Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) – Quick Tip #5

Organize your WBS to align with your contracting strategies.


After you have collected all of your individual scope elements, you should begin organizing these into logical groupings and categories. On my current project, we used butcher paper and note cards to shuffle and move things around on a big table and whiteboard. (Another method is to use so-called “mind-mapping” software to capture content. I’ve personally used products like and MindNode for this purpose on small and large projects alike with very good success.) 

During the initial layout, management should give the engineering team almost complete carte blanche to sort and organize, but they should be given some over-arching guidance; namely, when grouping items together, ask your team to think in terms of contracting strategies. How you’re going to subdivide the procurements on a project should align as closely with your WBS as possible; you should strive to avoid components in a single procurement package spanning multiple major branches in a WBS tree.

Way back at the start of my current project, we were a small team, and the plan was to stay “lean” for a while and try to leverage involvement from industry and partner institutions. This meant larger than typical contracted sub-packages for combined design and fabrication for many of the subsystems. Even if we assumed we were going to self-perform a task in-house, we acted as if we were going to subcontract out that package when organizing the WBS; this kept us focused on ensuring discrete, standalone and self-contained “contract” packages for which we could readily write SOWs, specs, acceptance criteria, and interface control documents, as well as estimating cost and schedule.

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PM Success Habit #2: Strive For Win-Win Procurements

Strong Systems Engineering Approach to Procurements Management

Core Habits & Skills: Employ a Strong Systems Engineering Approach to Procurements

“Test, test, test.” – Dr. William Burgett, Deputy Project Manager, Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT)

A strong systems engineering (SE) approach to procurements is a key factor to basic project management success. Thirty-five percent (35%) of respondents in our survey mentioned SE as a vital ingredient to their projects. There are many important aspects to SE that need to be addressed, but three things were most commonly cited in the survey: 

v-diagram used in project management

Managing the flow down and traceability of requirements (e.g., via a V-diagram Systems Engineering approach) is a core aspect to managing procurements.

Travel Budgets

The importance of face-to-face meetings

When planning a distributed project, it’s important to budget sufficiently for travel. There is no substitute for face-to-face, in-person meetings. In this post I discuss the importance of business travel, and why you need to budget appropriately for you and your team to travel.

airplane wing

Few people actually like to travel for business, but it’s a necessary evil. In fact, it’s often a vital ingredient to project management success. Make sure you budget appropriately for you and your people to be where they need to be–when they need to be.

The 3 Fundamental Components Of A Vendor’s Bid Price

Price = Cost + Risk + Profit

The bid price a vendor provides for a service or product is comprised of three basic parts. Knowing what these are will help you as a project manager negotiate a fair contract. It will also allow you a means of attacking–and hopefully reducing–the final contracted price. In this post I discuss these three components of price.

contract bid price

A contractor’s price tag for a widget is comprised of three basic components: their actual cost, their expected risk, and their profit.