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Blog post 19 Feb 2021

Successful Project Manager IV: Project Scope Planning

Successful Project Manager IV: Project Scope Planning

In this series, we will take a closer look at the role and responsibilities of the project manager. One of the main tasks for the project manager before the start of the project is the scope planning process. What is scope planning and how to succeed at it?

Scope planning is the process of managing the scope of the project. It includes the definition of all the work steps to be undertaken to complete the project successfully. Therefore, having a clear and concise picture of the work steps is essential, especially at the very beginning of the process. Yet, the scope is regularly updated during the process as well.

One way of going about the scope of the project is to use the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

Work Breakdown Structure

The Work Breakdown Structure is a tool that helps to break down the project into individual working components. The Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines the WBS as a “deliverable oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team”. Using the Work Breakdown Structure has the following advantages:


The Work Breakdown Structure is a visual tool. As such, it helps in creating an image of what the project entails, in a clear and vivid manner. Visualizing the individual steps and processes helps the users see the “big picture” of the project.


Another great feature of the Work Breakdown Structure is its complexity. It consists of all the work steps, activities and tasks of the project and therefore is very detailed. This may seem confusing to the first-time users, yet the complexity means all the nuances are taken into consideration.

Source: Google


Another great feature of the Work Breakdown Structure is that it takes into consideration the hierarchy and portrays the high-level project as well as possible sub-projects, work packages, and individual tasks.


While the Work Breakdown Structure may end up being a complex diagram and it may even seem confusing, it offers a great deal of insight and shows often overlooked aspects of the given project. On the other hand, it reveals the area that might need to be cut or outsourced for better performance. Thus, visualization through the Work Breakdown Structure helps gain clarity on the exact scope of the project.

Steps for creating the Work Breakdown Structure

How to create the Work Breakdown Structure? In Certified Project Management Diploma Course, we comprehensively cover the process of creating Work Breakdown Structure. However, below are three steps that can be used as a guidance in creating the Work Breakdown Structure.

1. Define the scope of the project by determining deliverables and requirements

The very first step in the Work Breakdown Structure creations is defining the scope itself. This is done by determining two aspects: deliverables and requirements.

Deliverables are characterized as all that the project teams produce and deliver during the project, be it the products or services. The deliverables are geared towards all the stakeholders. They may include project documents such as schedules, budgets, blueprints and other written documents. The role of these documents is to confirm the completion of a project or its phase and they contain results and outcomes that are clearly defined and measurable.

The scope is not defined through deliverables only. Another substantial aspect of the scope is the project requirements. Requirements, i.e. objectives to be met, are in fact descriptions of what the deliverables should look like from the point of view of functionality. They respond to questions of what, where, when, how much and who of the process. Requirements may possess specific and tangible characteristics such as colour, size, ingredients, etc. Besides being measurable, requirements should also be testable.

2. Decompose the deliverables into individual work packages

At the lowest level of the Work Breakdown Structure is a deliverable commonly referred to as the work package. Determining these work packages of the individual deliverables is the basis for outlining the Work Breakdown Structure. This is done by:

  • Defining the work package
  • Determining its beginning and its end
  • Estimating requirements and timeline of the work package
  • Integrating the work package within the other work packages on the given level of deliverables

3. Select the Work Breakdown Structure suitable for your project

While the Work Breakdown Structure is undoubtedly the cornerstone of scope planning, it is essential to select the right way of constructing it. This is the third and final step before you go on to actually design the Work Breakdown Structure of your project.

These are the main types of WBS to be considered:

Responsibility-based structure

The responsibility-based structure is based on the organization units. Therefore, it organizes all the activities by the teams or units that work on the project. Similarly, the structure can be based on the broader company organization, including the project sponsor, the control board and stakeholders.

Phase-based structure

This structure focuses on the individual phases of the project and organizes all activities in a chronological way. The phases typically include the planning, execution, control and closeout.

Deliverable-based structure

If the WBS is primarily based on the deliverables of the project, then the structure is deliverable-based. The main units will consist of the main groups of deliverables, such as individual services offered, and products delivered.

Resource-based structure

This structure is based on the type of resource or the business function of the resource. A resource can be a facility, a type of software used in the project, or equipment. Staffing is also part of the resource group.

Risk-based structure

The last type of structure is the risk-based one. Such structure is organized by the type of risk the project may encounter during its execution. The main groups of risks may include categories such as people, environment and equipment. Furthermore, the risks are colour-coded according to their impact. For example, high impact risks will be coded with a different colour than risks which have minimal impact on the successful delivery of the project.


PMBOK© Guide: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. 6th Edition. Project Management Institute, 2017.