4 October 2010

Partitioning project work

If there is an integration cost associated with partitioning work (Staats, Milkman, Fox 2010) then it’s worth paying attention to the way we breakdown a project’s work.

There are two dominant paradigms that I know of and work with for breaking down work; the WBS and the Product Backlog (prioritised list) but there are also probably others.

Can you help me out by nominating alternate methods for breaking a project’s work down into estimable chunks?


  1. It is possible, although you have to know the content really well, to estimate by reviewing requirement complexity. This was how we gave higher-level estimates in one of my very first projects. We gave all requirements a 1 to 5 rating (1 being simple and 5 extremely complex) and then made arbitrary durations for each level of complexity.

    There were a few requirements that were thought to be more in the 6-10 range of complexity, so those received non-standard durations.

    Once we had all the estimated durations assigned, we totaled them up and divided by the number of resources available to find out total project duration.

  2. #BAOT #PMOT Estimating using complexity is great. But the question is at what level and how do you structure the parts?

    Another option option that has come to me is a "Product Breakdown Structure" (aka a functional decomposition of the product.)

    I also imagine many requirements specs group requirements by themes of various sorts (e.g. function clusters, business motivations etc.)

    No other comments so far so maybe people are short on ideas. I shall tweet it a bit.

  3. Ah, I thought you wanted conceptual, not concrete measures. Here is how we did it, using our 1-5 levels.

    Level 1 (1 day) = Changing labels, adding fields, etc.

    Level 2 (2-3 days) = Minor business logic adjustments. Layout changes.

    Level 3 (1 week) = Moderate business logic adjustments. Create a new screen (without business rules).

    Level 4 (2-3 weeks) = New screen (with business rules). Major business logic adjustments.

    Level 5 (4+ weeks) = New module with multiple, interrelated screens. System integrations.

    Make sense?