Those involved in delivering capital projects understand the importance of having a work breakdown structure (WBS) that can be progressively elaborated as the project’s scope of work gets developed and defined during the concept, schematic, design development, and construction documents phases of the project life cycle. The work breakdown structure will enable the project team to decompose better, analyze, understand, manage, monitor, control, and evaluate the project. Therefore, the selected WBS must be based on proven practices and standards when working on different capital projects. The Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) UniFormat™ and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) International Construction Measurement Standards (ICMS) breakdown structures are examples of well-thought-of WBS that are perfectly suited for capital project owners as they cater to all types of capital projects as well as they cover the complete scope of work that a capital project could have.

In addition to decomposing the project’s work scope, the WBS will develop the project’s execution schedule, cost estimate and budget, the outsourced scope of work, and documents filing structure. Also, all project communications and identified project risks must be linked to their appropriate WBS level. In a way, the WBS will become one of the methods used to organize and aggregate the complete project information generated during the project life cycle phases.

Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) like PMWeb will provide the capital project owner and all other project entities with a single integrated platform to take full advantage of having a comprehensive work breakdown structure. It will use the same WBS used in the project’s planning and scheduling systems like Oracle Primavera P6 and MS Project to ensure alignment with the massive information captured in PMWeb. The same also applies to other applications that need to be integrated or interfaced with the PMIS or planning and scheduling applications such as Financial, ERP, Maintenance Management, and Asset Management. Those applications need to use the same WBS levels used in PMWeb and the planning and scheduling solution.

Setting the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) Levels

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) can be directly added to the PMWeb WBS module or imported from Oracle Primavera P6 or MS Project when the project schedule is imported from those applications into PMWeb. This will ensure that the WBS structure used in Oracle Primavera P6 or MS Project is identical to the WBS used in PMWeb. It should be noted the WBS could have additional levels beyond those of the UniFormat™ and ICMS levels, depending on the project’s specifics. For example, different groups could be needed to identify the project’s locations, although some might opt for using user-defined fields for locations.

Breakdown Structure to Monitor and Control the Project’s Financial Performance

It is highly recommended that the Cost Breakdown Structure (CBS) be aligned with the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) if possible. For each WBS level, PMWeb will create a cost account level to match the appropriate WBS level. This will enable to consolidate all cost and financial data to the same WBS levels.

If this is not possible and a requirement to have PMWeb cost breakdown structure be aligned with the organization’s cost account structure, there is no issue. In this case, the WBS level becomes one of the standard fields on each PMWeb cost document to ensure alignment between the project cost data and the WBS levels. PMWeb ready to use modules for a project cost estimate, budget, budget adjustment, commitments, potential change orders, change orders, progress invoices, payment, forecast to complete, miscellaneous invoices, timesheets, funding, income contracts, income contracts change orders, income contracts progress invoices and income contracts actual fees will all have the WBS field as one of the areas that need to be provided for each line item included in those forms.

Assigning the WBS Levels With Bid Packages to be Outsourced

When creating the bid packages released for tender to solicit proposals from qualified bidders, PMWeb allows assigning the WBS level relevant for each line item in the outsourced bid package. This will enable the capital project owner to verify that the complete project’s work scope to be outsourced has been covered in the created bid packages.

Mapping the WBS into the Project’s Document Filing Folders

Every capital project will always have what is to known as the filing room, where it will include the many file folders that contain all formal and informal project documents and communications generated and exchanged during the project life cycle stages. One of the recommended practices is to align the document filing structure with the project’s work breakdown structure (WBS) levels. In other words, the WBS will be mapped into folder and subfolders to upload relevant documents to its specific folder or subfolder.

Should the organization be obliged to use a document filing structure that is not aligned with the project’s work breakdown structure (WBS), then an attribute will be created to allow assigning the relevant WBS level for each uploaded document.

Assigning the WBS Level to All Project Communications and Project Management Processes

By default, most PMWeb ready-to-use project management informs like those for the request for information, meeting minutes, safety incidents, submittal items, transmittals, safety incidents, and come prepared with the WBS field. This will enable the initiator of each project communication or project management process to assign the relevant WBS level to that record.

Similar to the default PMWeb forms, PMWeb allows assigning the WBS field to all created custom forms. This will enable the initiator of the project management process to assign the relevant WBS level to that record.

Align Identified Project’s Risks with the Relevant WBS Level

Every capital project is based on many assumptions that only time will prove if they were wrong or right. The ability to identify all or most of the risks that could impact the project’s on-time and within budget completion can make the difference between a successful and failed project. For each risk identified on the PMWeb risk register, the relevant WBS level needs to be added.

In conclusion, the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) provides a systematic and structured approach that project team members can use to decompose any capital project’s work scope to understand better what the project scope is all about. Who should be involved in delivering the scope of work? The cost for providing the scope of work, the documents and records exchanged for delivering the scope of work, and the risks associated with delivering the scope of work. The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) hierarchical nature allows summarizing the detailed project information to the desired level to monitor, evaluate, and report the project’s performance. Also, it helps project owners to aggregate knowledge gained during their projects’ portfolio delivery into a structured format that can be reused for future projects.


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