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Topics: Schedule Management, Scheduling, Work Breakdown Structures (WBS)
Work Breakdown Structure numbering

With your work breakdown structures, which numbering convention do you use:
1 is the very top level ("the project") so everything on the WBS starts with 1.something.
0 is the very top level, and the first level is 1, 2, 3 etc so the WBS has items called 1.3, 2.5, 3.1 etc.

I have always used the second option, and had 1, 2, 3, as the main components. But our new software tool only lets us use 1.x and now I have some tasks called etc. I think it's confusing to have everything starting with 1 - I don't see the point of it, you might as well drop the 1.

A quick Google shows that there are images of WBS using both systems for numbering. Is there a definitive, best practice approach?

This is hard to explain without a graphic, but hopefully you understand what I mean!
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While it seems cumbersome to put a number on the project level with only one element, it nevertheless gives an ID to that level in the 'code of accounts' (PMBoK). If you replace this ID 1 with a project ID, you might use a big data base with work packages and have a unique identifier across the portfolio.
Nevertheless, I would expect a software package to give me a choice.

I use Second option. Project Name ( Project saved as name " New Software")at TOP most Row is 0 . Tasks at First level are represented by 1 ,2 and 3 etc. Sub tasks are represented 1.1 , 1.2 , 2.1, 2.2 ,2.3 ,3.1 etc.

This is the way we use:
1 tarea uno
1.1 tarea dos
1.1.1 tarea tres
2 tarea cuatro
2.1 tarea cinco
3 tarea seis
4 tarea siete

Elizabeth -

I agree - numbering the top most node (the project) is pointless. I find it more useful to start numbering with the deliverables at the top-most level of the WBS but as you said, some software tools aren't flexible enough to permit WBS ID customization.


At the moment we are "stuck" using MS Project. Our WBS is as follows:

1.0 - Project (Name)
1.1 - Identification Phase
1.2 - Options Analysis Phase
1.3 - Definition Phase
1.4 - Implementation Phase
1.5 - Close Out Phase

Presently, each phase is structured as follows:

1.1.1 - Project Management
1.1.2 - Project Approval
1.1.3 - Operational Requirements
1.1.4 - Procurement Documents
1.1.5 - Engineering and Support Documents

Lowest level for activities is as an example: I just got WBS Schedule Pro and am still figuring it out as we are in the process of developing a "corporate" (75% solution) WBS for all of our projects. Hope this adds some insight.

I saw a bunch of different methods. generally, similar to what MSP or Primavera do.

If your WBS fits into a program/product family like a line of cars, then the first digit of the WBS can describe which product and it doesn't always start with 1. In manufacturing, the WBS often directly correlates to the configuration control numbering system, and when you see any part number, you can identify which product it comes from based on the digit corresponding to the top WBS level.

Thanks for the helpful comments, everyone. It looks like we might be stuck with it. I think the software we are using is "modelled" on MSP, so ours is working like @Steve describes MS Project doing.


I would use a custom field to make the project WBS you required. You should be able to customize most report or display to show that field instead of the built-in field.

Dear Elizabeth:
I agree with the numbering convention you use for WBS, it's the one I prefer. The other way I also find it confusing.
The new software tool that you now have, should allow numbering starting with 0 and you may not have discovered it. But I think it's a matter of getting used to the new way. Perhaps it is possible to request the developer of the software, which allows numbering 0 for the top level of the WBS.
The software developer did not manage those numbering requirements.
Adaptation to change is the key.
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