Think of work packages as mini-projects within your larger project. They're the core building blocks (Legos, if you will) that work together to reach milestones, deadlines, and ultimately your finished product.
What makes Legos so great? Consistency. It doesn't matter which Lego sets you have; all the blocks fit together thanks to their consistent design.
What it’s like when your work packages work together to form the larger project.
When you plan your work packages, you need the same consistency. So, we went ahead and created a work package template you can copy, edit, and share for free.
Get started with this work package template.
What is a work package template?
A work package template is a document you can replicate to create consistent, comprehensive work packages. Depending on the complexity of your project, you might be planning a lot of work packages, so using something that's quick and easy to replicate, edit, and share will help you maintain your sanity.
Work packages are a key component to the work breakdown structure (WBS), which the project management bible,
"a deliverable-oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team to accomplish the project objectives and create the required deliverables."
In layman's terms, when you do WBS, you take your project and break it down into phases. Then, you
. Finally, you break those milestones down into work packages, which consist of related activities. Keep in mind that each WBS component may go by different names in your organization.
Each WBS component should have a label. You might label the first phase "1," then the first milestone "1.1," and the first work package as "1.1.1."
should conform to one central outcome, while its activities should consist of a verb leading to that outcome. If, for instance, the work package is to make lunch, its activities may be to toast the bread, cook the bacon, cut and season the tomato, layer in the lettuce, spread the mayo, and finally cut the sandwich into triangles (a.k.a., the best sandwich shape). Because they're tied to specific outcomes, each work package should have one person that owns the result of that outcome and its constituent activities.
In summary, a good work package template will take into account the larger WBS and the work package's relationship to other work packages, deliverables, and phases.
What’s included in a project work package template?
A good work package template provides more than just a place to list tasks and desired outcomes. It should be a collaborative source of truth that the whole team can reference and contribute to. Here are a few features to look out for:
Work package label
As we've covered above, each work package should have a label that corresponds with its place within the larger WBS structure. This label will indicate which phase or milestone the work package is a part of and where it sits within the overall workflow of the project.
Your team will often need to juggle multiple work packages at once, so your work package template should have a prioritization system. In our template, we have three levels: high, medium, and low.
Timeline and status
Work package templates should have an easy way to see when a work package should start, how long it will take to complete, and its status (e.g., open, in progress, done).
Projects that use WBS and work packages usually have large, multi-disciplinary teams. A good work package template will take this into account and provide opportunities for collaboration, such as space for comments, approval trackers, and clear roles and responsibilities. Our template allows you to define owners of work packages and activities, a section for feedback, and overall project information like project owner and when the work packages were edited last.
Each work package is made up of a group of related activities. The work package template should allow you to quickly create this list of activities and assign activity owners a short description of the activity and its assigned work package.
Finally, a good work package template will provide an easy way to visualize all this information without having to wade through endless spreadsheets and tables. Our template provides a Gantt chart visualization that can provide a quick reference for all project team members.
Why are work packages so important in project management?
Work packages are easy-to-understand components of a larger project that make complex project planning procedures much more manageable because you can treat work packages like mini-projects. You can plan your project bit by bit, package by package.
Easier scheduling and better estimates.
A project schedule is always difficult to manage, especially for large, complex projects. Work packages help manage project schedules because they are their own mini-projects with their own schedules.
By breaking down the larger project schedule into mini schedule "building blocks," you can move units of work around in accordance with the necessary timeline and get more accurate, realistic estimates for how long a phase or deliverable might take.
For example, each work package could live in a Gantt chart, providing an immediate visual overview of how the project will progress. This representation of the smallest denomination of work will help you manage and estimate project timelines.
Clear overview of deliverables.
should correlate with a specific deliverable. Once you define all work packages, then you'll essentially have a list of deliverables that are all tied to other related work packages, its milestone, and its phase.
Greater control of tasks and dependencies.
When you create a new work package, you bound a group of related activities into one package (surprise, surprise). This boundary can help you think through activity/task dependencies within the work package more clearly because you're just thinking about this specific set of tasks, not every task in the entire project.
Transparent communication with stakeholders.
Work packages are a simple unit of work that every
can easily wrap their heads around. Instead of having to think through an endless list of activities and tasks, each project team member can instead think about packages and deliverables.
A core component of transparent communication is the WBS dictionary, which defines each WBS component and is linked to from a central location,
Clear definitions about each component allow the entire project team, from the lowest level coordinator to the highest c-level exec, to collaborate with the same context on what they're collaborating on.
Get started with this work package template.
Copy this template and start using this work package template for free with your team. Once you copy this template, all the data you add to your various work packages and work package activities will be saved to your Coda account.
How to create a work breakdown structure with Coda's work package template.
Step 1: Add project details and work packages
page, you can customize the metadata about the project at the top of the page. You’ll see a section to add the project owner, project name, and more. This information is useful for your teammates and project stakeholders to understand what the project is all about.
Below this metadata are the main tables of this work package template. Clicking the
Add Work Package
button adds a new row to the
table where you can fill out details about the work package like
, and more. If a work package has specific activities you’d like associated with the work package, click the
Add Work Package Activity
button and select the associated work package in the
Step 2: View details about each work package
There are subpages within the
. You can add as many subpages as you want. These subpages give you the full detail about each individual work package.
For instance, if you go to the top of
, you can select the work package and the rest of the page gets filtered automatically. On this page, the
work package is selected. The detailed layout shows all the info associated with this work package as well as any work package activities (if any) at the bottom of the page.
Step 3: Visualize work packages on a gantt chart or timeline
Since each work package in the
table has a
, you can view the work packages on a timeline or gantt chart in the
page. This allows you to visualize the schedule of all your work packages in one place. As you change the dates or priority of each work package, you’ll see the gantt chart update as well.
Work package template FAQs
What is a work package in project management?
A work package is a group of related activities that, once completed, lead to a specific outcome. Work packages are the smallest component of a work breakdown structure and can be thought of as mini-projects with the larger project.
How often are work packages updated?
Work packages are updated
. Because they need to adapt to the realities of the ongoing project, you may need to change ownership, timelines, or its constituent activities. For this reason, you should prioritize using a document tool that's
What are the benefits of using work packages?
Work packages allow you to break down the larger project into mini-projects that are much more manageable. Altogether these mini-projects make it easier to:
Schedule and estimate timelines
Gain an overview of deliverables
Clearly communicate among project team members.