WBS Use for a University Data Warehouse (DWH) Project: Approach and Rationale

Date: 26/01/2019

Prepared by: Majed Abdeen

Summary of U-DWH Project (Appendix 1)

The Project objectives are to provide a centralised repository for all data belonging to the University by creating a DWH. The main deliverables are a number of dashboards, KPIs, and Reports. These will provide data and metrics to enable informed decision-making and planning.

Approaches in Developing WBS

Development Life Cycle Approach

An input to the WBS is the Project Management Plan, which outlines how the project work will be done (PMI, 2017, pp. 82, 156); thus when creating the WBS, it is essential to consider the project development life cycle, which is a Hybrid approach. Each sprint is a group of Data sources, grouped using a weighting system based on specific criteria.

WBS Development Approach

The WBS approach used is complementary to the Life cycle approach; it too is Hybrid. A combination of approaches focusing on different attributes, as follows, was used:

- Deliverable-oriented: components supporting deliverables.

- Action-oriented: components are behaviour-based (functions, processes).

- Backlog-oriented: focus on customer back-log, items part of project scope.

- Phase-oriented: focus on components which are based on project phases (PMI, 2019, p. 10).

The WBS was created using WBS templates as a starting point, with consideration of organisational standards for developing the WBS. For some iterations, the largest items were decomposed into subordinate/child items (Top-down approach), while for other iterations, specific project tasks were identified and organised into summary activities (Bottom-up approach) (Hans, 2013, p. 22). On this occasion, Mind-mapping approaches were not used.

Rationale for Chosen Approaches

In a hybrid approach, well-known/understood aspects, with fixed requirements, are delivered through predictive development, while unknown/less well-understood elements, or those subject to change, are delivered using agile development (PMI, 2019, p. 5). This also requires that the WBS can be revisited frequently to incorporate changes and ensure representation of project deliverables/work required for successful project delivery (PMI, 2019, p. 25).

Use of a WBS hybrid approach enables flexibility and tailoring, essential in projects involving uncertainty, as deliverables may be altered as information becomes available (Meredith, et al., 2015, p. 216). Since the planning process must react to changes (Meredith, et al., 2015, p. 216) the Hybrid approach is most suitable.

The approaches chosen for WBS creation bring benefits and challenges. Using templates and standards enables implementation of good practice and principles, provides a starting point, and helps determine an appropriate level of decomposition, although care must be taken to tailor these to the project rather than forcing the project to fit the standard (PMI, 2019, p. 12). Both templates/standards were used in moderation as they can allow inclusion of unnecessary deliverables, and can lead to omission of required deliverables (PMI, 2019, p. 12). For this reason, a Top-Down approach was used as it means the project structure facilitates status-reporting, important for maintaining stakeholder satisfaction (PMI, 2019, p. 12). It also provides flexibility to include additional deliverables as needed, although attention is required to ensure sufficient decomposition for management/control, and prevent work package omission (PMI, 2019, p. 12). Thus, a Bottom-Up approach was also used since, beginning with deliverables/user stories, it ensures work package/requirement inclusion; however, it can be challenging to identify all deliverables/work packages in advance, and it may mean focus on the overall project is lost (PMI, 2019, p. 12).

By using a hybrid approach in creating the WBS, the advantages of each approach are harnessed, while the challenges of each are counteracted by the others.


Hans, R. T., 2013. Work breakdown structure: a tool for software project scope verification. International Journal of Software Engineering & Applications, 4(4), pp. 19-25.

Meredith, J. R., Samuel J. Mantel, J. & Shafer, S. M., 2015. Project Management: A Managerial Approach. 9th ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

PMI, 2017. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. 6th ed. Pennsylvania: Project Management Institute, Inc.

PMI, 2019. Exposure Draft for Practice Standard for Work Breakdown Structures. 3rd ed. Online: PMI.

Appendix 1: Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) - Univerersity Data Warehouse Project

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Figure 1: A Sample WBS for DHW Project, using Hybrid (Agile / Iterative / Incremental / Predictive) Life Cycle Approach