Decomposing the Deliverables

The Create WBS process consists of one tool and technique called decomposition. This technique involves breaking down the deliverables into smaller, more manageable components of work. The idea here is to break down the deliverables to a point where you can easily plan, execute, monitor and control, and close out the project deliverables. Decomposition typically pertains to breaking deliverables down into smaller deliverables, or component deliverables, where each level of the WBS (or each level of decomposition) is a more detailed definition of the level above it.

This breaking-down or decomposing process will accomplish several tasks for you, one of which is improving estimates. It's easier to estimate the costs, time, and resources needed for individual work components than it is to estimate them for a whole body of work or deliverable. Using smaller components also makes it easier to assign performance measures and controls. These give you a baseline to compare against throughout the project or phase. And finally, assigning resources and responsibility for the components of work makes better sense because several resources with different skills might be needed to complete one deliverable. Breaking them down assures that an assignment, and the responsibility for that assignment, goes to the proper parties.

According to the PMBOK® Guide, decomposition is a five-step process:

1. Identify the deliverables and work. This step involves identifying all the major project deliverables and related work. The PMBOK® Guide makes a point of noting that you can use the expert judgment technique to analyze the project scope statement and identify the major deliverables.

2. Organize the WBS. This step involves organizing the work of the project and determining the WBS structure. (I'll talk more about constructing the WBS in the next section).

3. Decompose the WBS components into lower-level components. WBS components, like the deliverables and requirements, should be defined in tangible, verifiable terms so that performance and successful completion (or delivery) are easily measured and verified. Each component must clearly describe the product, service, or result in verifiable terms, and it must be assigned to a unit in the organization that will take responsibility for completing the work and making certain of its accuracy.

4. Assign identification codes. This step is a process where you assign identification codes or numbers to each of the WBS components.

5. Verify the WBS. This step is a verification step. Examine the decomposition to determine whether all the components are clear and complete. Determine whether each component listed is absolutely necessary to fulfill the requirements of the deliverable, and verify that the decomposition is sufficient to describe the work.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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