Do you have any projects on your “To-Do” list that you’ve been putting off for a while solely because you don’t know where to start? Perhaps that new leasing contest, or revamping your work order system, or increasing online payment adoption? In their most recent CHAOS Manifesto (2013), the Standish Group reported that on average, 61% of technology projects failed or struggled due to a time, cost, or scope overrun. This is a big number given the resource consumption associated with technology projects.
One of the driving forces behind failed projects is taking on too much work or trying to deal with ambiguous initiatives. In the same report by the Standish Group, it is noted that when projects are broken down into smaller chunks, the probability for success increases to 76%.
“Think Big, Act Small” is the theme of the 2013 CHAOS Manifesto.
Easier said than done right? Have your project teams ever struggled to outline an initiative and figure out where to start? I suggest using a simple tool called a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines a WBS as a deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the team. You can take a “top-down” approach where you first lay out the major phases or buckets of work, or use a “bottom-up” approach where you can start laying out tasks and then group them together based on the nature of the tasks.
The objective of the WBS is take to an ambiguous “project” and break it down into consumable, manageable, independent, and estimable tasks. A WBS is a wonderful and simple tool because it allows you to tackle a big project “think big” and ensure all the work ties together, but also “act small” by laying out and managing work at the task level.
A very high-level WBS for building a new web app might look something like this:
As you can see, creating work breakdown structures is quite simple, but highly effective. There are many other variables involved in successfully managing new projects, but using a WBS to breakdown a rough gameplan is a great first step.
A vision without a plan is just a dream. A plan without a vision is just drudgery. But a vision with a plan can change the world.
– old proverb