What Is A Resource Breakdown Structure And How To Create One?

7 min read

Success depends on managing resources efficiently. Whether it’s a construction project, product launch, or event planning, understanding and organizing your resources is key to achieving your project goals. 

This is where the resource breakdown structure (RBS) comes in. Think of an RBS as a map that helps project managers and teams see all the resources needed for a project. 

In this article, we’ll explore a resource breakdown structure, why it’s vital for project management, and how to create one effectively. 

Let’s start with its definition.

What is resource breakdown structure in project management?

RBS (resource breakdown structure) is a fundamental tool in project management that offers a structured and organized way to analyze, categorize, and visualize all the resources required for a project. It provides a clear and comprehensive view of the human and non-human resources that will be needed to complete a project successfully.

At its core, an RBS is like a hierarchical chart or diagram that breaks down a project’s resource requirements into smaller, more manageable components. These components can include:

  • Human resources: This category includes project personnel like managers, team members, and contractors, defining their roles, responsibilities (with RACI, for instance), and required expertise.
  • Material resources: Encompassing physical items such as construction materials, equipment, and supplies needed for the project.
  • Financial resources: Crucial project funding allocation, ensuring efficient financial resource usage.
  • Informational resources: Vital digital resources covering information systems, paid and free tools, databases, research, and knowledge needed for decision-making.
  • Time resources: Critical for project success, it includes time management, scheduling, and timelines for meeting milestones.

By creating an RBS, project managers and teams gain a holistic understanding of what’s needed to complete their project. It enhances communication and collaboration by providing a common resource planning and allocation framework, a way to avoid future resource constraints.

Additionally, a project management resource breakdown structure can adapt to the unique needs of each project, making it a flexible tool that can be customized to suit various industries and project types. Whether you’re managing a construction project, software development, marketing campaign, or any other endeavor, an RBS can be tailored to fit the specifics of your project.

Now that we understand what a resource breakdown structure in project management is, let’s dive into its primary purpose.

What is the objective of a resource breakdown structure?

A resource breakdown structure serves several critical purposes in project management. Understanding these purposes can explain why this tool is invaluable for effectively planning and executing projects. Let’s explore the key objectives and benefits of an RBS:

  • Resource visualization and clarity: An RBS provides a clear visual representation of project resources, reducing misunderstandings and ensuring everyone understands what’s required in the capacity planning stage and above.
  • Efficient resource allocation: It enables precise allocation of resources, ensuring the right people, budgets, and materials are allocated effectively to prevent shortages or overages (and set the baseline for resource optimization).
  • Risk management: Resource breakdown structure helps identify project risks by analyzing resources and allowing proactive mitigation, such as addressing skill shortages in advance.
  • Enhanced communication: The RBS fosters improved communication and collaboration among project stakeholders by providing a common language for discussing resource needs.
  • Cost control: It aids in managing project budgets by aligning resource allocation with the budget, ensuring financial resources are used wisely.
  • Tracking progress: During project execution, an RBS is a reference point for monitoring resource utilization, facilitating discrepancy detection and corrective actions (like resource leveling).
  • Adaptability: RBS can accommodate changing resource requirements, ensuring alignment with evolving project needs.

Having explored the purpose of a resource breakdown structure, let’s dive into how it operates in practice.

How does resource breakdown structure work?

Now that we’ve established what a resource breakdown structure is and why it’s essential, let’s dive into how it works and how to create one for your project:

  1. Define the project scope: Before creating an RBS, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your project’s scope, objectives, and deliverables. This ensures that the RBS accurately reflects the resource needs of the project.

Pro tip: Consider using AI tools to streamline mundane tasks. We’ve compiled an extensive list of ChatGPT prompts for project managers

  1. Identify resource categories: Determine the primary categories of resources relevant to your project. These may include human resources, material resources, financial resources, informational resources, and time resources. These categories form the top-level branches of your resource breakdown structure.
  2. Subdivide resource categories: Further subdivide resources into more specific components under each primary resource category. For example, under “Human Resources,” you might have subcategories like project managers, developers, designers, and administrative staff.
  3. Assign resources to subcategories: Populate each subcategory with the specific resources required for your project. For “Materials Resources,” you might list the types of materials needed, quantities, and suppliers.
  4. Specify resource details: Provide detailed information for each resource, such as roles, responsibilities, skill sets, cost estimates, and timeframes. This level of granularity helps in resource allocation and management.
  5. Create hierarchical relationships: Organize the resources hierarchically, with the most general categories at the top and increasingly specific subcategories as you move down the structure. This hierarchy visually represents the breakdown of resources.
  6. Align with WBS: Ensure alignment between the resource and work breakdown structures. Resources in the RBS should correspond to specific work packages and tasks in the WBS, facilitating resource allocation and tracking.
  7. Use visual tools: Consider using visual tools like Google Slides or Miro to create and maintain your RBS. Software solutions make updating and sharing the structure easier with your remote team.
  8. Review and refine: Regularly review your RBS as the project progresses or if resource requirements change. A resource breakdown structure should be a dynamic tool that adapts to project developments.
  9. Communicate and collaborate: Share the RBS with project stakeholders to ensure everyone knows resource needs and responsibilities. Use it as a reference point for discussions and decision-making.

