Friday, February 23, 2007

February 23, 2007 – Deliverable-based Project Schedules: Part 2

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The first step in developing a deliverable-based project schedule is to determine what those deliverables are. One tool used to do this is the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

Work Breakdown Structure. The WBS is a planning tool that documents the breakdown of the project into deliverables. The is accomplished by taking the ultimate product of the project and breaking it into smaller, more manageable pieces until you have identified all the building blocks of the project. If that project were to create a new home page, the final deliverable would be the completed page. Simplistically speaking, the development process could be divided into parts that included Layout, Column 1 and Column 2 with each of the columns further defined as illustrated in the picture below.

Get the team involved in this exercise. As the project manager, you should facilitate and document these brainstorming sessions. The key is to know when to stop drilling. One indication is based on the fact that deliverables are nouns. If you start listing verbs you are at the activity and task level and should stop. There may be a couple of key tasks you want to jot down as a reminder but you aren’t looking to detail the tasks at this point.

There are multiple ways to capture this information. Initially the diagram method works well for a whiteboard session. Using a spreadsheet or document works, too. Although it may seem logical to use a project-scheduling tool it may be premature. The tool will prompt you for more information on each piece and distract you from getting the team’s ideas out.

From our example the deliverables identified were the Design, Format, Sections 1, 2, 3 and 4. Each of these can be defined and handed to an individual or team to create.


G A said...

So Tom -
the idea of using nouns for deliverables sounds good. Please supply some examples. I am struggling with the deliverable based WBS and seem to always end up with tasks (Actions) vs. deliverables (things)

Thomas Cutting said...

Some PMs use MS Project or other scheduling applications as a checklist of action items instead of a planning tool.

In a Phased Based SDLC, use the main item(s) of the phase as the Deliverable. For Initiation it would be the Charter. The Requirements Phase may have 3: Business, Functional and Non-Functional Requirements. Construction could be broken down into the individual modules or iterations.

If you are working from a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), Delerables are that cut off above where you switch to verbs. Or, if you have "Create X", then X is the Deliverable.

You may end up with several tasks that don't appear to belong to a specific Deliverable. Verify that they are part of your scope. If so, consider them part of the process to generate the deliverable. Example: Meeting with the Architect Review Board during Initiation.