The Benefits and Challenges of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

In this series of blogs, we are detailing the concept of scope management. In the last blog, we introduced Scope Management. In this part two, we detail Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). And in the next blog, we discuss successfully handling variations.


Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) represents a vital element of scope management. Project managers use WBS to break a project into manageable sections and tasks. The goal is to use the WBS to achieve the project objectives and facilitate efficient management so as to best monitor the project in terms of budget and on schedule. The WBS also performs the key task of providing the foundation for detailed cost estimation plus schedule development and control.

Most companies use a graphical breakdown to illustrate their WBS. Here is an example.


Other companies use a table version of the WBS.


With a clear WBS, all the stakeholders in a project understand their specific roles in the overall project.

The WBS verifies project scope in part because it helps management and subcontractors clearly define the limits of their responsibility. The WBS divides the construction process into these elements or groupings:


  • Trade or Sub-Contractor
  • Building Element (aka Product)
  • On-site
  • Types of Material
  • Activities Sequence
  • Organisational Responsibilities
  • Contractual Responsibilities of the Contractors
  • Cost Planning Quantity Surveyors and Cost Centres.


A WBS provides numerous major advantages.


  • Easier monitoring of work definitions
  • Coherent delegation
  • Progressive work management
  • Constant improvement of processes
  • Risk management
  • Training systems
  • Planning evaluation


However, some believe WBS has disadvantages.


  • Requires active management of interfaces
  • Increased work burdens on management and management functions like planning, organising, monitoring, and review
  • Potential demarcation problems


Project managers must determine the precise amount of detail to be included in the WBS. Too little and the project lacks definition. Too much and the project becomes too bureaucratic.

There’s no set way to determine the amount of information in the WBS. The project manager and the team must use judgement based on experience. However, a WBS is definitely a key to a successful project. Stay informed by taking the CPD online course with Blueprint CPD.


In the next blog, we detail scope verification and change control.