Project Management Practitioner

Project Management Practitioner

Sounds simple, right? Work Packages (WP) are found at the lowest level of a work breakdown structure (WBS) or project breakdown structure (PBS); it may be a single activity or task, or a collection of activities, tasks and to do’s that lead to the completion or creation of a major deliverable or unit (sub deliverable or element) of a minor deliverable.

Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

With WPs, a Project Manager (PM) can determine what associated material, resources, and personnel costs and time is needed to perform the work. This assignment of costs and time allows the PM to perform a bottom up analysis of all project/product materials, resources, costs and time required to complete the entire project. Furthermore, the cumulative data establishes the project performance measures baseline. All the individual work packages and their cumulative values assigned to each deliverable, provide the information needed to develop a project schedule. It may be a simple email or a written formatted work order with signatures acknowledging and approving the execution of the associated activity(s) and tasks. This topic will be addressed again later in this article.

The WPA established the critical elements of the allocated budget and duration for inclusion in the project schedule; and furthermore, it provides the baseline cost, time duration, schedule baseline data that is used to evaluate and track actual costs, time, and resource expenditures as the project progresses. This information is vital when using performance analysis techniques like the Earned Value Method (more on this in a future article). In this way, the Project Manager (PM) can make assessments at various points as the project progresses regarding the performance of the project against the baseline data; such as, whether the project is ahead of schedule, behind schedule, on schedule, on budget, over budget or under budget.

How big and how detailed? A WP does not have a size or content limit. As stated before, it can consist of a single activity or several activities. The level of detail is driven by the desired degree of control or what is practical and efficient. Avoid having a combination of activities within the same WP that have differing dependencies or incompatible relationships. This means that if a single work package contains multiple work activities that are not all related or contain tasks that are individually independent and, at the same time, having differing dependencies to other unique WPs, it will make scheduling, managing and accessing progress a bit more difficult than is necessary. Try to keep the WPs simple and stand alone.

Old Terms and New Terms: Now let’s establish a base point of knowledge for some additional terms that we will use throughout this discussion: Deliverable, Sub deliverable, Elements, and Work.

A Deliverable is “Any unique and verifiable product, result, or capability to perform a service that is required to be produced to complete a process, phase, or project.” (PMBOK, Pg 537) A deliverable may or may not be further reducible into smaller pieces.

A Sub deliverable is an item that is the result of a further breakdown of a major deliverable; usually, it is the first level down from its primary deliverable. Additionally, a sub deliverable has the characteristic of being further reducible into deliverable element(s).

An Element is an item or part of a deliverable or sub deliverable that, usually, cannot be reduced further without establishing the work activities, tasks, or to do items necessary to achieve the element, sub deliverable or deliverable.

And, as to the word “Work”, it represents the activities, tasks and to do items necessary to achieve the deliverable, sub deliverables, and or elements.

Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

How do we create the WPA?

It starts with questions. How do we make this deliverable, sub deliverable or element happen? It’s a matter of an “action”; at least one or more. What are the actions needed in terms of work activities, tasks, or “to do” items necessary to achieve the desired result? What is the scope of work, the standards and criteria that establish the correct accomplishment of the WP? Remember that the successful accomplishment or completion of the content of a WP requires that all work activities, design specifications, all features, functions, and other scope and quality criteria are achieved. After the work is identified it’s time to think about resources, and all actions and activities require resources, even if it’s only one person.

More terms: The Doer, the Accountable Agent, the Resources, the Time/Duration and Cost:

The Doer: There is always at least one human resource the doer in the WP. The “doer” is the person or persons assign to perform the activity or task. Identify who will be doing the work; list everyone that is assigned to that task unless it’s impractical to do so. If it is unrealistic to list everyone by name, identify the number/quantity of workers assigned to the activity. It’s not uncommon in large work packages to name the unit or team, department, group, etc., along with the identity of the person in charge of that work group the Accountable Agent.

The Accountable Agent: Every action, as in a work activity, task, or to do item must include an identification of “who” will perform the action and who is “accountable” for its completion. This accountable agent, per se, is the individual that is responsible to ensure the work is completed; someone whom the PM and the sponsor can hold responsible for the task’s accomplishment. This does not necessarily mean the person performing the work activity; although it might be the same person. Ask yourself: Who do I go after to make sure the job, activity, task, is done and done correctly? The term point of contact (POC) is often used in these cases.

Resources: Start with identifying the “non human resources”: these are the materials, supplies, and equipment, anything that will be required to create, build, assemble, and perform the activity. Consider anything that will result in direct costs, indirect costs, and incidental costs as they relate to the non human resources. Even the simplest activity, task or to do item will require at one material item or equipment item, even if it’s only a personal computer. Don’t forget to include any equipment that has to be leased or rented. Subcontracted work to a vendor is also considered a resource. The WPA can easily become a Statement Of Work (SOW) for bidding out the work.

All actions or activities require time. Time is relative to duration. Duration the amount of time needed to complete the task/action/activity etc. Where do I get the Time/Duration and Cost data? There are many ways and sources for gathering duration data: subject matter experts, previous project results containing similar work packages, line managers or foreman, team chiefs, when a business or organization performs many projects with similar traits, they may have a template for like type work activities and tasks. In any case, you the PM, will have to evaluate the data collected against your particular project requirements and how availability of resources before you establish a planned time/duration number.

Cost and Time/Duration Estimates must include projections in terms of: Best Case, Worst Case, and Most Probable. Start with the “most probable” estimates in both cost and time/duration; then develop a worst case scenario (be realistic) with associated worst case cost and time/duration possibilities; finally, develop a best case scenario with its own set of cost and time/duration possibilities. The most probable data will be used in the development of the project schedule; however, the worst case and best case data will feed into the risk and contingency planning for the project.

Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

Using a Sample of WP taken from previous article on the Work Breakdown Structure. In the small sample below we have identified three WPs that are required for the creation of the element “Office Walls.”

4.0 Building Internal Structure {Deliverable}

4.1 Office Spaces (8) {Sub deliverable}

4.1.1 Office Walls {Element} [Work Package/Task] Frame offices in accordance with the Design and Specification Document (DSD).
Project Management Practitioner