A product breakdown structure (PBS) is a hierarchical visual representation of project outcomes or deliverables.
|Concept||A Product Breakdown Structure (PBS) is a hierarchical and systematic decomposition of a complex product or project into its constituent parts or deliverables. It is a visual representation that breaks down the entire product into smaller, manageable components, making it easier to plan, manage, and execute projects effectively. Each level of the PBS represents a finer level of detail, allowing for a clear understanding of the product’s structure and facilitating project management, cost estimation, and resource allocation. PBS is a valuable tool in project management methodologies like the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and Prince2.|
|Key Components||The PBS consists of the following key components: |
– Main Product: This is the highest level of the PBS and represents the entire product or project.
– Subsystems: The main product is divided into major subsystems, each responsible for a significant part of the project.
– Components: Subsystems are further divided into individual components, which may be physical parts, software modules, or specific deliverables.
– Further Decomposition: The process continues until the smallest, manageable work packages or elements are reached.
|Application||The PBS is commonly used in project management, engineering, construction, and product development. It is particularly useful when dealing with complex projects or products, as it helps in defining project scope, work packages, and responsibilities. PBS aids in estimating costs, allocating resources, and ensuring that all project components are accounted for during planning and execution. Additionally, it provides a basis for tracking progress and managing changes.|
|Benefits||The PBS offers several benefits: |
– Clarity: It provides a clear and visual representation of the project’s structure, enhancing understanding among team members and stakeholders.
– Scope Definition: It helps in defining the project scope by breaking it down into manageable components.
– Resource Allocation: PBS facilitates resource allocation and cost estimation at various levels of the hierarchy.
– Project Control: It serves as a reference point for tracking project progress and managing changes.
|Challenges||Challenges associated with PBS include: |
– Initial Effort: Creating a detailed PBS requires time and effort, especially for large and complex projects.
– Maintenance: The structure should be kept up-to-date as the project progresses and changes occur.
– Complexity: For extremely complex projects, the PBS itself can become intricate, making it challenging to manage.
|Real-World Application||PBS is widely used in industries such as construction, aerospace, software development, and manufacturing to plan and execute projects. For example, in construction, it breaks down a building project into floors, rooms, walls, and components. In software development, it represents modules, functions, and features.|
Understanding the product breakdown structure
A product breakdown structure is a diagrammatic hierarchical representation of project outcomes and provides a clear and concise illustration of what the project must deliver.
The PBS is also beneficial for teams since it reduces a complex project or product into more manageable components.
The PBS is similar to another project management tool called the work breakdown structure (WBS), which organizes project work into smaller sections and deliverables.
In the context of project management, the PBS precedes the WBS with a focus on determining the desired outputs required to achieve project goals. The WBS is then crafted to identify the activities and tasks that will support those outputs.
Many favor this approach to project management because it removes ambiguity and avoids assumptions that can result in inefficiencies.
The common mantra is that the “PBS defines where you want to go while the WBS tells you how to get there.”
Example of a product breakdown structure
- Project initiation document.
- Software installed – third-party software, servers, database software.
- Software tested – test plans, test scripts, test system.
- Training delivered – training plan, training venue, training material.
- Software delivery to users – software download, post-install test script.
Notice in the above that products may be described as nouns or as outcomes in the past tense. Most product breakdown structures will also be annotated with a list of products and associated product descriptions.
These set the standards for product quality and responsibility early on in the project life cycle.
Once the PBS has been completed, decision-makers can create a product flow diagram to define the delivery plan logic.
How to create a product breakdown structure
Creating a product breakdown structure involves a team of individuals sharing their unique perspectives on a particular project.
Many businesses choose to conduct brainstorming sessions between departments where employees can collaborate to define the various categories and sub-categories.
This can be done on a whiteboard or with notecards and post-it notes.
Whatever method is chosen, the teams must discuss each project and reorganize the components where necessary. For complex projects, it may be worthwhile to use mind mapping and project management software such as MindView.
- A product breakdown structure (PBS) is a hierarchical visual representation of project outcomes or deliverables. It provides a clear and concise illustration of project deliverables while also reducing complexity.
- In a PBS, products are described as either nouns or outcomes in the past tense. Once the illustration has been completed, decision-makers can create a product flow diagram to define the delivery plan logic.
- To create a product breakdown structure, teams from multiple departments must collaborate and share their unique perspectives. The PBS itself be completed on a whiteboard or with note cards, but more complex projects may require dedicated project management software.
- Visual Hierarchy: A PBS is a hierarchical diagram that represents project outcomes. It offers a structured view of what the project aims to deliver, with the final product at the top and subcategories below.
- Simplifying Complexity: It helps teams break down a complex project into manageable components, making it easier to understand the project’s structure and objectives.
- Relation to WBS: While similar to the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), the PBS focuses on defining desired project outputs. It precedes the WBS, which identifies activities and tasks to achieve those outputs. The PBS sets the destination, while the WBS outlines the journey.
- Clarity and Efficiency: The PBS reduces ambiguity and prevents assumptions that can lead to inefficiencies. The saying goes, “The PBS defines where you want to go, while the WBS tells you how to get there.”
- Example: For a third-party software installation project, the PBS may include categories like Project Initiation Document, Software Installed (third-party software, servers, database software), Software Tested (test plans, test scripts, test system), Training Delivered (training plan, venue, material), and Software Delivery to Users (software download, post-install test script).
- Annotations: A PBS often includes a list of products and associated descriptions, setting quality standards and responsibility early in the project’s lifecycle.
- Creation Process: Teams collaborate to create a PBS, typically through brainstorming sessions between departments. Visual aids like whiteboards, notecards, and post-it notes can be used. For complex projects, project management software and mind mapping tools can be valuable.
- Product Flow Diagram: Once the PBS is complete, it can be used to create a product flow diagram, defining the logic for product delivery.
|Level 1||This is the highest level of the PBS, representing the main product or project.||– Provides an overall view of the project or product. – Helps stakeholders understand the project’s scope. – Sets the context for lower-level breakdowns.||Example: For a construction project, Level 1 might represent the “Office Building” that is the main focus of the project.|
|Level 2||Subdivides Level 1 into major components or deliverables.||– Breaks down the project into manageable segments. – Assigns responsibility for each major component. – Helps in project planning and resource allocation.||Example: Level 2 of the “Office Building” project might include components like “Foundation,” “Structural Frame,” “Interior Finishes,” and “Exterior Cladding.”|
|Level 3||Further decomposes Level 2 components into smaller, more specific elements or tasks.||– Provides a detailed view of the work required for each component. – Facilitates task assignments and scheduling. – Guides project monitoring and progress tracking.||Example: Under the “Foundation” component, Level 3 might include elements such as “Excavation,” “Footings,” “Concrete Pour,” and “Curing.”|
|Level 4||Continues the decomposition process into even smaller elements, making it suitable for task management.||– Enables precise task definition and assignment. – Supports detailed scheduling and resource allocation. – Helps identify dependencies and critical path items.||Example: Within the “Concrete Pour” element, Level 4 could include tasks like “Formwork Preparation,” “Rebar Installation,” “Concrete Mixing,” and “Pouring and Leveling.”|
Connected Product Development Frameworks
Read the remaining product development frameworks here.