How to create a product oriented work breakdown structure

I share this post!

Here I give you an example and the process to understand how to create a product oriented work breakdown structure,

I followed this process to create a work break down structure for a recommendation system.

This process is applicable to any kind of project.

How to create a product oriented work breakdown structure for a recommendation system

Iteration 0: the one-line request

I would consider the iteration 0 as the moment in which my steering requested something like this:

” We need to have a recommendation system, like Amazon or Netflix. Based on machine learning the system must understand when is the right moment to put a specific type or recommendation. And by the way, it must by omni-channel”.

With that level of information, the work breakdown structure looked like the one on the image below. Nothing to worry about. Good enough for now.

Iteration 1: The high level products

The next day, the business analyst and I started to talk with different business stakeholders. At the end of the day, we got enough information to know that our stakeholders were expecting:

  • The recommendation system in different channels
  • Reports
  • To understand the impacts in the governance of the organization
  • To ensure that the different business users learn how the recommendation system works

With that information, the product oriented work breakdown structure was updated as it is showed below:

Iteration 2: More clarity – concrete products to deliver

Our discovery journey continued.

Not always together, the business analyst and I talked with some SME’s, business stakeholders, application architects, our team, the business owner, the project sponsor and so on.

With the information collected we were able to know:

  • The channels to be considered
  • The places on the web that will include recommendations: Homepage, the blog and the product pages
  • The types of reports needed
  • The need to find a new solution provider. This been said: procurement

The updated work breakdown structure looks now like the one below:

How much time should the iteration 2 take?

It depends on several conditions like the availability of your stakeholders, other activities that are running in parallel, etc.

I would say that, considering meetings, documentation and validation, an iteration could take between one and three calendar weeks.

Iteration 3: Deeper understanding, identification of new products to deliver

After some interactions with business and technical stakeholder around the need of being omni-channel, we agreed on the need to have a centralised data system.

The data system must allow us to collect, store and reuse the data in the different channels.

Therefore, a new product in our work breakdown structure.

Iteration 4: Review and adapt

The business analyst continued interacting with different stakeholders.

Based on the insights extracted from the analysis of the business requirements and need, we continued refining our work breakdown structure adding additional products and gaining on granularity.

We were in conditions to add:

  • Sub products for the other channels
  • To understand the type of recommendations expected in the homepage
How to create a product oriented breakdown structure

Conclusions about how to create a product oriented work breakdown structure

  • Continue iterating adding additional products to the other elements of the work breakdown structure
  • Don’t wait to have the final version to create the user story map and to start feeding the backlog of the different impacted teams
  • Use the WBS to structure the planning, define priorities and plan the SCRUM sprints


The product oriented work breakdown structure is a must have to make the link between pmp and agile project management. I the article “PMP vs agile project management” I describe how to make the link.

I hope this helps you. And you? How do you create your product oriented work breakdown structure?

The work breakdown structure on this post might be applicable to any recommendation system. For reasons of confidenciality I am changing the context of the organization an the details of the deliverables.

If you need some help, don’t hesitate to contact me and share the type of project you are working on.

Cheers,

Falcon