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WBS - Why Bother?

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Mike Testro
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Hi Planners

I have been putting construction programmes together for a number of years and have never yet even understood what a WBS is.

Am I missing something?

Would my Bottom Up programming methods be improved if I knew about WBS.

Please enlighten me.

Best regards

Mike Testro

Replies

Mike Testro
User offline. Last seen 4 days 2 hours ago. Offline
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Posts: 4392
Hi Rafael

Nr 4. Preferably

Best regards

Mike Testro.
Rafael Davila
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Posts: 4778
Excuse me, now I am confused. Which one?

Noun: bum
1. A person who is deemed to be despicable or contemptible ... I don’t think so.
2. A disreputable vagrant … I didn’t know.
3. Person who does no work … oops!
4. The fleshy part of the human body that you sit on ... Not this one! Watch for the bees!

Well Mr. Vladimir mentioned a good point; the option of several WBS is a good one. What if it is relevant for your business and to your client also? Seems like a big deal for some. The option to satisfy both without interfering with each other WBS needs is not a bad idea. I personally don’t make use of WBS unless the owner requires so, no need then why bother.

Be happy and enjoy your week end.
Rafael

Mike Testro
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Hi Gary

Which of the 3 definitions did I refer to?

I have no idea which - would not recognise a WBS if it came up and bit me on the bum.

Now we have at least three sub threads - great stuff - keep it coming.

(can moderator’s say "bum"?)

Best regards

Mike Testro
Gary Whitehead
User offline. Last seen 11 weeks 6 hours ago. Offline
That was your 1st post since i proposed those definitions, so you obviously haven’t refered to any yet!

You now have 3 diferent definitions of wbs, all of which someone has tried to enlighten you on percieved benefits/drawbacks of (assuming I haven’t missunderstood Rafaiel)

Hopefully that will help you to recognise a wbs as it makes a bee-line for your bum

(I think "bum" is OK, or else we’re both in trouble)

Cheers,

G
You understood me correctly.
We use parallel WBSs and I think that it does not matter how these different WBSs were created.
At least three are used at the company level: Deliverables WBS, Process WBS, Responsibility WBS. Others may be specific for current project.
Initial Project WBS is usually created top down and is not based on activity codes (activities do not exist when this WBS is created). Others may be created basing on activity codes. But if they were created using other ways it does not matter.
I do not understand why the way to create WBS does matter after WBS was created. It is still WBS.
Gary Whitehead
User offline. Last seen 11 weeks 6 hours ago. Offline
Re-reading the posts, I think we may all be using diferent definirions of wbs...

Gary’s definition: a project coding structure developed by a company which is then used as a standard reference across multiple functions within that company

Vladimir’s definition: any project coding structure used in planning software which breaks the work down into smaller elemtns

Rafael’s definition: A project coding structure used in planning software which breaks the work down into smaller elements, and is generated using the ’wbs’ functionality of the software

I think Mike’s original question related to the 3rd definition.

Appreciate I’m putting words into people’s mouths here, so please correct me if I have misunderstood.
Hi Rafael,
thank you, I looked at the pdf file.
I agree that creating WBS using activity codes is a flexible tool for creating multiple WBS. I don’t understand why this tool or the way to create WBS is compared with creating WBS some other way. Does it matter? What is the difference? The result is the same?
Best Regards,
Vladimir
Gary Whitehead
User offline. Last seen 11 weeks 6 hours ago. Offline
For me, the WBS is a company / organisation system for structuring project work (as per my previous post). -The wbs element is essentially the standard ’activity ID’ across all parts of the organisation. This is what activity codes cannot do.
The wbs function in the planning software is there purely to enable us to align our projects with that system.
If you are working for a company that doesn’t use wbs to manage their projects (most of us, I would guess), then there is no need to use it in the programme.
Totally agree that activity codes are easier and more flexible for organising a programme than the wbs function, but I think wbs is more about organising a company than a programme.

Cheers,

G
Mike Testro
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Hi Vladimir

Please do not forget that I am not a planner.

When I am putting together a bottom up programme I work up to a particular level and then summarise it.

I also have a library of standard level 3 cascades that I copy and paste into the programme as required.

