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Cornelius Fichtner: The Work Package explained

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The concept of a work package can be a difficult one for some people. In project management, a work package is defined as the effort required to produce a deliverable within a project. This effort may be a single task or it could be several related tasks. Many people think of a work package as a sort of “mini project” within a larger project. When all of the individual work packages within a larger project are completed, the overall project is done.
Each step within a work package includes the steps needed for completion along with a deadline for each step. This helps the project manager ensure the overall project remains on schedule. The benefit of using work packages is that it allows many different pieces of the overall project to be worked on at the same time, usually by different groups of people. The team assigned to each work package completes their tasks and then the individual packages all merge together seamlessly at the end.

Each work package typically has someone assigned to oversee it. This could be a supervisor, a team leader or may just be the team member who was designated as the leader. Work packages are typically at the very bottom level of the overall process of project management.

A work package has many of the same components of a project. They have deadlines, schedules, include cost estimations and they are monitored. The work package should be thought of in terms of the results or deliverables of the package and not just the effort that is involved in obtaining them.

In order to create a work package, some of the main deliverables of the overall project have to be decomposed to the next level to identify the smaller work package. Depending upon the deliverables of the work package, this may need to be decomposed and separated into further work packages. However, you must remember not to go too deeply into this. If you create work packages that are not really necessary, it could lead to poor use of resources and inefficiency.

The “work package” term is discussed in the PMBOK guide in sections 3.4.11 through 7.4.4 (4th edition).

Until next time,
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP

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