Setting up your work breakdown structure (book excerpt)

Applies to
Microsoft Office Project 2003
Book cover This article was excerpted from Microsoft® Office Project 2003 Inside Out by Teresa S. Stover. Visit Microsoft Learning to buy this book. View other articles written by Teresa Stover.

In this article

Understanding work breakdown structure codes

Setting up work breakdown structure codes

Charting your WBS in Visio

Many project managers and organizations use a work breakdown structure (WBS) as an essential element of their project management methodology. Similar to the outline structure of your project task list, the WBS is a hierarchical chart view of deliverables in a project in which each level down represents an increasingly detailed description of the project deliverables. Each level has its own code set, such as 2.1.3.a. Levels in the hierarchy represent summary tasks, subtasks, work packages, and deliverables. You can define a project’s scope and develop its task lists with the WBS.

Industries, application areas, and organizations experienced with a particular type of project tend to have WBSs developed to represent the life cycles of their typical types of projects; for example, the design of a new vehicle or the construction of an office building.

Understanding work breakdown structure codes

Each item and level in a work breakdown structure is described by a unique WBS code. Each digit in the code typically represents a level in the structure’s hierarchy, such as or 5.B.c.3. A WBS code such as 1.2.3 might represent the third deliverable for the second activity in the first phase of the project.

 Note   In some industries or application areas, the work breakdown structure is also known as the project breakdown structure, or PBS.

In Project, any outline structure you set up for your tasks is assigned a set of unique outline numbers. The outline number for the first summary task is 1; the outline number for the first subtask under the first summary task is 1.1.

Grid showing outline numbering

By default, Project creates WBS codes that are derived from these outline numbers, and you cannot change the code scheme of the outline numbers. However, if you and your organization have a specific WBS coding scheme, you can change the WBS numbering. When working with WBS codes, keep the following in mind:

  • You can have only one set of WBS codes. However, if you use additional coding schemes, you can create up to ten sets of outline codes and then sort or group your tasks by those codes.

 Note   Certain project management methodologies use other structured and hierarchical codes that can describe your project from different viewpoints. Examples include the organizational breakdown structure (OBS), the resource breakdown structure (RBS), and the bill of materials (BOM).

Find links to more information about outline codes in the See Also section, which is visible when you are connected to the Internet.

  • You can include ordered numbers, uppercase letters, and lowercase letters as part of your custom WBS code format. You can also include unordered characters in the code format.
  • You can automatically generate your custom WBS codes for tasks as you add them.

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Setting up work breakdown structure codes

To set up your custom WBS code scheme, including any prefix and code mask, follow these steps:

  1. On the Project menu, point to WBS, and then click Define Code.
  2. If you use a prefix for the project in front of the WBS code to distinguish it from other projects using the same code format, enter that prefix in the Project Code Prefix box.
  3. Click in the Sequence field in the first row, click the arrow to open the drop-down menu, and then click a choice in the list to indicate whether the first digit of the code (representing the first level of the hierarchy) is an ordered number, an ordered uppercase letter, an ordered lowercase letter, or an unordered character.
  4. In the Length field in the first row, select the length limit for the first code.
  5. In the Separator field in the first row, select the character that separates the first and second code.
  6. Repeat steps 3 through 5 in the second row.

Continue repeating steps 3 through 5 for subsequent rows until all of the levels of your custom WBS code are set up (see the following illustration). As you enter the code mask for each succeeding level, the Code Preview box shows an example of the code.

WBS Code Definition dialog box

  1. When finished, click OK.

The WBS codes for your tasks are reset to conform to your custom structure.

Chart with tasks reset

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Charting your WBS in Visio

You can use the Project Gantt Chart to set up and rearrange your tasks according to your custom WBS. If you use Microsoft Visio 2000 or later, you can take this a step further and use the Visio charting features for your WBS structure. You can then display project information in a Visio WBS chart by using the Visio WBS Chart Wizard, which is installed with Project.

To create a Microsoft Visio WBS chart from your project tasks, do the following:

  1. Open the project that contains the WBS codes.

The WBS codes must be identified and applied to the tasks before you run the Visio WBS Chart Wizard.

  1. If it is not already displayed, show the Analysis toolbar:
    • On the View menu, point to Toolbars, and then click Analysis.
  2. On the Analysis toolbar, click Visio WBS Chart Wizard, and then click Launch Wizard.
  3. The Visio WBS Chart Wizard opens.

Visio WBS Chart Wizard, Step 1

  1. The Visio WBS Chart Wizard consists of three steps. Follow the instructions on each wizard page to create the Visio WBS Chart.

The procedure can create a chart for all tasks, or for all tasks based on a selected outline level. Specify which tasks and information you want the Visio WBS chart to include.

Visio WBS Chart Wizard, Step 2

You can also create a chart for specific selected tasks. Follow these steps:

  1. On the Analysis toolbar, click Visio WBS Chart Wizard, and then click Apply Task Selection View.

Task Selection View wizard page

  1. Click OK.

The Include In WBS Chart column appears in the current task sheet.

  1. For each task you want to include in your Visio WBS chart, select Yes in the Include In WBS Chart field.

You can do this quickly by clicking the field and then pressing the Y key.

  1. On the Visio WBS Chart toolbar, click Visio WBS Chart Wizard, click Launch Wizard and then click Next.

The Custom task selection option is selected on the second page of the wizard.

  1. Click Next, and then click Finish.

The WBS Chart of your selected tasks is created in Visio.

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About the author     Award-winning author Teresa Stover has written 11 computer books and countless user manuals, tutorials, and online help systems. She is a project management expert who's served as a consultant to the Project team since Version 4. Teresa is the author of Microsoft® Project Version 2002 Inside Out and manages her own technical and business writing consultancy.

Applies to:
Project 2003