What is Resource Breakdown Structure & Its Significance?

March 3, 2022

What’s the first step in creating an effective project plan? 

Work breakdown structure (WBS) allows project managers to define various tasks and their dependencies within a project. Once established, it is important to estimate the number of skills and resources required to complete each task. The resources also have a cost associated with them, so it is vital to identify the right resources to fulfill the project’s scope so that it can be completed within the stipulated time and budget. 

This is where resource breakdown structure comes into the picture. It helps visualize, plan and organize enterprise-wide resources effectively for the project at hand. 

Simply put, a resource breakdown structure (RBS) revolves around “breaking down” all types of resources required for each task, from the workforce to equipment, before project initiation. 

Managers can use the RBS to ensure competent allocation and ascertain the project’s success.

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This blog explains how to make a perfect RBS using a resource management solution. Let’s begin:

1. What is a resource breakdown structure?

In project management, the resource breakdown structure (RBS) is a systematic list of resources that will be required to execute a given project. It is broken down by function and type and contains all resources on which project funds will be spent. It includes personnel, tools, machinery, materials, equipment, and software licenses. 

A project manager is responsible for creating the resource breakdown structure during the project planning. They first divide it into various tasks for different phases and estimate the resources required for the entire project lifecycle. They then distribute RBS to all stakeholders, team members, etc., to keep everyone on same page and eliminate confusion around each resource’s roles and responsibilities.  

Strategies for Resource Estimation
Now, let’s understand RBS’s significance in the project management realm.

2. Significance of resource breakdown structure

As discussed earlier, the role of RBS is to plan, identify, and help implement all available resources during a project’s development cycle. Given its flexibility, one can use resource breakdown structure in various industries, and drawing up one before working on a new project brings many benefits. 

One of the significant benefits of using an RBS is that it helps identify and group resources to ensure competent allocation and efficient utilization throughout a project’s cycle. 

Some benefits of a resource breakdown structure include: 

  • Helps maintain a single source of truth into the number and types of resources being used at any time during a project cycle. 
  • Assists in coordinating cross-functional team workflow from start to finish. 
  • Identifies resource overlaps and dependency to prevent future bottlenecks. 
  • Provides a quick glance at overall allocation and employee workload.  

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Subject to the benefits, RBS is one of the crucial components of effective project management. Now let’s make a brief comparison of WBS & RBS;

3. Work breakdown structure (WBS) vs. Resource breakdown structure (RBS)

Work breakdown structure is a detailed task description of any project. Through the WBS, the project manager categorizes the entire scope and deliverable into smaller and manageable sections. RBS, on the other hand, is a document that encapsulates the list of resources needed to complete a project. 

WBS is a visual representation of the total tasks and subtasks that each project team member should fulfill. On the contrary, RBS includes the details of all resources that cost money, such as personnel, equipment, supplies, licenses, etc. Other tools necessary for proper and efficient RBS include resource estimation, a resource calendar, and WBS. 

Despite the differences, WBS and RBS are both interdependent and vital to ensure successful project delivery.  

Effective Project Plan in 9 Simple Steps
Now that you know the difference between both terms, let’s review the steps for successfully creating a resource breakdown structure.

4. Steps to effectively create a resource breakdown structure

Managers need to meticulously follow certain disciplines to formulate a systematic, well-defined RBS. It can be described in a few steps given below:

4.1. Identify the project’s final deliverable & select a template

Before forming a project plan, a manager should be very clear about client expectations and the final deliverable. The project’s objective can be anything from developing a new software functionality to building a missile. After defining the scope and deliverables, selecting a format for displaying RBS follows next. 

You can create a tree diagram, spreadsheet, or select a format based on the industry, organizational needs, stages, types of resources required, etc. There are also some pre-made templates available for each industry. Thus, after understanding the end goal and finalizing the template, one can define the project activities, resources, timelines, etc., to get a head start. 

4.2. Enlist all tasks & activities at every project phase

The second step is to create a Work Breakdown Structure that divides the project into logical functions or phases and tasks. Let’s take a simple, real-life example of a project to understand this better. For instance, the scope or the objective of a marketing campaign project is to increase lead generation. Accordingly, the content manager (project manager in this case) will enlist all the tasks and subtasks by different phases of a marketing project. 

Suppose the first phase is content creation- it includes tasks such as draft creation, editing, review work, & finalizing the content. The second phase is designing, covering tasks such as developing a campaign design (illustrations, videos, images, etc.). Finally, the project’s third phase tasks include setting up a marketing campaign, promoting the content, determining the target audience, choosing channels & running the ads.  

 What is Project Lifecycle

4.3. Estimate & categorize resources for all project activities

Now that the details of all the task categories are defined, you can seamlessly identify resource demands in terms of skills and numbers for every task.  For example, the manager will first identify requirements for human resources- one content writer and copywriter for framing copies and blogs of the campaign, one content editor to review and approve the content, one graphic designer to create illustrations for the guide and cover page, and two marketing executives to target the right audience, and run the campaign.  

Once you categorize the workforce, start with enlisting the second resource type, non-human resources such as software and tools the team would need to complete the project. It includes work management software, content management system, design tools like adobe, etc., social media marketing tools for campaign running, etc.  

4.4. Finalize & seek input from key project stakeholders

Another vital step before considering the RBS complete is to consult other executives, key stakeholders, or subject matter experts with relevant expertise and knowledge in the domain. It will help you make any updates or modifications to the RBS structure before implementation. It will also help get information about unwanted bottlenecks or potential risks ahead of the curve.  

Lastly, a manager can include the resource breakdown structure with other essential documents like WBS, scope documents and present them to key stakeholders. This will help the stakeholders understand the overall project and resource-based strategy and agree with the priorities. 

Who are Project Stakeholders?

5. How resource management solution can help you create a perfect RBS?

Forming an RBS takes you one step closer to seamless project resource management. To do it successfully, using a resource management tool is imperative. It gives you 360-degree visibility of all the resources across the organization. That way, managers can filter out resources based on types, function, skills, location, availability, experience, etc., in real-time and understand the gap even before the project initiates.  

After forming the RBS, managers can effectively plan, manage, and utilize the resources using the tool. Its automated resource requisition workflow allows you to estimate and initiate resource requests beforehand and avoid last-minute firefighting.  

Project Resource Management

6. Conclusion

Framing a perfect resource breakdown structure can effectively transform how you execute projects within the organization. The steps mentioned above will help you organize, schedule, and manage project resources at ease. This, in turn, will ensure that you complete the project within the timeline and budget, leading to enhanced profitability and client satisfaction.  

What template do you use to form an RBS? 

7. The Glossary

the glossary

8. The SAVIOM Solution

SAVIOM is the market leader in offering the most powerful and configurable solutions for managing enterprise resources efficiently and effectively. Having more than 20 years of experience, this Australian-based MNC has a global presence in over 50 countries. It is also popular with more than 100 customers and helps them achieve their business goals. SAVIOM also has products for project portfolio management, professional service automation, and workforce planning software which can be easily customized as per business requirements.

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Use resource breakdown structure and ascertain project success