How do I structure a software project

How to prevent chaos and structure projects correctly

Table of Contents


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The work breakdown structure

The PSP offers you the advantage that the project is fully recorded and there is clarity about the work to be done. So whoever draws up a correct work breakdown structure will

  1. forget less
  2. meetings run faster
  3. communication is clearer
  4. the responsibilities are clear.

The PSP refers to the route from the starting point to the destination.

Madauss (1994) mentions additional properties of projects in the project management handbook:

Projects are undertakings with a defined beginning and end, which are characterized by the characteristics of time limitation, uniqueness, complexity and novelty.

As one of the standard instruments of project management, the project structure plan also has the task of securing the exchange of information between employees internally and with external trades.

First, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What should I do?
  2. How are we gonna do it?

Determine clearly whether you will create the PSP alone or work out the appropriate variant with your participants.

To start with, a simple example of a PSP:

activityStakeholder Analysis (Affected)
Work package 1Clarification of the task, creation of a time and work planGroup and project leader
Work package 2Research on the Internet, in the daily press, etc.Heinz, Sabine, Franz, Günther, Karl, Inga

So you can see that a project is now divided into plannable and controllable elements.

According to DIN standards 69900 ff, there are three common structure principles:

  1. The function-oriented structure: This asks about the functional areas of the organization carrying out the project. The focus is on the type of activity to be performed.
  2. The object-oriented structure: The focus here is on the product itself. The project object is broken down into its individual components.
  3. The time-based structure: The focus is on the process and phases of the project. These then form the work packages for the respective level.

The best thing to do is to see for yourself what the appropriate structure is for your project. Then there is the form of the method with which you want to work out your PSP.

3 methods for creating work breakdown structures

The top-down approach

The project is first named, then the suitable orientation methods are selected, then the overall project is broken down into sub-objects, the tasks are listed, then the selection for the suitable orientation method for each element of the second level, then further breakdown up to Work packages are available.

The bottom-up approach

This path leads from the detail to the whole. First, the tasks to be carried out in the project are collected, then the relationships are analyzed, then the structure and composition in a tree structure takes place and finally everything is checked for completeness and uniqueness.

The yo-yo process

Here will be both previous procedures combinedto leverage the strengths of both. Do not forget the following rules: Pay attention to the uniqueness! The structural elements of each level must be completely different from one another in terms of content. Pay attention to completeness! The total content of the elements that belong to a parent element must match the content of the parent element.

The tree structure has prevailed in practice for displaying the work breakdown structure. The most important display goal for you should be clarity. A competent person should be able to understand the object under consideration without any effort.

In addition, the PSP should of course also contain the controlling data for the variables relevant in project management: Costs, deadlines and results.

The PSP thrives on the fact that a project is continually divided. The whole thing also has other advantages. A project budget can be assigned to the highest levels of the breakdown structure so that budgets can be quickly calculated based on individual projects.

Even while the project is running, critical stages can be tracked and controlled using the breakdown structure. If a project is lagging behind, the PSP can also show you which components are responsible for it or what the delayed sub-works are.

Guide to creating the structure plan

1. The top level stands for the end result or for the project itself

2. Sub-works contain work packages that are assigned to departments or units of the organization

3. The elements of the work breakdown structure do not have to be defined on the same level

4. A work package defines the work, the duration and the costs for the tasks that are necessary to create the same

5. Work packages should not exceed a duration of 10 days

6. Work packages should be independent of one another in the work breakdown structure

7. Work packages are unique and should therefore not be duplicated via the work breakdown structure

Make it clear that a work breakdown structure is not a task list, schedule, or organization chart. It is all the more the basis on which a to-do list or schedule can be built.

Project management therefore describes the processes that are used to ensure that the project includes all work required to complete it successfully.

A common mistake in project planning is usually to start creating a schedule directly in the form of a bar chart. Make sure that you stick to the tree diagram and work through the aspects described above.

With the help of the work breakdown structure, you should now have successfully mastered the following questions about your project:

  1. How is the project structured in terms of content?
  2. Which areas or functions are to be covered in a project-specific manner?
  3. Which work packages are to be put together?
  4. Which costs / capacities are necessary for each sub-project?
  5. Which costs / capacities have to be raised for individual functional areas?

Hopefully you have been able to structure your next vision and are now starting your new project full of ambition. You can now also use various software programs to support the development of a work breakdown structure. We wish you every success for your next project!

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