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What is a cost breakdown structure?

cost breakdown structure (CBS) is not that different from a PBS (product breakdown structure) or WBS (work breakdown structure). What is different is that the breakdown structure now includes a cost component. This will obviously be the cost for the component (e.g. the product, part of the task, the resource discipline), but also extra custom fields with valuable extra information as for example:

  1. Booking number
  2. Reference for the accounting system (e.g. SAP reference)
  3. Invoice number
  4. Cost area

Have a look at the example below:

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For your own financial project governance having such information can be relevant, but for your accounting & control department it might be essential.

Based on the used accounting principle it could mean that you have to set up your CBS (and thus PBS/WBS) accordingly. An accounting principle could be activity based costing, which means that activities are tracked financially, or product based costing, which means that the product decomposition is important. Without having to descend into the accounting world, realize that you might be asked to deliver your projects cost information grouped on a certain CBS label, for example on products (already done by good use of summary tasks) or on activity types.

As a scheduler in MS project, this means a couple of things:

  1. You need to think about how to use and name your summary tasks
  2. You need to know how to create custom fields
  3. You need to know how to enter the extra information quickly and efficiently
  4. You need to know how to report and provide your financial project information in Excel

1. Summary tasks

We presume you know how to set up summary tasks, using a correct and smart way of indenting the tasks. That’s why we will only give the following 2 examples:

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2. Create custom fields

To create a custom field:

  • Go to the Format tab > Custom Fields
  • Choose the right field type (e.g. text or number)
  • Decide if you need a Lookup Table
  • Click OK
  • Insert the column in your view

Note that you can use any Gantt view to start from, and that you could add columns and delete fields as your organization requires. Deleting a custom field is also done through Format tab > Custom Fields.

3. Create a view to enter cost information

When you have inserted the right columns and deleted the columns you do not need, you have the perfect view that suits your needs. The next time you open your schedule the view will open the way you just made it.

There are a couple of other things you might want to do:

  • Save the view as a new view: Task tab > open the View menu > Save View
  • Print the view: File tab > Print > use the Print settings to adjust the print preview to your liking
  • Copy the view to another project file: File tab > Info > Organizer

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  • Since the view is build up from fields and a table, you will also need to copy these to the other file. Go to the Fields tab > select the fields in the original file you want to copy and click Copy to copy it to the destination file or to ‘Global MPT’. Global MPT is the template for your instance of MS Project, which means that the fields will now become available in every project you will ever open or create in MS Project.
  • Repeat this for the table in the Tables tab
  • Repeat this for the view in the View tab

4. Export to Excel

MS Project has a great feature to export data to Excel, it is called Visual Reports.

  • Go to the Report tab > Visual Reports
  • Select the right data set by choosing one of the templates
  • Click Edit template to change the fields that are in the export
  • Click View

Microsoft Excel will be opened with two pre-filled tabs: a graph section and the table section, based on the exported Pivot table.

The Graph tab

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The Table tab

Since you are now working in Excel you can change the table and the graph any way you want. You could display it such so that for your controller it will be a simple copy-paste action to get what he or she requires.

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