Wednesday, April 3, 2013

How Do You Define Work Packages in MetaTeam?

What is a “work package”, and if it’s not from Amazon why should I care?

To answer that, let’s get technical.

According to the PMBOK, a project’s planned work is “contained within the lowest level WBS components, which are called work packages.”

Ok, but what is a WBS?  

A WBS is a work breakdown structure. It is a tree structure of decomposed deliverables.  Basically a WBS is a straightforward way of splitting up deliverables into manageable packages. Work packages.  

Here's a quick example. Say your deliverable is a fully setup copy of XMLSpy.  You can break that work down to four work packages:

  1. The computer, 
  2. The installer, 
  3. The license, and 
  4. The installed application. 
Obviously it’s a trivial example, but you get the idea.

Notice that I said package one is “the computer”, not “go ask IT for a computer”.

Why is that?  Well, the PMBOK goes on to say: “A work package… refers to work products or deliverables that are the result of effort and not to the effort itself.”

By now you’re probably asking yourself, what does this have to do with MetaTeam?

I’m glad you asked.  Read on for the low-down and a handy work packages cheat sheet! +

MetaTeam tracks work in a hierarchy that can easily be used to create a WBS.

Hold it!  Actually, that’s kind of backwards.  MetaTeam was built with a WBS at its core – but one that can be easily used for lightweight collaboration and other purposes.

For the sake of approachability MetaTeam uses the name “to-do list” by default. Don’t let that fool you.  MetaTeam’s todo-lists are work packages in disguise!

What Goes Into Specifying a Work Package?

A work package is a complete description of a deliverable. As planning progresses the work package will include more and more information about the means of delivering it.  

As you plan the activities that will complete the work package’s deliverable remember the 100% rule. The 100% rule says that the activities of a work package must be 100% of the work required to deliver the specified result.

Here are the basic elements of a work package, as we see it.  Obviously opinions will vary to some degree, but we think this is a good starting point.

The must haves: 
  • Name 
  • A detailed description
  • A complete set of dates
  • Assignees, if any

The part you fill in over time: 
  • Activities (tasks, call them what you will, but remember the 100% rule)
  • Requirements or completion criteria
  • A WBS code
  • A control account code, if needed
  • Aligned roles (instead of, or in addition to, the assigned individuals)
  • Required decisions or risks, if any
  • Associated files
  • Controlled vocabulary, if any
  • % complete
  • Logical dependency relationships
  • Other links to related work
  • Comments, notes and updates
  • Audit trail

How Does The Package Fit Together?

MetaTeam makes every part of a work package available in the Todos tab. You can also see the scheduling and assignment information in the Gantt chart.

This work packages cheat sheet gives an overview of where all the information goes.

When you click on the top nav Todos button your team's Todos tab opens. This is where your work packages live.  The initial view is a flat list of packages.

The packages have a hierarchical order that you can see and change in the Gantt.  In the Todos tab the order is in a simple list from top to bottom.  You can see just the tasks in a similar flat list in the Tasks tab.

In this screenshot you can see that we are looking at the top-level work package in the example Intranet Team.

We have the Site Design todo list open.  Remember that by default MetaTeam uses the name “todo list” for a work package.  You can change “todo list” to whatever name floats your boat.

You can see most of the goodness from here – name, description, all the dates, assignee, etc.

But for a fuller view with arrows and comments, open this PDF showing how to build a work package in MetaTeam.

Then once you have created your work packages, switch over to the Gantt view to drag and drop them into a hierarchical work breakdown structure. 

The Gantt chart also shows the activities of each work package, just as in dedicated scheduling tools.

Are you using Microsoft Project for its excellent scheduling engine?  Click back to the Todos tab and look at the bottom bar for the MS Project import and export links. Nothing easier!

I think you will agree; MetaTeam excels at work packages, as the work packages cheat sheet shows. It gives you an easy way to build comprehensive work packages, organize them into a hierarchical work breakdown structure and use them to structure your project information effectively.

Take a look at MetaTeam and compare it to your own requirements. And let us know what you think!

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