If a WBS is being created in the background I have no need for it.

Best regards

Mike Testro
Hi Mike,
WBS is useful regardless of the software.
I cannot imagine real project consisting of many thousands activities without any structure at all.
I don’t believe that you don’t know how to use WBS.

Rafael,
my E-mail: spider@mail.cnt.ru
My question is simple: what is the difference between WBS created by activity codes and WBS created any other way?

Regards,
Vladimir
Rafael Davila
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Vladimir:

If you wish you can follow the following link to download a few screen shots on a sample job so you can see how the screen varies.

http://rapidshare.com/files/233285086/Schedule_organize_options.pdf

Please note that under Organize by Activity Codes you have a dialog box with plus/minus signs that provides for more choices than under Outline or WBS.

Hope this help though I got the feeling as Mike you know.


Mike Testro
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Hi Everybody

I am beginning to understand that a WBS is useful - if not essential - in Primavera and Microsoft Project software.

And that is why I have never used it - recall when using p3 that you had to generate code numbers for new activities which was a real pain.

PowerProject generates Work Breakdown Numbers in its WBS just in case they may be needed as part of Company Policy.

I certainly do not need to map out a WBS before starting.

Please let me know if there is anything else I may have missed.

Best regards

Mike Testro
Rafael Davila
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Yeap. But a very simple WBS structure using Activity Codes which allowed for more flexible reporting. Seems they liked the flexibility you get with Activity Codes.

Sorry I did not mention they also required a formal WBS structure, we never used for our internal reports. These guys are not easy.

This omission was on purpose with the intention to keep focus on the statement that if not needed why bother.

Gary Whitehead
User offline. Last seen 11 weeks 6 hours ago. Offline
So the Navy used a coding structure to breakdown the work into work packs? Isn’t that a WBS, then?
Rafael Davila
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Gary:

A few years ago on a NAVY job the specs did standardized the breaking down into manageable work packs using predefined Activity Codes. Just a Hangar, no Dubai Tower.

You can use both, WBS and Activity Codes, they are not mutually exclusive. But WBS is sometimes more of a burden than a necessity. When not a necessity why bother?

Vladimir:

I can load some sample projects into my software, then I will generate a few PDF reports for your viewing if it is ok with you. I can upload these to rapidshare and post the links so you can download them. Let me know.

Additional WBS may be created by codes.
Do you see the difference between organizing schedules by WBS and by codes? When you look to the schedule what difference do you see?
Gary Whitehead
User offline. Last seen 11 weeks 6 hours ago. Offline
WBS is not just another way to organise a programme for ease of viewing.

WBS is (or at least should be) a standardised method of breaking down a project into manageable workpacks

The workpack details scope, inputs & outputs of a job and is used to estimate cost, time & resources. Each workpack is assigned to a wbs element, and so the wbs becomes the ’skeleton’ on which all the work packs are hung

the wbs should match the company’s cbs so you get a lot of synergy between the estimator, cost engineer and planner.

because the wbs reamins consistent from project to project, it take a lot of the wheel reinventing out of setting up the systems at the start of a project. it also enables easier comparisons between projects, and more consistent terminology and better defined boundaries between work packages. Timesheet codes can also be aligned to wbs.

So that’s my advert for WBS, Mike. Actually, I don’t use them much myself either.

Cheers,

G
Rafael Davila
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Essentially it is a matter of flexibility plus ease of use.

From SureTrak Software Help:

_" SureTrak Software offers several activity organization methods, of which activity coding is perhaps the most flexible. Activity codes are assigned to activities to categorize them, primarily so you can produce categorized, easily understood reports. Activity codes do not affect scheduling; they just offer a useful way to organize information.

You can define up to 20 different activity codes, or methods of categorizing, and define unlimited values for each one. You assign code values to each activity. Each code is one way to divide, or distinguish between, sets of activities that have something in common.

New projects contain a predefined set of activity codes. Enter values for these codes or change them. Define activity codes and values for each project or create your own set of standard activity codes for all projects. Code activity IDs to expand filtering and sorting capabilities.

