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Work Breakdown Structure
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Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) with OpenProject

What is a Work Breakdown Structure?

When creating a new project it is very helpful to become aware of and visualize the individual steps needed to complete the project.

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) provides exactly this: It allows you to take a project and decompose it into planable and controllable elements. Using the work breakdown structure, you can break tasks down into subtasks and individual work packages.

As an example, consider a construction repair project. Using the Work Breakdown Structure, you can break the project into individual phases (Project Definition, Detailed Design & Tender, Construction and Post project / project close).

In the next step, you can break these phases into sub-tasks and individual work packages which can then be estimated and assigned to project members.

Work breakdown structure

In order to better visualize the different hierarchical levels, it can be useful to number the phases, sub tasks and work packages. This gives you a good overview over the work package and task hierarchy.

Work Breakdown Structure

Why use a Work Breakdown Structure?

By using the Work Breakdown Structure, you can easily clarify and visualize the steps – right down to the individual work packages – necessary to complete a project.

This has several benefits:

  • By using the WBS you can make sure that you track all the project’s components.
  • The WBS forces you to think about the individual work packages needed to complete a project. Therefore, you can plan projects more accurately.
  • You become aware of the costs and resources needed to complete the project.
  • A project’s objectives and steps become transparent to the stakeholders involved in working in the project.
  • It provides a way to make successful projects repeatable.
  • The WBS minimizes the forgetting a critical deliverable or adding something outside the scope of the project.

How to implement a Work Breakdown Structure with OpenProject?

You can use OpenProject to implement a Work Breakdown Structure by following these simple steps:

Create a project

Set up your new project (e.g. Build a house) from the project dropdown menu at the top menu.
Optionally, you can configure the new project as a subproject of an existing project. Additionally, you can declare the project accountable.

Create new project

Create phases

Within the project, select Work packages from the side menu. Start out by setting up the main project phases.
For our Build a house project we can break the project into the following phases:

  1. Create architectural house plan.
  2. Create building foundation.
  3. Construct basic house structure.
  4. Build roof.
  5. Approve and finalize.

Create phases

Break phases down into work packages

For each of the individual phases continue by breaking them into subtasks and individual work packages. Simply right-click on a phase in the work package list and select Create new child.
Select a type (e.g. “Task” or “Work package”) and specify the name.

To keep track of the different hierarchy levels you can create a custom field and enter the hierarchy level in there (e.g. 1, 1.1, 1.1.1, …).

Repeat those steps for all the different phases until you created all the work packages.

Create breakdown structure

6 responses to “Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) with OpenProject

  1. Jürgen says:

    Hi,

    you can wonderfully craft the WBS with a tool like XMind (Timelines) and then import it into OpenProject via the MS Project Import plugin. The advantage is you see a nice, easy to understand graphical presentation of the WBS ready for presentation to stakeholders.

    Grüsse, Jürgen

    1. Daniel Staifer says:

      Where can I find such MS Project plugin?

      1. Robin Wagner says:

        Hello Daniel,

        the MS Project plugin is no longer maintained but there is an Excel template which you can use to synchronize data between OpenProject and Excel (and by extension MS Project if you copy your Gantt chart in MS Project to Excel).
        You can download this Excel template for free from https://github.com/opf/OpenProjectExcel.

        Best regards,
        Robin

  2. Thank you, this was useful.

  3. miha says:

    WBS numbering should be a column available to add as a default, not custom column. This is a basic PM feature to use.

    1. Robin Wagner says:

      Hello Miha,

      you can add the WBS numbering as a default column (without having to add it manually) if you configure it as one of the standard columns in the administration (“Administration” > “System settings” > “Work package tracking” tab > “Customize the appearance of the work package lists”). There you can check the option “Display by default” for the WBS numbering.

      Best regards,
      Robin

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