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Put down the code. From code monkey to zoo keeper -- becoming a project manager and all the things we were never taught

As a development manager, I have requested work breakdown structures (WBS) many times from the dev leads. Everyone has their own approach and why it takes sometimes days to get this simple list is often frustrating. Here is a simple way to get that elusive WBS done in 30 minutes and have 125 items in your list – well, 126.

The WBS is made up of parent-child entities representing the overall outcome of the project. At the bottom of the hierarchical list should be the task item that a developer would perform in support of the branch in the list or WBS. Because I work with different dev leads on every project, I always ask the “what time value would you like to see at the lowest task in order to assign it to a developer and ensure it gets done within the timeframe”. I am particular to a task being 8 hours. Some like 8 to 24 hours. Stay away from tasks defaulting to 1 week. The task becomes way to vague and hard to manage completeness, especially on short budgets.

As a developer, your focus is identifying the tasks you to accomplish in order to deliver the product. As a project manager, you will take the developer's WBS and add all the “other stuff” like quality testing, meetings, documentation, transition to maintenance, etc…

Start your exercise with the name of the product you are delivering as a result of the project. You should be able to represent what you are building and deploying with one to three words. Example;

XYZ
Public Website
Middleware BizTalk Application

The reason you start with that single identifier is to always see the list as the product. It helps during each of the next three passes.

Now, choose 5 tasks which in their entirety represent the product you will be delivering and add them to list under the product name you created earlier;

Public Website
    Security
    Sites
    Infrastructure
    Publishing
    Creative

Continue this concept of seeing the list as the complete picture and decompose it one more level. You should have 25 items.

Public Website
    Security
        Authentication
        Login Control
        Administration
        DRM
        Workflow
    Sites
        Masterpages
        Page Layouts
        Web Parts (RIA, Multimedia)
        Content Types
        Structures
    Infrastructure
        ...
    Publishing
        ...
    Creative
        ...

And one more time for a total of 125 items. The top item makes the list 126.

Public Website
    Security
        Authentication
            Install (AD/ADAM/LDAP/SQL)
            Configuration
            Management
            Web App Configuration
            Implement Provider
        Login Control
            Login Form
            Login/Logoff
            pw change
            pw recover/forgot
            email verification
        Administration
            ...
        DRM
            ...
        Workflow
            ...
    Sites
        Masterpages
        Page Layouts
        Web Parts (RIA, Multimedia)
        Content Types
        Structures
    Infrastructure
        ...
    Publishing
        ...
    Creative
        ...

The next step is to make sure the task at the bottom of every branch represents the “time value” you planned for the project. You can add more to the WBS and of course if you can’t find 5 items, 4 is fine. If a task can be done in a fraction of the time value you determined for the project, try to roll it up into a larger task. In the task actions (later when the iteration is being planned), decompose the details back to the simple tasks.

Now, go estimate!

Posted on Thursday, May 6, 2010 9:15 AM | Back to top


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