What is the purpose of the work breakdown structure in services businesses?
The work breakdown structure in project management is a powerful reference tool that, as the name implies, breaks the work of the project down in terms of scope. It creates a road map from objectives to outcomes. The project is divided up into project deliverables, from which all work-related activities branch out and budgets are derived.
As a visual diagram of the project’s scope, the work breakdown structure achieves several major things for professional services organizations:
- Helping project managers direct service delivery teams
- Keeping projects within budget (and avoiding scope creep)
- Helping your teams deliver services in a smooth, predictable fashion
Creating equal players with budget data
Your project managers’ lives are going to be hell if the teams don’t know what they’re doing. Handing down individual tasks to workers who have no idea what the project structure and budget are pretty much guarantees that they’ll need to be directed and corrected ad infinitum. And the kicker is, this still won’t protect your margins.
You want your teams to produce results for the customers while also being mindful of maintaining their personal budgets, which come from the work breakdown structure. They should be checking their work against the work breakdown structure and asking questions like, “If I work on this task for ten hours, will I be able to complete the rest of my tasks within the remaining hours allotted to me?” They’ll see how much budget they have to work with and correctly manage their own time.
Get organized with templates
As a software services company, we have a knee-jerk reaction to professional services organizations creating work breakdown structures in disjointed spreadsheets. This is the situation we see many new VOGSY users coming from, and predictably, they’re getting different pictures and different outcomes for the same types of projects. In essence, their spreadsheet systems are sowing disorganization and unpredictable results, which means unpredictable income.