Once you assign activity code values to activities, organize the Bar chart or PERT by any activity code in the project."_

Very powerfull, at a higher level than WBS, makes filetring and reorganizing as easy as 1,2,3. Should be easier than multiple WBS.

But in case your job requires WBS then multiple WBS option would be handy. If a good software should provide various metods of organizing then providing for multiple WBS, in addition to the others, would make it even better.

Suretrak, no longer supported by Primavera, does not provides for multiple WBS. I am wondering who is to fill the gap. I am in limbo, looking for a substitute. If Spider Project establishes itself with many users, probably I will follow as I don’t like MS Project, P6 the Eterprise stuff we don’t need it, for our needs it is a burden, Primavera Contractor is a joke.

The spirit of Planning Planet, allowing for the discussion without placing limits to a specific software is what keeps me here, it is addictive.




Hi Rafael,
thank you for the answer.
I have a question - what difference do you see between creating WBS directly or using activity codes?
In Spider Project you can use any number of parallel WBSs in the same project and it does not matter how you created them.

Best Regards,
Vladimir
Mike Testro
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Hi Trevor

No I’m not kidding - I have never understood WBS and have never bothered to make use of it.

I would welcome a response to explain what I am missing.

Best regards

Mike Testro
Hi Rafael. You wrote:
"Thanks for the opportunity to express myself about a method so restrictive I call it "primitive"."

You discussed the methods that you prefer for creating different WBS using Primavera software.

When people write in the Planning, Scheduling & Programming or Projec Management Issues Discussions it does not mean that they discuss Primavera products.

It is not clear what do you call primitive? WBS concept itself or Primavera methods.
Trevor Rabey
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Mike,
you’re kidding, right?
Rafael Davila
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Mike,

Aagain although I know you knows, for your enjoyment, think of WBS as the codes you write to the left of the titles on the Table of Contents of a book. These are useful if a book but unnecessary if an article.

Not everyone is working on the Dubai Tower (a book) but the majority on local Construction Jobs (an article). For an article you don’t need a Table of Contents (a WBS). Specifications requiring the use of WBS when an outline could do it are unnecessary; on the other hand the size of your job might require it.

Vladimir,

I call the WBS use as “primitive” when someone takes the specification out of a drawer without looking at it and just throw them as part of the contract documents without looking at the particular needs of the job, this guy is in no way using his mind, he is a “primitive”. This guy is making life harder than necessary. Sorry I did not express it clearly I wanted to keep it short. Would you ask for a WBS on a windows replacement job? Here instead of WBS or activity codes, Outline as in “XXX Software Default” might be in order.

Did I mention Primavera? I thought I only mentioned MS Project which by the way has the less friendly interface to work with “activity codes”. Of course I understand when people write in the Planning, Scheduling & Programming or Project Management Issues Discussions it does not mean that they discuss Primavera products. I won’t oppose if a moderator erases my reference “(MS Project default)” but come on, it’s a single reference!

By the way, I strongly oppose to “brand name” specifications that force the Contractor to use specific software, in this way ruling out Spider Project as well as others.

Rafael Davila
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Mike I am not to enlighten you as I know you know best. But I would like to express my opinion about WBS.

Among the methods to organize job activities I would define WBS as the most outdated of all. It is so rigid and unnecessary when you can organize and reorganize your activities using activity codes. Yes WBS is so rigid you cannot use it to reorganize your activities as easy as you can with activity codes.

Usually I organize my activities by Job, then by Job Area and finally by CSI Code (Construction Specifications Institute). In occasions I need to reorganize my job by other Activity Codes such as Subcontractor, other times by Responsibility. For this I don’t need WBS as if working on a Book or a Contract with a rigid structure, like Volume, Chapter, Article ... At the same time Activity Codes provides for filtering while with WBS/Outlining I wonder how.

Well maybe for the "Enterprise" stuff it would be easier if by Outline (MS Project default), WBS on steroids, where the computer generates outline codes for you in automatic mode just by inserting activities, then by in/out-denting.

A good software must provide for all methods as there is no one size that fits all.

Thanks for the opportunity to express myself about a method so restrictive I call it "primitive".

Cordially,
Rafael Davila