work package

Today we will discuss the work package and how it is useful in project schedule management. 

A work package is the smallest element of the Work Breakdown Structure.

You get a work package when you break down a deliverable to the point where it cannot be broken down further. A work package is a means to control and manage time and cost. 

Work packages are useful for reporting purposes. 

Let’s dive deeper and look at the work package in project management.

Work Package

work package

Since the work package is derived from the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), it would be best to understand the WBS first.

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a deliverable-based (or phase-based) breakdown of a project into smaller components.

To make work manageable, you break it down into smaller tasks.

WBS can have either of these two approaches:

  1. Deliverable Based Approach: Here, you define activities based on the project deliverable. 
  1. Phase-Based Approach: Here, you define activities based on the type of work for smooth project execution.

The deliverable-based approach is the preferred approach as it communicates the project progress from a client’s point of view.

The Work Breakdown Structure can be used for a variety of purposes. It is the basis of cost and schedule estimates and can be used as a control and monitoring tool in project management.

A WBS consists of:

  • Work Packages
  • Planning Packages
  • Control Accounts

Work Packages: Work Packages are the lowest levels of each branch of the Work Breakdown Structure. Work Packages include details about the deliverable’s owner, the durations, milestones, resources, and hazards, among other things. 

The WBS Dictionary describes this information.

Planning Packages: A Planning Package is a different form of a work package. After the project management plan is approved, its scope is defined, and Planning Packages provide the entire scope. 

With all the details in place, the Planning Packages turn into work packages.

Control Accounts: Control Accounts track and report progress. Project management information tools are used in collecting, analyzing, and reporting data for elements inside the Work Breakdown Structure to aid in reporting and monitoring.

Some benefits of WBS include:

  • It specifies tasks that need to be done to complete the project.
  • It allows quick schedule creation.
  • It helps you find potential risks in your project.
  • It gives a view of the whole scope.
  • It identifies communication points.
  • It can be used in assigning responsibilities.
  • It can display milestones and control points.
  • It ensures that all essential deliverables are included.
  • It is a proven strategy to dealing with planning in projects.
  • It allows for team collaboration and brainstorming.

Now we come to the topic at hand.

What is a Work Package?

In a Work Breakdown Structure, the smallest unit is referred to as a work package.

The deconstruction process continues until the deliverables are small enough to be classified as work packages. Work packages should be small enough to aid the project manager in estimating the cost and time of the project. Work packages can be planned, budgeted, tracked, and controlled.

After you complete all work packages, the project is completed.

Here are some key elements of a work package.

  • Objectives of the work package: The work package objectives describe the methodologies, activities, and analysis of the work package deliverables, outputs, and the project as a whole.
  • A description of activities: The project team must complete a series of actions to meet the work package goals. These actions should be described thoroughly, logically organized, with transparency. 
  • A timeline with checkpoints: All work package tasks must be provided in a realistic timeframe, including specific milestones and the work package’s start and completion dates.

The Advantages of Work Packages

Work packages give project managers more control over workloads.

Other advantages include:

  • Work packages allow numerous teams to work on different facets of a project at the same time. Each team completes the tasks assigned to them as part of the work package.
  • The whole project comes together with easy integration once the teams have completed their distinct work packages.
  • The cost estimates are consolidated at the work package level, where they are then measured, monitored, and controlled. 
  • You can calculate direct labor expenses, direct material costs, equipment costs, travel expenses, costs for contractual services, and other non-personal resources and indirect costs connected with all work packages.

Best Practices for Creating Work Packages

While developing work packages, keep the following things in mind:

  1. Have estimates. Note that your breakdowns should assist you in estimating project time and cost. Work packages ought to be adequately small so that cost and time estimates can be made.
  2. The project manager and team should be confident that the present amount of detail at the work package level offers sufficient information to move forward with the next steps.
  3. Assign roles and responsibilities. Work packages ought to be small enough to be allocated to one person or a tiny group of people that can be held responsible for the outcomes. This is also for reporting and management purposes. 
  4. Even though the 8/80 rule might vary from one project to another, most project managers agree that it can be used to assess a work package. According to this rule, no work package should be under 8 hours or longer than 80 hours. 
  5. In the Work Breakdown Structure hierarchy, work packages can be found at many levels. Project managers should avoid forcing their Work Breakdown Structure into a framework in which all work packages would be at the same level in the hierarchy.
  6. The work package should not be duplicated anywhere else in the Work Breakdown Structure; it should be unique.

Measuring Work Package Performance with Earned Value Management

Earned Value Management is a widely used performance evaluation metric to assess performance. It combines project cost, scope, and schedule metrics to help the project management team evaluate and track the project performance. 

Earned Value Management establishes and monitors three parameters for every work package: Planned Value, Earned Value, and Actual Cost

  • Planned Value (PV) is the authorized budget assigned to work to be accomplished for an activity or WBS component.
  • Earned Value (EV) is the value of work performed expressed in terms of the approved budget assigned to that work for an activity or WBS component.
  • Actual Cost (AC) is the total cost actually incurred in accomplishing work performed for an activity or WBS component.

Measuring Work Package Performance–Other Metrics

With these three parameters, you can measure the following performance metrics for the project:

I have written blog posts for these performance metrics. You can read the details after clicking each of the performance metrics given above.


Although the work package tasks and activities should flow automatically due to deconstructing the deliverable or project, they are organized around an engineering specialty or a structural division. Each work package in the Work Breakdown Structure should be unique. 

Work packages should be focused on the output, deliverable, or product rather than the activities that make it. 

Here is where this post on the work package ends.

Are you involved with creating work packages for your project? If yes, please share your experience through the comments section.