Now that we’ve seen how a resource breakdown structure operates let’s uncover why it holds such significance.

Why is a resource breakdown structure important?

The resource breakdown structure is not just another tool in the project manager’s toolkit; it’s a pivotal element that can significantly impact the success of a project. Here are several compelling reasons why the RBS holds such importance in project management:

  • Clarity and transparency: RBS provides clear visibility into resource needs, reducing misunderstandings and ensuring alignment among team members.
  • Efficient resource allocation: It enables precise resource allocation, ensuring the right people, budgets, and materials are used effectively.
  • Proactive risk management: RBS aids in identifying potential risks and allows proactive mitigation strategies.
  • Enhanced communication: It fosters better communication and coordination among project stakeholders.
  • Cost control: RBS helps manage project budgets, ensuring wise financial resource utilization.
  • Progress monitoring: It is a reference for tracking resource utilization and project control with reports and dashboards.
  • Adaptability: RBS can adapt to changing project needs and priorities.

Understanding why a resource breakdown structure is important naturally leads us to explore who takes the lead in creating one.

Who is in charge of creating a resource breakdown structure?

Creating a resource breakdown structure is a crucial step in project planning, and it’s essential to understand who is responsible for this task. 

Creating an RBS typically falls on specific roles within the project management team. Let’s explore who is primarily in charge:

RolesResponsibility in resource breakdown structure
Project managerThe certified project manager leads RBS creation, collaborating with stakeholders, team members, and subject matter experts to ensure alignment with project goals.
Project team membersTeam members actively contribute their expertise to the RBS, assisting the project manager in defining resource categories, components, and details.
Subject matter expertsSMEs, when needed, provide specialized knowledge to ensure the accuracy and completeness of resource categories and details, enhancing the RBS’s quality.
Stakeholders and executivesWhile not directly responsible for RBS creation, stakeholders and executives play a vital role by reviewing and providing input to ensure alignment with project objectives and organizational goals.

Now that we know who creates an RBS, let’s explore some practical examples of resource breakdown structures in various contexts.

What are resource breakdown structure examples?

To better understand how RBS works, it’s helpful to explore some real-world resource breakdown structure examples that illustrate how this structured approach to resource management can be applied. Here are a few examples:

In construction, an RBS can be structured to categorize resources such as labor, equipment, materials, and subcontractors. For instance:

Construction project Resource Breakdown Structure

In software development, the RBS can help organize resources needed for coding, testing, and deployment:

Software development project Resource Breakdown Structure

For a marketing campaign, the RBS can be structured to outline the resources required for advertising, content creation, and promotion:

Marketing campaign Resource Breakdown Structure

When organizing an event, a resource breakdown structure can help manage resources for venue selection, logistics, and guest services:

Event planning Resource Breakdown Structure

If you need to create RBS frequently, it’s worth considering the creation of a resource breakdown structure template tailored to your specific domain, including the categories of resources you typically use.

After exploring resource breakdown structure examples, let’s dive into how project managers can create them effectively.

How can project managers create effective RBS?

Creating a resource breakdown structure can seem like a complex task, but it becomes a valuable asset in your project management toolkit with the right approach. Here are some practical tips to help you create an effective RBS:

  • Collaborate from the start: Involve key stakeholders, project team members, and subject matter experts early in the RBS creation process. Their input ensures that the structure accurately reflects resource needs.
  • Be specific and detailed: Provide as much detail as possible for each resource. Include information such as roles, responsibilities, skills, quantity, cost estimates, and timelines. The more specific your resource breakdown structure, the better it serves your resource management needs.
  • Standardize naming conventions: Develop consistent naming conventions for resource categories and subcategories. Clear and standardized labels make it easier for project team members to understand and use the RBS effectively.
  • Align with project management software: If your organization uses project management software, integrate your RBS with these tools. This streamlines resource allocation, project monitoring, and reporting.

Pro tip: If you’re searching for optimal project management software, we have a comprehensive guide to assist you.

  • Communicate the RBS: Share the RBS with your project team and stakeholders. Resource planning, allocation, and decision-making should be a reference point.
  • Monitor resource utilization: During project execution, continuously monitor resource utilization and workload against the RBS. Identify any discrepancies and take corrective actions to keep the project on track.
  • Adapt as necessary: Be flexible and willing to adjust the RBS as the project evolves. This adaptability is key to maintaining alignment with changing project requirements.
  • Learn from experience: After completing a project, assess how well the RBS served its purpose. Use lessons learned to refine your approach for future projects.
  • Establish a resource management process: Implement a resource management process that integrates the resource breakdown structure into project planning, execution, and monitoring. This ensures that the RBS serves as a dynamic resource management tool.
  • Leverage resource management software: Consider using dedicated resource management software like PPM Express. It offers comprehensive features for creating, managing, and optimizing RBS structures, streamlining resource allocation, and providing real-time visibility into project resource utilization.

For a comprehensive resource management solution tailored to project managers’ needs, try PPM Express. With PPM Express, you can create, manage, and optimize resource breakdown structures, allocate resources efficiently, and gain real-time insights into your project’s resource utilization. 

Take control of your project’s success today by exploring PPM Express!

What Is A Resource Breakdown Structure And How To Create One?
Scroll to top