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How and When to Use an OBS

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 5/3/2011

Many project management professionals use a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). This article examines a similar approach to management, called Organizational Breakdown Structures.

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    OBS Basics

    An Organizational Breakdown Structure is an intermediate level of a different chart that many of you are already familiar with: The Work Breakdown Structure. The OBS displays organizational relationships and then uses them for assigning work to resources in a project.

    Like its originator, the OBS allows complex projects to be broken down, providing a more organized representation of the work to be completed. While the WBS is used to define the project during early stages of its cycle, the OBS provides an organizational structure for the project as it moves to completion. The hierarchical nature of the Organizational Breakdown Structure allows for the appropriate resources and responsibilities to be assigned.

     

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    When is it Used?

    An Organizational Breakdown Structure is used in complex projects and in conjunction with the Work Breakdown Structure. It is used whenever a WBS would be helpful. It allows an at-a-glance look at the organizational resources structured in a hierarchical manner. An OBS is helpful in:

    · Project Management

    · Workforce Management

    · Work Breakdown Strucutres

    · Having a visual reference of the resources for any project

    · Viewing costs by resource

    · Viewing responsibilities by resource

    An OBS is not task-focused. For visual representation of tasks within a project, a Work Breakdown Structure would be used.

     

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    How do you Create one?

    An OBS is created much in the same manner as a Work Breakdown Structure.

    1. Identify the organizational structure for the resources involved in the project, and draw this out. (Figure 1)

    2. Once the structure has been filled out, identify all team members. Assign each team member a position in the structure. (Figure 2)

    3. If there are extra positions that have not been filled, fill them now. If there are additional resources, assign those resources so that all resources and positions are accounted for.

    4. Be sure that the OBS is structured from the most responsible department and then by the performing departments at the lower levels. These lower levels are where the project responsibilities are matched up with the resource needed.

    Once both a Work Breakdown Structure and an Organizational Breakdown Structures have been created, a Responsibility Assignment Matrix can be created, giving a full accounting of tasks and responsible parties.

     

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    Images

    Figure 1Figure 2