Chapter 7 – Scheduling Resources and Budgets
An activity is a process of further breakdown of the work package elements of the work breakdown structures (WBS). It documents the specific activities needed to fulfill the deliverables detailed in the WBS. These activities are not the deliverables themselves but the individual units of work that must be completed to fulfill the deliverables. Activity definition uses everything we already know about the project to divide the work into activities that can be estimated. You might want to look at all the lessons learned from similar projects your company has done to get a good idea of what you need to do on the current one.
Expert judgment in the form of project team members with prior experience developing project scope statements and WBS can help you define activities. If you are asked to manage a project in a new domain, you might also use experts in that particular field to help define tasks so you can understand what activities are going to be involved. You may want to create an activity list and then have the expert review it and suggest changes. Alternatively, you could involve the expert from the very beginning and ask to have an activity definition conversation with him or her before even making your first draft of the list.
Sometimes you start a project without knowing a lot about the work that you’ll be doing later. Rolling-wave planning lets you plan and schedule only the portion that you know enough about to plan well. When you don’t know enough about a project, you can use placeholders for the unknown portions until you know more. These are extra items that are put at high levels in the WBS to allow you to plan for the unknown.