In my various interactions with the project management professionals,I found that many professional find it difficult to distinguish between Work Package and Planning Package, so I thought of writing an article on the topic.

Before I start talking about it, let’s first look at Work Break Down Structure:

PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition defines Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) as

“A hierarchical decomposition of the total scope of work to be carried out by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables. Each descending level of the WBS represents an increasingly detailed definition of the project work.”

WBS is an important component of scope baseline. WBS represents the total scope of work in hierarchical form. As we go down in hierarchy of WBS, each level represents a progressively detailed definition of project work.

For a successful project, the scope planning is very important as it provides the basis of further planning, monitoring & controlling and execution.

WBS defines all the project and product deliverables in hierarchical form and gives an idea about which activities are need to planned, monitored and from which agreed point of WBS, cost of these activities will be tracking in company accounting system.

Planning package and work package are the components of WBS; let’s have a detailed look at these elements of WBS:

PMBOK® Guide defines Planning and Work package as:

Planning Package- A work breakdown structure component below the control account with known work content but without detailed schedule activities.

Work Package- The work defined at the lowest level of the work breakdown structure for which cost and duration can be estimated and managed.

In order to understand the difference between Work Package and Planning Package, first we need to realize the concept of progressive elaboration of scope. A scope that is planned for the near term is available in detailed form and future work is planned in higher level.

As we move towards execution, quality and availability of information gets increased for the work, we had planned at higher level form.

So WBS is decomposed at different levels as per availability of information. When the decomposition of upper levels of WBS components to the level where duration and costs are estimated with reasonable degree of confidence is not possible, the further decomposition is performed when these details gets available and deliverables of these higher level components gets agreed.

So the lowest level of WBS is known as Work Package where decomposition is performed to the level where cost and duration could be estimated and represent a verifiable component of product, service or result.

While for the components where details are not clear to the extent to produce verifiable subcomponent of product, service or result, we leave the decomposition further. Here, we do know the work content but detailed schedule activities are not possible to recognize – This level of decomposition is known as Planning Package. At later point of time when things become clearer, the planning package may get decomposed in work package(s).

A planning package may be converted to a work package when the lowest-level details of the work are defined, budgeted, and scheduled. Individual work packages are the building blocks of all project deliverables and form the basis by which the project is monitored, measured, and assessed.

So Work Package and Planning Package are different if following ways:

Work PackagePlanning Package
It’s a lowest level element of work breakdown structure, further decomposition will not be done beyond this levelIt’s also a lowest element at a given point of time but at later stage it will get decomposed into work packages
Work packages are planned by way of identifying activities under them, they are the primary input to identify activities processPlanning Packages are decomposed into work package or they get converted into work package when we get more visibility of the work, planning package will not have activities under them

I hope this blog has sufficiently answered your all queries related to what are the basic differences between Work Package and Planning Package. Good Luck with your PMP® Certification Exam.

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