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Product Breakdown Structure (PBS) in MS Project

Product Breakdown Structure

Your project needs to be broken down into major components leading up to the objective: the main deliverable. An outline of all the project’s deliverables is called a Product Breakdown Structure (PBS). This PBS results in a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which shows the work required to produce the deliverables (PBS) and reach these milestones. The WBS are thus the tasks.

In a meeting or a series of meetings, where you have all important experts and your (core) team members present, you start identifying all items that should be part of your project to deliver your main or end deliverable. This also includes ‘management deliverables’ such as documents you use for project control. Think of documents like a Project Initiation Document, communication plan, risk register, etc. This breakdown of  a product is called the PBS (Product Breakdown Structure).

Product Breakdown Structure (PBS)1

If, for instance, you consider the example of a motorcycle, the main deliverable ‘engine’ is further subdivided into: Transmission, Head, Battery. Head is further subdivided into Pistons and Rings. Note that you could keep doing this up to the bolts and screws level, and thereby easily overdo this breaking down.

For planning and estimating purposes it is wise to stop at a certain point, and start mentioning the work (tasks) that is needed to produce these elements of the PBS. This is where your WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) starts. Since you are creating a model, just as a maquette as model for a building, it should not be too detailed. For various reasons it is widely recommended to stop listing the work, when the activities have a duration of 5 days. For instance, if your project is remodeling the backyard, ‘build shed’ is the right level of detail, and ‘pick up screwdriver’ is not. Although you might not want to forget this crucial activity of picking up the screwdriver, your schedule should not resort into a checklist or manual. You will learn more about PBS and WBS as well as estimating in our e-course Maturity Level 2 – ‘Task Management’.

This breakdown of the main deliverable forms the backbone of your project schedule and as such it is essential to give this process the proper attention. For this reason, it was our well-considered choice to explain linking and automating the schedule in the next step: take a look at our e-course Maturity Level 3 – ‘Critical Path Management’.

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