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Microsoft Project 2013: The Missing Manual by Bonnie Biafore

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Chapter 6. Identifying the Work to Be Done

When you organize a simple activity like seeing a movie with friends, you probably don’t bother writing out the steps. You just call your friends, pick a movie, get tickets, and buy popcorn without a formal plan. But for more complex projects—like holding a fundraiser or launching a new product line—identifying the work involved is key to planning how and when to get it done. For example, you have to get all the prep work for the fundraiser done before the big day, or your event and the donations it generates will be a bust. And that new product may make a profit only if you get it on store shelves before Thanksgiving and keep costs below $100,000. In cases like these, delivery dates, costs, and other objectives are important.

That’s where a WBS (work breakdown structure) comes in. Carving up the project’s work into a hierarchy of progressively smaller chunks until you get to bite-sized pieces is the first step toward figuring out how and when everything will get done. If you’re new to managing projects, don’t panic—you’ve built a WBS before. The movie example in the previous paragraph is actually a simple WBS.

The structure of a WBS is much like the circulatory system in your body. You can think of the circulatory system itself as the entire project (its goal is to distribute blood throughout your body), and the smaller blood vessels as progressively smaller chunks of the overall work at each level (summary tasks). The hordes of tiny capillaries ...

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