In this article, we’ve rounded up the most popular and effective work breakdown structure templates so you can streamline the decomposition process and ensure all projects details are documented, managed, and tracked in your WBS.
WBS Template with Gantt Chart
Pairing a work breakdown structure with a Gantt chart provides information on tasks and subtasks along with a visual view of project management. This is sort of like combining a WBS outline, dictionary, and project schedule in a single template. You can organize tasks using WBS outline numbering, include whatever details are pertinent to your project - such as duration, completion status, deadlines, and assigned owners - and use the Gantt chart to visually track progress and outcomes.
WBS Diagram Template
This work breakdown structure diagram template is arranged in boxes and rows for an easy-to-read layout. Levels are clearly separated, and tasks are organized hierarchically. The graphic layout allows you to get a project overview at a glance, while the structure provides clarity on the breakdown of tasks. The advantage of this diagram view is that you can see the overall scope of work without getting lost in details. Combine this with a WBS dictionary for a mix of visual structure and detailed project information.
What Goes Into a Work Breakdown Structure?
A work breakdown structure separates data, services, a product, or all three, depending on the type and scope of a project. A WBS can be oriented around deliverables or around project phases and milestones for a process-centered approach. The process of subdividing a project into smaller components is called decomposition, and it can be completed by an entire project team as a group effort to ensure a comprehensive WBS. Doing so will give all team members a broad understanding of the project, thus improving communication, efficiency, and accountability.
Once the deliverables or milestones have been identified, the team can list the sequence of activities needed to complete each deliverable, thus decomposing the project into workable steps. The hierarchy of steps breaks the project into levels: The lowest level is the work package, which includes the activity or tasks required to produce a deliverable or complete a milestone. The pre-formatted structure of a template can help streamline the decomposition process and ensure that all necessary details are included.
The number of levels required for a WBS will depend on the characteristics of a project, but the levels must be sufficient to meet a project manager’s needs for accurate estimating and effective project monitoring. In a similar vein, the level of detail will vary, but one option is to follow the 8/80 rule, which says that the lowest level of work should require between eight and 80 hours. Based on this rule, if a work package takes more than 80 hours, it needs to be decomposed further.
A work breakdown structure can be formatted in various ways, including as an outline (basically, a numbered list), a hierarchical table, or a tree diagram. Regardless of format, a WBS will typically include outline numbering to represent the sequential order of each level and activity. To complement the WBS, a related dictionary may be created to provide detailed information about each element of the project, including definitions of each work package, effort level and duration of tasks, resources, and more. A WBS dictionary is generally presented in a table or spreadsheet format and serves as a detailed reference and planning tool.
Streamline Project Management Efforts with Smartsheet
Documenting the total scope of work for a project is a key part of the project planning process, and a work breakdown structure (WBS) is a helpful tool to get you started. But once you've completed your WBS, you need a solution to help plan, track, automate, and report on the overall project details from start to finish.
One such solution is Smartsheet, a real-time work execution platform that enables enterprises and teams to get from idea to impact - fast. Top project management leaders rely on Smartsheet to help align the right people, resources, and schedules to get work done.
Use Smartsheet to create consistent project elements, increase speed, and improve collaboration with scalable options that fit individual work preferences. Hold yourself and your team accountable, improve visibility into team priorities, and ensure nothing slips through the cracks.