One can see Work BS, Resource BS, Risk BS, Organizational BS used in most of the Project.

Breakdown structures follow the general principle of life –

“What you think as a big & unachievable can be achieved by breaking it down into smaller pieces & successfully finishing all smaller pieces leads to completion of the big”.

I like to give simple and effective example here. You are about to have a big buffet lunch. If you think of eating all in one stretch, then it is surely unachievable. You are finishing that tasty feast by eating one mouth at a time.

In Project Management, Breakdown structures are hierarchical representation of information based on certain broad element at the higher level and detailing it out in the descending levels (This is what you do exactly in Mind Mapping too!). A breakdown structure has nodes that represent some text attached to it that conveys some specific information. Nodes are connected with branches in a parent-child tree structure that follows parent = sum of all children rule.

Few other general design principles applies to breakdown structures like 1) 100% Rule 2) Mutual exclusive elements 3) Level of detail. Here are few commonly used breakdown structures and their explanations.

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) – The WBS is a hierarchical decomposition of the total scope of work to be carried out by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables.

Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS) – The resource breakdown structure is a hierarchical representation of resources by category and type.

Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS) – A hierarchical representation of the project organization that illustrates the relationship between project activities and the organizational units that will perform those activities.

Risk Breakdown Structure (RBS) – A hierarchical representation of risks according to their risk categories.

Monitoring and Controlling Process Group Process – Verify Scope


Scope verification is a formal process for deliverable acceptance. This process comes under Scope Management Knowledge Area. There is a bit of difference between Scope verification and Quality Control process.

Scope verification – deals with acceptance of deliverable

Quality control – deals with correctness of the deliverable & meeting the quality requirements specified for the deliverable.

Generally, Quality control is performed before scope verification or can be in parallel with scope verification.

Below is the Mind Map of Verify scope process. I tried putting as much information as possible in each branch in this process map to bring out completeness to it. Hope this will be useful to you.

Verify Scope - Scope Management Knowledge Area - Monitoring & Controlling Process Group

Important Note:

* Note# 1: There could be some typo or presentation errors. Please reply back for any corrections.

* Note# 2: You can use this for personal use (like studying for PMP Exam or PM activities). But don’t share this in common forum or web sites. As this one is part of my training guide and project management book.

Planning Process Group Process – Create WBS


You can go approach any project manager and ask – “What are the challenging task in Project Management?” They will certainly say “Scope management” as one of answer. Within Scope Management, creating WBS is the key & critical activity. If WBS defined accurately for a project, project will be a sure success”.

Create WBS comes as 4th in Planning Process Group and 3rd in Scope Management Knowledge area. Here is the mind map for Create WBS with all necessary detail about each components of it.

Create WBS

Create WBS Process - Scope Management Knowledge Area - Planning Process Group

Important Note:

* Note# 1: There could be some typo or presentation errors. Please reply back for any corrections.

* Note# 2: You can use this for personal use (like studying for PMP Exam or PM activities). But don’t share this in common forum or web sites. As this one is part of my training guide and project management book.

Planning Process Group Process – Define Scope


Define scope is second Scope Management Knowledge Area process in Planning Process Group. For any project scope definition is an important & mandatory step. All the work & only the work that is scoped as part of scope statement is performed in the project. All others requirements outside the scope statement is considered as Scope Creep (change of scope) which will be avoided for project success (which may not be true in practical scenario). Here is the mind map for “Define Scope” process.

Define Scope Process - Scope Management Knowledge Area - Planning Process Group

Define Scope Process - Scope Management Knowledge Area - Planning Process Group

Important Note:

* Note# 1: There could be some typo or presentation errors. Please reply back for any corrections.

* Note# 2: You can use this for personal use (like studying for PMP Exam or PM activities). But don’t share this in common forum or web sites. As this one is part of my training guide and project management book.

Planning Process Group Process – Collect Requirements


Here is the mind map for the second process in Planning Process Group – “Collect Requirements”. This is part of Scope Knowledge Area. Requirement collection is basic & mandatory steps for any project.

I put complete information on each ITTO item and represented in mind map format here. Hope this will be useful to you.

Collect Requirements

Collect Requirements - Scope Knowledge Area

Important Note:

* Note# 1: There could be some typo or presentation errors. Please reply back for any corrections.

* Note# 2: You can use this for personal use (like studying for PMP Exam or PM activities). But don’t share this in common forum or web sites. As this one is part of my training guide and project management book.

How often should I validate current project level?


Many managers think that everyday (even sometime hourly) tracking of their real work completed with plans made. This puts more pressure on each one performing the activity to deliver things as soon as possible, as fast as they can. This problem happens because planning of validation frequency was not done as part of the project planning.

Validation has 3 important parameters – 1) Criteria for validation 2) Validation frequency 3) Validation steps

1 – Criteria for validation: Deciding the criteria for validation is important. In some manufacturing unit, criteria can be number of unit manufactured. In some other organization, it is as soon as particular activity finished. As part of criteria it is important to define the Inputs & Outputs for the validation process.

2 – Validation Frequency : How often should I validate current project level against the plans? This question gives you insight in deciding the frequency of validation.

3 – Validation steps : Having too many validation steps makes the project more complex.

The law of complexity says that the level of complexity of any task is equal to the square of the number of steps in that task. Complexity can be defined as the potential for increased costs, increased time, or increased mistakes.[1]

So, it is really critical in keeping the number of validation steps to optimal to get greatest benefits out of it in terms of increased productivity, low project cost and higher profit margins.

References:

1. Focal Point by Brain Tracy

Rolling Wave Planning Technique


Have you ever done night trekking?

Few years back, I did night trekking along with my friends. It was a 5-km journey in a small hilly jungle. We started around 10 pm. It was a dark night. I had a torch with me. With the light, we could identify our way just about 10 steps. After moving that small distance, again we were able to get light for next few steps.

Why do I mention this sequence of events at the first place under this topic?

There is an analogy exists between above journey and rolling wave planning.

In trekking,

* there exists a route, but not completely visible at the start;

* the way is visible only for few steps;

* we need to wait for much information about rest of the path;

* after few steps, next few steps become visible

In projects,

* there exists high-level scope & scope granularity is not defined at the work package level;

* scope detailing of deliverables is done for certain short period (say 60 days) to the work package level;

* towards the end of each period, the detailing of scope is done for a corresponding amount of time

This is called as “Rolling Wave Planning”(shortly RWP).

RWP is a technique used in different processes of a project like project management planning, activity definition and WBS creation.

Rolling wave planning is a form of progressive elaboration planning where the work to be accomplished in the near term is planned in detail at a low level of the WBS. Future work is planned for WBS components that are at a relatively high level of the WBS.

So, in RWP, WBS components may exist in different level of detail in the structure. RWP is particularly useful in projects of high uncertainty like “High-tech” projects, R&D. It is an excellent project development approach for inventive work, where the project goal is known, but the exact deliverable is not. So, it is detailed in time-phased manner.

In some cases, decomposition may not be possible for a deliverable as it will be finished in future. This makes the Project Manager and its team to delay detailing other WBS components which depends on that earlier deliverable. This is also referred as “RWP”.