What is Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) Diagram? - The Quick Start Guide

If you have just little experience in project management, you should use the work breakdown structure (WBS) diagram to manage your projects efficiently. This beginner-friendly article will show you the key concepts, benefits, usages, and evaluation steps of the work breakdown structure with easy-to-understand examples.


What is Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)?

A Work Breakdown Structure generally breaks down the main project objective into smaller and manageable parts (work packages) for specific departments to produce their task with details including budget, required resources, and people who in charge of the task etc. Here deliverable means any verifiable and unique product or capacity to carry out a target service. A work package is a deliverable at the lowest level of a work breakdown structure that used by team members to complete a specific task. For instance, the task of roofing is one of the work packages for constructing an office building. You can also think a work breakdown structure as an outline of your project. Here is a work breakdown structure example that shows the task details of an integrated management information system:

work breakdown structure information system example

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Work Breakdown Structure Brief History

The work breakdown structure theory originally came from the United States Department of Defense (DoD). Later in 1962, NASA and the aerospace industry introduced the work breakdown structure theory. Over the past several decades, the concept of WBS has been revised to be used in more general fields such as the aircraft sector, the electronics sector, the vehicle sector, the information sector, and the corporate business sectors.

Why Use the Work Breakdown Structure?

A well-crafted work breakdown structure can bring benefits not only to a specific project but also to your overall organization. More specific, using a work breakdown structure can help you:

Although the work breakdown structure has the above advantages, it can't be used as a replacement for your project plan or schedule based on a certain sequence. This could be the biggest pitfall of the work breakdown structure.

Who Uses Work Breakdown Structures?

The use of work breakdown structure can be applied in a wide range of areas including the following roles:

Here is a work breakdown structure example of software development and implementation. Feel free to click on it to see more details.

software development work breakdown structure template

Work Breakdown Structure Formats

A work breakdown structure can be shown in a number of different formats including textual (a text outline with code numbers for each element), tabular tables with columns, graphical and organizational charts (tree structure). Among all of these types, the tree structure is the most common option which displays the hierarchy of work packages details with space for additional information. You should choose the correct format according to your project requirements.

Any Key Relationships between WBS and Typical Organizational Charts?

You may have already noticed that the work breakdown structure is quite similar to a traditional organizational chart. The key differences and common points of these two types of structure can be concluded as the following:

More Free Download Work Breakdown Structure Templates

Free download templates are available below to help your team to do a better work breakdown structure analysis. Click on any of their names to see more details.

work breakdown structure general template auto wbs template work breakdown mind map template
WBS General Template WBS Auto Industry Template Work Breakdown Mind Map

How to Conduct a Work Breakdown Structure Analysis?

The overall drawing process is simple. You can use a pencil, or a diagram software to help you do so. Here we will discuss the most productive way.

Step 1 - Team Communications

Gather your team members to find out the key aspects of your project from different points of views (project vision statement, project phases, project scope (any unexpected changes), stakeholders' needs, task list with deliverables etc.). For deciding deliverables and work packages, you should:

Step 2 - Decide Your WBS Format

You can choose different WBS formats, such as the text-based hierarchical structure with numbers and decimal points. Alternatively, you can use a table-based, or organizational chart.

Step 3 - Start the WBS Diagram Software

Start Edraw Max and go to "Available Templates" - "Project Management" - "Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)", double-click to open a new drawing page. Alternatively, you can select one of the preset templates for your work.

start wbs diagram templates

Step 4 - Structure Your Diagram with Task Details

Drag and drop one type of the preset "Task Card" options from the left-hand library to the right-hand canvas and fill in your task details. Then use the connectors to connect them in a logical way.

Add Task Card for WBS for Project Management

Step - 5 Break down Your Structure

Continuously breaking down your structure into more reasonable and measurable work packages depend on the type, size and complexity of your project.

Add Task Card for WBS for Project Management

Final Step - Re-check Your Work

The final step is to ensure that all details are correctly applied to each work packages. You can also change the default theme of your work breakdown structure for a better visual presentation.

Any More WBS Design Tips?

You should do the following to better display a WBS:

Create Work Breakdown Structure Diagram with Edraw Max

So far, we have checked out all the key aspects of the work breakdown structure. Try right now to create your own work breakdown structure diagram with the ease-of-use Edraw Max without professional drawing skills. Quickly edit the built-in template, change the default layout with the preset auto-create tools, distribute team resources, share on Edraw team cloud and export to different formats. Let Edraw Max helps you in every phase of project planning to improve collaboration and deliver a successful project. Free download now by clicking on the Download PC Version and Mac Version at the end of this page.

WBS Diagram software Edraw Max

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