Everything You Need to Know About Resource Breakdown Structure (RBS)

Resource management is one of the most important facets of building a successful business and delivering complete projects. It's a practice that includes deliberate planning and follow-through, as well as agility and flexibility to adapt to shifting environments and deal with schedule conflicts or bottlenecks

Good managers use RBS project management to ensure efficient allocation and management of resources to increase their chances of success. They create resource breakdown structures that help visualize, plan, and organize organizational resources.

While an RBS is most useful at the beginning of a project, it has benefits throughout a project’s development cycle. Precise, systematic RBS project management methods coordinate team collaborative processes and workflow from start to finish, encouraging sharing of resources and synchronization of projects to program-level execution. 

When done right and set into a system, a resource breakdown structure helps teams estimate scope, costs, and budgets, achieve more in less time, and maintain a consistent standard of quality output. 

What is a resource breakdown structure?

Now we have a picture of what resource breakdown structures do and how they help businesses succeed, let's get a clear definition of the term. What is a resource breakdown structure? What does it look like?

A resource breakdown structure, or RBS, is a list of resources needed to deliver a project. It comprises everything that costs money, including people, tools, materials, licenses, places, and time. 

Developing an RBS helps project or resource managers categorize available and required resources by function and type, minimizing risk and uncertainty and producing more successful outcomes.

What are the benefits of an RBS?

Drawing up an RBS before working on a new project brings many benefits. Apart from clarifying what you'll need and what you have, resource breakdown structures help to identify and group resources in a way that fosters the efficient implementation of resources throughout a project's development cycle. 

Other benefits of a resource breakdown structure include: 

  • A historical and predictive archive of resources allocated and used in completed projects 
  • Insights into the number of resources being used at any time during a project's development cycle
  • A culture of documentation, strong internal systems, and informed decision-making
  • Streamlined collaboration between cross-functional teams sharing resources
  • A single source of truth holding all information on available, assigned, and needed resources
  • Informative post-production analysis for future project planning
  • A higher end-product quality produced within budget
  • More accurate budgetary decisions for estimating total project cost
  • Easy identification of overlaps and gaps in organizational resources, project requirements, and team needs
  • A straightforward assessment of employee workload

Who creates a resource breakdown structure and when?

The project manager or resource manager creates the resource breakdown structure, typically with input from team members and leaders. An RBS must be put together by someone with access to critical, high-level project details such as the budget, teams, equipment, and software. 

The manager creates the RBS at the start of a new project during the planning stage. Resource estimates, allocation, and projections become more accurate as a project manager develops more resource breakdown structures for various projects. 

Once developed, the RBS should be distributed to project stakeholders so everyone is clear about the project and understands the costs and requirements.

Resource breakdown structure examples

To illustrate how useful the RBS can be, here’s a simple resource breakdown structure example. 

A content team aims to create and distribute a new email marketing guide to share information with subscribers. Before starting the project, the content manager (doubling as a project manager) puts together an RBS to ensure proper accountability and transparency regarding required project resources. 

To start, she categorizes the project needs into columns, including team, tools, time, and place, filling each column with the necessary resources. 

In the ‘team’ section, she details human resources needed to pull off this project:

  • Two content writers to tackle various sections of the guide
  • One content editor to review and approve the guide content
  • One graphic designer to create illustrations for the guide, as well as the cover page
  • One email marketing assistant to design the newsletter, segment and target the right email lists, and schedule the campaign to deliver at the right time

In the ‘tools’ section, she compiles the software and tools the team would need to complete the project, including:

  • Email marketing software
  • Work management software
  • Subscriptions to design tools like Adobe and Canva
  • Landing page software

Next, she moves to the ‘time’ section, where she estimates the total time needed by each team member to complete their tasks and deliver a satisfactory end-product. She estimates time for:

  • The content writers to deliver the first draft
  • The content editor to review
  • The designer to create illustrations
  • The publisher to compile it 
  • The email marketing assistant to share the finished guide

In the ‘place’ column, work location choices would differ depending on whether the content manager works with an in-person or remote team. In-person teams may need to book conference rooms for brainstorming, reviews, and update meetings. Remote teams are more likely to schedule recurring video conference meetings to collaborate and communicate progress on the project. 

This resource breakdown structure example shows just a few of the resource breakdown structure categories. Other categories can include equipment, licenses or certifications, materials, and facilities. Depending on your industry, it's important to consider and include all possible resources you need to complete your new projects.

Increase efficiency by turning successful RBS project management documents into resource breakdown structure templates that help you scope projects faster, keep your team on track, and manage stakeholder engagement

Note the resources you need most often and use data from older resource breakdown structures to create unique advantages and increased operational efficiency in your business.

In moments of doubt, remember the broad categories of team, tools, time, and place to make up the outline of a good RBS. Once you input your specific project needs in these categories, you're well on your way to creating and executing a solid project plan.

How to effectively create a resource breakdown structure

While there is no single fixed way to create a resource breakdown structure, you can follow specific guidelines to ensure your RBS includes all necessary materials and resources for your projects. 

You can choose to display your RBS as an RBS chart, spreadsheet, grid, or tree diagram. Regardless of your chosen method, the RBS must present an easy-to-read overview of the available and required resources to ensure successful project delivery. 

RBS requires estimates of required resources to complete a project. Therefore, clarifying your project's scope is essential. To create an efficient resource breakdown structure, here are a few steps to follow:

  1. Use a format familiar to you and your team, e.g., a spreadsheet, chart, or tree diagram 
    Start with the project's final deliverable
  2. Underneath the deliverable, create columns or sections for different resource types and categories, e.g., team, tools, time, and place
  3. Create a list of all tasks and activities that are vital to completing the project
  4. Compile a list of all resources needed in each resource category or type to complete each task in the project 
  5. Check schedules and availability of the required resources and decide if you will be working with external collaborators
  6. Before considering the RBS complete, ensure you share with and seek input from team leaders and key project stakeholders

How Wrike helps create RBS in project management

Breaking down your resources into an RBS is one crucial step closer to effective project management. Wrike helps you track all resources in a central location while maintaining communication and permission-level visibility into different aspects of your projects. 

Using Wrike to manage your resource breakdown structures makes planning and executing successful projects more efficient. Its versatile features allow you to track progress across multiple projects and teams, find overlaps in employee workload and resource allocation, and coordinate cross-departmental goals, whether working side by side or across various time zones.  

If you're ready to improve the way your organization accounts for and manages organizational resources, get started with a two-week free trial of Wrike today and simplify your resource planning process with detailed resource breakdown structures.

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