Sunday, June 23, 2002

More ABout Project Management. Mike is now going in one direction and I another with respect to our topics, and that adds balance to the material we're posting. One of the critical success factors in project management is taking the time to develop a work breakdown structure (WBS) before proceeding with planning, estimating and scheduling. In fact, it's nearly impossible to realistically estimate if you haven't decomposed the project into a WBS. Most people don't know where to begin. I've found that the Project Management Institute Practice Standard for Work Breakdown Structures to be a clearly written guide and one that I recommend all project managers read.

The four chapters in this short, focused book introduce work breakdown structures, define them from a conceptual point of view, explain why they are the foundation of project planning, and show how to create one. These chapters comprise a scant 18 pages, but are thorough enough to accomplish the objective of explaining the Project Management Institute's practice standards for WBS.

The real value of the book is contained in appendices E through O, in which a WBS for common industry project types are given as examples. These 44 pages are the real reason to buy the book because they show real examples of the conceptual and brief "how to" approach compressed into the first 18 pages. The project types in these appendices are:

E - Oil, Gas, and Petrochemical (OGP)
F - Environmental Management
G - Process Improvement
H - Pharmaceutical
I - Process Plant Construction
J - Service Industry Outsourcing
K - Web Design
L - Telecom
M - Refinery Turnaround
N - Government Design-Bid-Build
O - Software Implementation
Appendices A-D are filler that descripe the PMI standards process and associated information, and can be safely skipped unless you are interested in those topics.

Overall this is a much needed book because WBS are still skipped during the project planning phase in too many projects. This is unfortunate because the first thing that a professional does when called in to rescue a project is to examine the WBS, and if there isn't one, the first step towards rescuing a project is to develop one. By following this book, especially if any of the example WBS is similar to your project, will go a long way towards ensuring its success.

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