Work Breakdown Structure – project classes and sub-projects

When we talk about what is the difference between sub-projects and work packages, we’re talking about two different views of the same thing. Basically, a sub-project is any project, that is a child of (subordinate to) another project – we’re talking about the position in the project hierarchy. Work packages on the other hand refers to work breakdown structure elements classes (in descriptive manner).

PORTFOLIO

The class Portfolio usually refers to a collection of projects, programs and sub-portfolios. The portfolio management is basically organizational strategy management (top level in the company, similar to head of the branch). In other words, portfolio is the top element class in the work breakdown structure. Portfolios have an organizational scope that changes with the strategy objectives of the organization/company. Portfolio managers manage and coordinate program managers.

PROGRAM

The class Program usually refers to the level below the portfolio in the work breakdown structure and is basically similar to the department level (which is below a branch). Programs have a larger scope with not completely defined/limited objectives than projects. Program managers manage and coordinate project managers.

PROJECT

The class Project usually refers to the projects, that have the objectives defined (like contracts) and the scope gets progressively elaborated throughout their life cycle. In the work breakdown structure they’re placed below programs. Project managers manage the project team to meet the project objectives.

PHASES AND DELIVERABLES

A project may be divided into any number of phases. The class Phase refers to a collection of logically related project activities that result in the completion of one or more deliverables. While phases are meant to break down the projects in a time/progress oriented manner, the deliverables aim to a product oriented work breakdown structure. The class Deliverable refers to a product of the project (basically, what we deliver to the customer – project sponsor).

We break down the projects to ease their management. We can break them down in product oriented way:

WORK BREAKDOWN STRUCTURE EXAMPLES

  • Project
    • Deliverable 1
      • Phase 1 of Deliverable 1
      • Phase 2 of Deliverable 1
    • Deliverable 2

or in a time/progress oriented way:

  • Project
    • Phase 1
      • Deliverable A
      • Deliverable B
    • Phase 2
      • Deliverable X
      • Deliverable Y

WORK PACKAGE

The work package refers to the lowest level in the hierarchy. It’s basically a group of tasks – we need it to further break down the phases and deliverables, like:

  • Project
    • Deliverable 1
      • Phase 1 of Deliverable 1
        • Work package P1D1_1
        • Work package P1D1_2
      • Phase 2 of Deliverable 2
        • Work package P2D2_1
        • Work package P2D2_n
    • Deliverable 2

or:

  • Project
    • Phase 1
      • Deliverable A
        • WP A1
        • WP A2
      • Deliverable B
        • WP B1
        • WP Bn
    • Phase 2
      • Deliverable X
        • WP X1
        • WP Xn
      • Deliverable Y

TASKS

While the tasks are mostly meant to manage the “micro” level, therefore for a single person (like what I need do today, how many hours), opposite, work packages are meant to manage the medium level and for a team (like what we need to do to finish this deliverable, how many days/man hours).

Work Breakdown Structure
Work Breakdown Structure – Deliverable oriented example

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