Creating and maintaining a WBS dictionary

by on March 19, 2012 in Course Preparation, Guests Column, PMP®, Project Management, Trainer Articles

In Project Scope Management Knowledge area , the scope baseline is said to be a combination of the project scope statement , the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and the Work Breakdown Structure Dictionary ( WBS Dictionary ) . Besides the project scope statement and the WBS , there are quite a few questions in the PMP certification exam which are asked on the WBS dictionary . A better understanding of the WBS dictionary will not just help us in our actual PMP certification examination , it will also help us while managing our projects .

So let us take a look at how we can effectively create and maintain a WBS dictionary .

What is a WBS Dictionary ?

A WBS dictionary is a document that provides a detailed information about each element in  the WBS , including work packages and control accounts . For each WBS element , the WBS Dictionary may include a brief definition of the scope or statement of work, defined deliverable(s), a list of associated activities, and a list of milestones. It can also include  information such as responsible organization, start and end dates, resources required, an estimate of cost, charge number, contract information, quality requirements, and technical references to facilitate performance of the work .The WBS dictionary is also an important part of the scope baseline.

Why do we need a WBS dictionary ?

Since the WBS is a graphic , there is a practical limit to how much detailed information can be included in each element .However , we can solve this problem by using a short title and a numbering scheme on the graphic in the WBS and providing more detail regarding these WBS elements in the WBS dictionary .

When stakeholders read these detailed descriptions in the WBS dictionary they get a much better understanding of the scope of work because of their context within the WBS hierarchy of elements .The resources will have a much better understanding of the work they must perform, if they refer to the WBS dictionary . Finally, by linking document templates and examples from our actual projects we will greatly improve compliance to organization standards and improve quality.

The benefit of a WBS Dictionary is to ensure that we do the work right the first time by providing the team with the information they need to produce quality deliverables that meet project requirements and organization standards .

Guidelines for creating and maintaining a WBS dictionary ?

 ? It is strongly recommended by experts that we adopt a standard structure for providing descriptive information for each WBS Element , in the WBS dictionary , to ensure consistency. It will also help us as it will serve as a template both for the author as well as the reader.

? The level of detail that we provide should be less for WBS Elements that are higher in the hierarchy and more detailed for lower level elements .

? It is a good practise to include the WBS and the WBS dictionary in the same document This way ,the project team and stakeholders will not be compelled to search for any information. If they are looking at the WBS , all the information that the WBS holds will be available to them in the WBS dictionary , right there inside the same document .

? Due to ever changing circumstances, the Work Breakdown Structure Dictionary is under constant revision.Therefore, we should frequently review the contents of the WBS dictionary to assure proper project management.

What are the tools required to create a WBS dictionary

Many organizations use Microsoft Word to create and maintain WBS dictionary .   We can also use Microsoft Project to create and maintain a WBS dictionary .It is one of the most effective ways of creating and maintaining a WBS dictionary . It provides context relevant information and ensures synchronization with Project WBS .

Sample WBS dictionary

Let us take a look at the following sample of a WBS dictionary to understand it better .

Project : Online shopping system

Work Package Id :
Work Package Name : Design Payment Screen
Work Package Description : Complete the UI design for the payment screen ….etc …
Assigned To : John Abraham                                            Department  : I .T
Date Assigned : 15/03/2012                                             Date Due :  18/03/2012
Estimated Cost : $ 1500.00                                               Accounting Code : SIMPIT- 020

Thus, a WBS dictionary provides a detailed information about each element of the Work Breakdown Structure. It provides the team with the information they need to produce quality deliverables that meet project requirements and organization standards.

Sabyasachi Gupta, PMP

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