In project management, a work breakdown structure (WBS) is a method for analyzing a project's activities. Many organizations apply a WBS numbering standard to define projects, because it's an important planning tool that serves as a basis for project scheduling, reporting, staffing, and budgeting. It can also help establish clear project goals.
With Microsoft Project 2000, you can easily incorporate a WBS for your project.
What is a work breakdown structure?
A WBS is a top-down planning method that defines the desired end result of a project and is made up of related elements, often called work packages, work elements, work phases, or tasks (summary tasks and subtasks). WBS descriptions define how the result will be accomplished. They also help you identify logical groupings of tasks and establish the focus of the project to prevent unintended future changes.
Useful for a quick, high-level view of the parts of your project, a WBS is often shown as a block diagram.
As a deliverable-oriented grouping of project elements, a WBS chart organizes and defines the total scope of the project. Each descending level represents an increasingly detailed description of a project component.
Represent a WBS in your project with codes
In Microsoft Project, WBS codes are alphanumeric codes that identify each task's unique place in the outline structure of your project. WBS codes can be used for reporting schedules and tracking costs. There are two types of WBS codes in Microsoft Project. Displayed in the Outline Number field, outline numbers are the simplest type of WBS code. Microsoft Project calculates outline numbers for each task based on the outline structure of the task list. Outline numbers consist of numbers only, and you can't edit them, but they change automatically when you move a task to a different location or level.
The second type of WBS code is a custom code that you define. You can define one set of custom WBS codes per project and display it in the WBS field. Each level of the WBS code represents an outline level in the task list. But unlike outline numbers, the levels of the code can be represented as uppercase or lowercase letters, numbers, or characters (a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters and numbers), depending on which you specify for each level in the code mask when you create the WBS code. You can choose whether to automatically calculate custom WBS codes for new tasks and whether to allow duplicate WBS codes for different tasks.
Create a WBS code mask
If your organization or client requires a particular WBS code format, you can use a custom WBS code mask to define the sequence for each level of the WBS code. Microsoft Project uses the WBS code mask to assign WBS codes to tasks according to their exact placement in the project's hierarchical outline. To define a WBS code mask, you can use:
- A project code prefix to identify the project at the highest level of the WBS code. This prefix can be useful to identify subprojects within a master project. You can enter any combination of numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and symbols for the project code prefix.
- Numbers (ordered) to display a numerical WBS code.
- Uppercase Letters (ordered) to display uppercase alphabetical WBS codes, for example A, B, and C for the first three summary tasks in the project.
- Lowercase Letters (ordered) to display lowercase alphabetical WBS codes, for example a, b, and c for the first three summary tasks in the project.
- Characters (unordered) to display any combination of numbers and uppercase and lowercase letters you enter, for example, Arch1, Const1, and Insp1 for the first three summary tasks in the project. Unordered characters provide flexibility for entering customized WBS codes. Microsoft Project displays an asterisk * in the WBS field until you type or enter a string of characters for this level of the WBS code.
- The length of each level to set a prescribed number of characters or numbers for each level. Users must enter the exact length of the level you specify.
- Code separators to distinguish each level of the WBS code by displaying a different symbol instead of the default separator, a period.
Edit a WBS code
Moving a task to a different place in the hierarchical outline, either to a different level or underneath a different summary task, automatically updates the WBS codes of all affected tasks. (Note that moving a task up or down the task list under the same summary task will not affect the task's WBS code.)
You can also edit the code mask to define the levels of a custom WBS code differently and recalculate the WBS codes for the entire project or selected tasks to reflect the new structure of the task list or the new definition of the custom WBS code for the project.
Use multiple WBS code systems
A task can only have one WBS code, and you can define one set of WBS codes per project. But if you need to show another organizational structure for tasks, you can create a custom outline code in addition to WBS codes.
View WBS codes in your project
To view or work with WBS codes in your project, you need to insert the WBS column in a sheet view.
To insert the WBS column in a sheet view
- Select the field to the right of where you want to insert a WBS column. For example, select the Task Name field to insert the codes immediately to the left of the task names.
- On the Insert menu, click Column.
- In the Field name box, click WBS.
- In the Align Data box, click Left.
- Click Best Fit.
Add hyperlink references to your WBS codes
Using hyperlinks, you can provide quick access to any WBS-related, HTML-based documents. For example, you can add links to project requirement documents such as guidelines from professional groups (ANSI, IEEE, ISO, and so on) or military standards (MIL-STD). This ensures that your project team members have the correct and most current references available.
To insert hyperlink references
- In a sheet view, select the WBS code you want.
- On the Insert menu, click Hyperlink.
- Enter the URL or server location of the document in the Address box, and then click OK.
Importing a WBS from other Office programs
If you've created a WBS outline in another Office XP program, such as Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Word, you can use Microsoft Project to import the WBS information from your program, mapping it to Microsoft Project's corresponding WBS field. Note, however, that information can only be imported into non-calculated fields, such as the WBS field, and that the Outline field in Microsoft Project does not automatically adjust to represent the outline you created in your program.