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How to Organize Project Structure


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1) Basics of Project Structure organization:
Project Structure organization refers to arrangement of practical working processes at a project. A plan of the project structure is a basic artifact which predefines the framework for internal project communications that the project manager uses for assignment and controlling work packages and to keep continuous working relationships with the team members. The project structure is built from the elements called work packages which are particular subsets of work actions required to produce certain results.

Work package is a terminal element of the project structure, so in other words it cannot be further subdivided (the lowest level of the structure). Every work package is an enclosed element which is assignable to performer or a group of performers. Each work package is associated with certain deliverable or result; in fact it is a work plan to be completed in order to reach this result or to create certain product. The main requirements to work packages are:

  1. Specification: specific activities, specified deadline and costs, specified outcomes;
  2. Completeness: a complete scope of actions to attain the required result;
  3. Measurability: performance of a package needs to be objectively appraised;
  4. Responsibility: you need to have people responsible for execution and supervision;

What components are included into a work package? It usually includes the following items:

  • Name of the work package;
  • Actions included into the package (consequent or parallel steps needed to complete it);
  • Estimates on timing and budgeting of the work package;
  • Requirements on quality, objectives and performance standards;
  • Responsibility: who is assigned and who is a supervisor?
  • Problems: certain issues stand out to be resolved later;
  • Risks: their assessment and mitigation methods;

Principle of organization refers to a matter which you want to underlie the representation of the project work. A project structure can be organized in a function-oriented or object-oriented manner. In other words it can be focused whether on actions (or processes) or deliverables produced by these actions. Very often the mixture of these principles is used, and the lowest level of every structure is consisted of work packages that lead to accomplishing their parents (upper tasks and objectives that work packages have been boiled down from).

A direction of development includes top-down and bottom-up methods. The top-down technique is used when you deal with a typical project involving a well-know schema of project components, so you can start planning such a project with listing the major deliverables or project components and to develop it by drilling-down into them (decomposing them into underlying tasks) until you reach the beginning of the project and obtain a definite plan of completing these deliverables. The bottom-up method can be used on the projects involving certain portion of unknown content requiring fresh solutions and innovations. It is like making a new path through unexplored territory. It is connected with use of inventiveness, creative thinking, brainstorming, etc.

2) What to do to organize a Project Structure:

  1. Define the objectives to be reached with your project;
  2. Determine the tasks or deliverables underlining these objectives if possible;
  3. Select appropriate direction of development ( top-downor bottom-up method);
  4. Select whether function-oriented or object-oriented baseline for structure arrangement;
  5. If top-down method is selected, then break the project tasks or deliverables down into subtasks until obtaining convenient work packages which are not further subdivided;
  6. If bottom-up method is selected then assemble a team of experts and ask them to contribute into elaboration of steps and tasks residing on the path towards the project goals (arrange workshops to screen and share ideas, hold brainstorming sessions, etc);
  7. List the work packages (entitle them) and deliberate actions enclosed into them;
  8. Basing upon tasking, estimate time and costs;
  9. Establish requirements on quality and performance criteria/standards;
  10. Assign competent performers and supervisors to appropriate work packages;
  11. Identify unclear areas which can be clarified later when you will be approaching closer to them;
  12. Identify and asses risks, define necessary actions to mitigate them;

3) A simple way to organize a Project Structure with VIP Task Manager:

VIP Task Manager is a product that stands for collaboration between people in terms of projects and tasks, so it enables its users to share the project organization including project deliverables and embedded work packages comprising subtasks. Let’s consider simple step-by-step instructions to organize project structure using this product:

Instruments to be used:

  • Task Tree mode;
  • Task List mode;

Task Tree mode actions (creating a project structure):

  1. Create a set of task groups of the first level for the highest objectives and deliverables;
  2. Create sub-folders to represent embedded functions or underlying deliverables;
  3. Create the last line of sub-folders to represent work packages;
  4. Use “Resources” tabs of these task groups to assign a person (or persons) to work packages;
  5. Use “Watch List” tabs of these task groups to assign supervisors;
  6. Fill the task groups representing the work packages with practical tasks;
  7. Estimate timing of activities enclosed into each of the work packages;
  8. Input results of this estimation by setting up the Start and Finish dates of specific tasks;
  9. Use “Notes” tabs of the work packages and their underlying tasks to communicate information on risks and problems;
  10. Set up Permission to make sure everyone can access the assigned work packages;
  11. Control performance of tasks and parental work packages by monitoring progress and statusing;

Task List mode actions (reviewing and performing work packages):

  1. Use Filters by task groups to display tasks included into certain work packages;
  2. Observe sequence and timeframes of tasks;
  3. Report and control their statusing;
  4. If allowed by project ideology, set priorities to regulate your agenda;

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