South East Training - The Project Management Toolkit

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Allocating Work with Work Packages

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Now that you have a clear idea of what is required to bring the project in on time, to budget and to the required quality, you will need to communicate these requirements to the project team. The PID, the overall project plan and the first stage plan will help in this regard but it is likely that you will need to be more specific with the team when allocating work. For this purpose we use ‘work packages’.

Work Packages

The product breakdown structure is a useful tool for identifying and creating work packages. Each entry at level two represents a unit of work that can be described by a work package, used to inform a particular individual or function what is required. In the example we saw earlier, under ‘venue’ we had:

  • venue specification
  • venue selection
  • venue contract

It might be expedient to allocate ‘creation’ of these products to different members of the team depending on their skill and availability.

Team member one might draw up the specification, e.g. a venue within ten minutes walk of the railways station, capable of accommodating 250 delegates, available on the date required, offering catering, within the budgeted price range and so on. Here you would be utilizing the team member’s previous experience of organizing conference venues.

Team member two might be allocated the task of selecting a venue from those available. This might involve identifying possibilities through a web search, visiting those that seem to fit the specification and making a recommendation to the project manager.

Finally, the task of negotiating the contract might fall to the team member with the most experience of negotiation.

The ‘work package’ is used to inform the team member what is required, by when and how much resource, e.g. team, budget, personnel, they have available to complete the activity and produce the product.

A typical work package might include:

  • Date
  • Person to whom allocated
  • Description of the product
  • Processes/techniques to use (as appropriate)
  • Time/resources available for completion
  • References*
  • Interfaces
  • Quality requirements
  • Configuration management**
  • Programme/delivery date
  • Sign off arrangements
  • Authorisation

* References

With regard to references, these are the documents that provide additional information as to the nature of the required product. As an example, when allocating development of training materials that might consist of a programme, participant notes, instructions for practical exercises, tutor notes, visual aids and so on, then we would use as our references:

  • A contract (if the work was outsource - describing terms and conditions and the amount of remuneration for the work)
  • The project initiation document (including crucial information about who else is involved in the project, how this unit of work fits with other work being done and the controls being applied)
  • A design specification (describing the aims, objectives, content and methods to be used during the training event)
  • A design template (showing the developer what the finished product should look like).

In the example of the conference used earlier, references for the person negotiating the procurement of the venue might include:

  • The PID
  • The venue specification
  • Notes on the visit made by the person who selected the venue
  • The organization’s procurement procedures.

The work package, in effect, fulfils the role of a service level agreement (SLA) for a specific piece of work. It is an internal contract between the individual and the project team.

** Configuration Management

Configuration management is a term used to describe a process for establishing and maintaining consistency of a product's functional and physical attributes throughout its life. In practice this means making sure that the organisation maintains control over the various versions of documents and products to make sure they fit together properly. So, in the example of the training course development described above, you would want to ensure that the participant notes, tutor notes and visual aids all include the same topics in the same order. If a change is made to the participant notes, this should be reflected in the tutor notes and visual aids.