6.1 Define Activities Process

The goal of the first Project Time Management Process Define Activities is to create the complete list of project activities, called the activity list, which itemizes all the tasks required to produce the work packages.

Defining activities is an iterative process performed together by the project manager and the project team member by further decomposing the WBS work packages.

Since the activity list and WBS can be looked upon as companion documents, each activity should have a unique identifier that correlates it to the WBS work package.

Though presented here as a discrete process, some level of activity definition will usually occur while the work breakdown structure is being created, and other planning processes are very likely to uncover additional activities which may require change requests to the project scope if the scope baseline is already in existence.

To identify activities, work packages are evaluated for how they can be broken down into manageable activities.

An adequate level of activity decomposition is generally reached when the activities:

  • Are assignable to one person.
  • Can have a level of effort determined by them.
  • Can have their resource needs to be estimated.
  • Can have their expected costs reasonably established.
  • Can have their progress determined and tracked.

A companion to the activity list is the activity attributes document.

The activity attributes document contains sufficient detail to fully describe the activity.

It includes supplemental information about the activities, such as explanations of any special dependencies or relationships that exist, assumptions that were made, a person responsible for the activity, special equipment or materials needed, or information specific to the activity that will vary depending upon the project's application area and the type of activity.

Activity attributes are to the activity list as what the WBS dictionary is to the WBS the two documents go hand in hand.

The activity attributes document will also identify the activity type. Activity types categorize how measurable the activity is and how it’s related to the project’s objectives.

Activity types are a discrete effort, level of effort (LOE), and apportioned effort (AE);

  1. A discrete effort activity is one whose work directly relates to a work package or deliverable on the work breakdown structure.
    These types of activities need to be measurable since they tie directly to the project’s core objectives. If the activity ties to the project’s objectives, and it can be measured then it’s a discrete effort.
    For instance, an activity consisting of binding a training manual could be measured and the training manual would be an identified deliverable in the WBS.
  2. A level of effort (or LOE) is usually an activity performed by a supporting role that is difficult to measure but is still related to the project’s core objectives.
    For example, a salesperson acting as a liaison between the customer and the project team would usually be performing LOE activities.
  3. An apportioned effort (or AE) activity is one which is usually related to project management – it’s necessary for the efficient functioning of the project, but it isn’t directly related to the project’s final product, service, or result.
Milestone Schedule

Milestone Schedule

Another important output of activity definition is the milestone list, which provides all significant events and dates on the project.

Milestones can be points at which major deliverables are completed, phases are reached, or other important dates.

On large projects, milestones can help keep everyone motivated, so the team may want to add its own milestones to the list.

Milestones also provide a very effective method for communicating the schedule progress to stakeholders.

The milestone list is a component of the project management plan.

Define Activities Processes

Define Activities Process Decomposition

Define Activities Process: inputs

  • Scope baseline
    The scope baseline is the approved project scope statement, WBS, and WBS dictionary. These define the deliverables and work packages, which are used to create the activity list.
  • Enterprise environmental factors
    Any of the many enterprise environmental factors and systems, such as the PMIS, that influence the project should be considered while defining the activities.
  • Organizational process assets
    Organizational process assets are the source of existing policies, processes, organizational data, and knowledge.
    These assets include the entire collection of formal and informal methodologies, policies, procedures, plans, and guidelines, as well as the organization's "knowledge base," which includes lessons learned from prior projects.

Define Activities Process: Tools and Techniques

  • Decomposition
    Decomposition breaks down larger items into manageable components. Work packages from the WBS are decomposed into the activities needed.
  • Rolling wave planning
    An iterative approach in which items not required immediately by the project are planned for later as the need for them draws closer. This means that future activities may only be decomposed at a relatively high level, but as the need for them draws near, further planning will take place.
  • Templates
    Activities and milestones from similar projects may be useful as a starting point for defining activities and milestones on a new project.
  • Expert judgment
    Expert judgment is based on the experience and knowledge of subject matter experts. Subject matter expertise in scheduling, scope statements, and WBS decomposition is needed for time management.

Define Activities Process: outputs

  • Activity list
    The activity list is the complete list of project activities that are needed to produce the work packages.
    Activities are decomposed from the WBS work packages. The activity list is a component of the project management plan.
  • Activity attributes
    The activity attributes document is a companion to the activity list. It provides sufficient detail to fully describe the activity, and any supplementary information about activity, such as its relationships, constraints, assumptions, dependencies, and responsible people.
  • Milestone list
     The milestone lists contain all project milestones regardless of whether they originated from the customer, enterprise, stakeholders, or the project team.
    The list also identifies whether each milestone is optional or mandatory.
    The milestone list is a component of the project management plan.

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