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, estimating the number of skills and resources required to complete each task is essential. The resources also have a cost associated with them, so it is vital to identify the right resources to fulfill the project’s scope to 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.
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.
This blog explains what RBS stands for and how to create a perfect one using a resource management solution. Let’s begin:
1. What is RBS or resource breakdown structure?
In project management, the resource breakdown structure (RBS) is a systematic list of resources required to execute a 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 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 the same page and eliminate confusion around each resource’s roles and responsibilities.
2. RBS example in project management
For instance, an organization is launching new software and wants to create a marketing strategy to promote the product. Before starting, the project manager develops an RBS to ensure transparency regarding required project requirements. The manager will list the requirements, including the resources, the marketing collaterals (blogs, eBooks, social media posts, video scripts, emails, knowledge-based articles, etc.), the necessary tools, and timelines.
The human resources needed to start this project can be listed as follows:
- 3-4 content writers to create the various materials
- 2 content editors to review and approve the content
- Graphic designer to create illustrations for the guide, as well as the cover page
- Marketing manager to execute the marketing activities
- SEO specialist to conduct SEO-related activities
The tools required can include the following:
- Content management tools like Grammarly, keyword research tools, etc.
- Marketing tools
The timelines can be as follows:
- Content writers to deliver the first draft
- Content editor to review
- Submission of the content draft to the SEO team
- SEO specialist to submit the draft to the design team
- The designer creates illustrations
- The publisher compiles it
- The marketing manager to share the completed version
Now, let’s understand RBS’s significance in the project management realm.
3. 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 structures 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 the following:
A. Optimizes resource allocation
RBS provides a systematic breakdown of how to structure resources for various tasks in a project. This will enable managers to assign suitable project resources at the right time. Furthermore, RBS helps identify the required resources accurately by breaking down the project into smaller components. This ensures that resource allocations are based on precise requirements, avoiding overallocation or under allocation.
Moreover, the resource breakdown structure for projects enables managers to evaluate the availability of resources. They can identify potential constraints or shortages by mapping resource requirements against resource availability. This helps in planning resource allocation more effectively, considering factors such as resource availability, skills, certifications, and scheduling conflicts.
B. Enables effective project planning and scheduling
Resource breakdown structure helps organizations accurately create project plans and schedules by clearly defining the workforce required for each task. It allows managers to identify resource dependencies, critical paths, and bottlenecks and develop realistic timelines ensuring that project activities are appropriately structured, avoiding conflicts or resource shortages.
Furthermore, RBS enables organizations to estimate the quantity and quality of resources required for each task, making it easier for managers to assess the time, effort, and cost associated with each resource. In addition, the breakdown structure for projects enables managers to optimize schedules by adjusting task dependencies, reallocating resources, or redistributing workloads.
C. Ensures accurate cost estimation and budgeting
The resource breakdown structure, where the project is divided into various tasks, enables the project managers to estimate the costs associated with each task accurately. This helps develop total project budgets and facilitates cost control throughout the project lifecycle. Additionally, estimating the costs effectively enables better financial planning, preventing cost overruns.
RBS provides a framework for tracking and controlling the project budget. By comparing the estimated costs with those incurred during project execution, managers can monitor the budgeted costs against the actual expenditure. These insights will enable managers to identify budget variances and take proactive measures to effectively control and manage project costs.
D. Facilitates efficient resource management and tracking
RBS enables effective resource management, allowing managers to track and monitor workforce utilization. Having a clear overview of resource assignments and availability, they can identify underutilized or overutilized resources and take appropriate actions, such as reallocating resources or adjusting timelines. This helps in optimizing resource usage and improving overall project efficiency.
Resource breakdown structure enables organizations to evaluate the performance and productivity of the resources efficiently. By tracking resource allocation, utilization, and actual performance, project managers can assess the efficiency and effectiveness of resources. This evaluation helps identify improvement areas, recognize high-performing resources, and make informed decisions for future projects.
E. Improves communication and coordination
The RBS facilitates effective communication and coordination among project team members, stakeholders, and external partners. It ensures that everyone clearly understands resource needs, availability, and potential conflicts. In addition, it enhances collaboration by enabling informed decision-making, resolving resource-related issues, and ensuring that everyone is aligned on resource allocation.
Furthermore, resource breakdown structure assists in coordinating cross-functional team workflow from start to finish. Moreover, it helps resolve conflicts related to workforce allocation and utilization. By having a clear breakdown of resources and their allocation, project managers can identify resourcing challenges or shortages in advance and communicate and coordinate proactively to resolve conflicts, either by reallocating resources, adjusting schedules, or seeking alternative solutions.
F. Helps identify and manage risks proactively
The RBS helps identify potential resource constraints and risks early in the project. Managers can proactively address resource-related risks and plan mitigating actions by assessing resource dependencies and availability. This reduces resource shortages or conflicts and improves project resilience.
Moreover, the resource breakdown structure for the project allows managers to develop risk response plans for resource-related issues. Additionally, managers can create contingency plans to address resource bottlenecks, such as identifying backup resources or alternative approaches.
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.
4. 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 scope and deliverables into smaller, more 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.
5. Steps to effectively create a resource breakdown structure
Managers must meticulously follow specific disciplines to formulate a systematic, well-defined RBS. It can be described in a few steps given below:
A. Identify the project’s final deliverable & select a template
Before forming a project plan, a manager should be 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.
You can create a tree diagram, or 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.
B. Enlist all tasks & activities at every project phase
The second step is creating a Work Breakdown Structure that divides the project into logical functions, phases, and tasks. Let’s take a simple, real-life example of a project to understand this better. For instance, the scope or 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, including 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.
C. Estimate & categorize resources for all project activities
Now that the details of all the task categories are defined, you can seamlessly identify resource demands regarding 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, enlist 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, a content management system, design tools like Adobe, etc., and social media marketing tools for campaign running.
D. 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, and 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.
6. How can resource management solutions 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, in real-time, managers can filter out resources based on types, functions, skills, location, availability, experience, etc., 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.
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 with 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?
8. The Glossary
9. 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.