Time Management Knowledge Area—Define Activities Process: A Closer Look

In my previous posts relating to the processes, I laid out the inputs, tools & techniques and outputs for all the 42 project management processes listed in the PMBOK® Guide in a general way.  I would like to go into more detail about all of these elements for the process 6.1 Define Activities in this post.

Fig. 1 Inputs, tools & techniques, and outputs of process 6.1 DEFINE ACTIVITIES

The inputs to the process 6.1 Define Activities are:

Input Explanation
1. Scope Baseline Remember that the “scope baseline” is shorthand for three separate things: the project scope statement, the WBS, and the WBS dictionary. These are outputs of the process 5.3 Create WBS.
2. Enterprise Environmental Factors The project management information system (Microsoft Project or whatever the organization chooses to use) is the software which which help manage the breakdown of work packages into activities, and the inclusion of milestones.
3. Organizational Process Assets These are policies and guidelines of the company with regards to the scheduling process.

The techniques of the process 6.1 Define Activities are

Technique Explanation
1. Decomposition This is the same technique used to create the WBS, but now carried down to the level of activities. The WBS goes down to the smallest level of deliverables possible, called a work package; the decomposition technique under the 6.1 Define Activities takes the process further down from work package
deliverables, and lists which activities need to be done to complete the work packages.
2. Rolling Wave Planning This is form of progressive elaboration. The near term deliverables are broken down into work packages, which then are further broken into activities in this process. The deliverables later on in the project are summarized in planning packages, which are then broken down as you get closer to that part of the project. It’s like laying down the tracks ahead of you while the train is moving.
3. Templates Why reinvent the wheel? If the project you are doing has similarities to other projects done in the past, use these as guides for creating activities lists for the work packages.
4. Expert judgment If you want to know how to get something done, ask the person who does it? In this sense, expert does not necessarily mean an SME, but someone who is expert at doing the work involved in the work package.

The outputs to the process are

Output Explanation
1. Activity List The list of activities should include enough detail for those doing the work to understand what they need to do.
2. Activity Attributes The WBS dictionary is a list of attributes of the work packages such as who is responsible, what resources are to be used to produce the deliverable, etc. The activity attributes are to the activities what the WBS dictionary is to the work packages, a list of attributes which gives details about the activities to be done. The activities themselves should be clear enough for the person doing them; the activity attributes are intended to be information for the project management team to help manage the work.
3. Milestone list There are two types of milestones: those imposed by the customer (by contract or otherwise) for external projects, and by the sponsor for internal projects. In addition to these external milestones, i.e., those imposed by those outside the project team, there are internal milestones that the project manager sets to aid him or her in the management of the project.

Thus the external milestones by the customer are geared more towards the needs of the customer, either in terms of reporting interim results or perhaps signalling the inspection of interim deliverables through the process 5.4 Verify Scope.

The internal milestones set by the project manager are geared towards the needs of monitoring and controlling the project schedule (process 6.6 Control Schedule) and/or project cost (process 7.3 Control Costs), or for reporting results to management (process 10.5 Report Performance).

The milestone list is added to the scope baseline and internal milestones may be added as part of Control Accounts, those portions of the WBS above the work package level, where the results of the work packages in the level below the Control Account are “added up” and analyzed.

Once the activities are listed as an output to process 6.1, they become the input to the next Time Knowledge Area process, 6.2 Sequence Activities, which involves the use of Network Diagrams. This will be the subject of the next post.

One Response

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