6.2 Define Activities – A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), Fifth Edition

6.2 Define Activities

Define Activities is the process of identifying and documenting the specific actions to be performed to produce the project deliverables. The key benefit of this process is to break down work packages into activities that provide a basis for estimating, scheduling, executing, monitoring, and controlling the project work. The inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs of this process are depicted in Figure 6-5. Figure 6-6 depicts the data flow diagram of the process.

Implicit in this process are defining and planning the schedule activities such that the project objectives will be met. The Create WBS process identifies the deliverables at the lowest level in the WBS—the work package. Work packages are typically decomposed into smaller components called activities that represent the work effort required to complete the work package.

6.2.1. Define Activities: Inputs

6.2.1.1 Schedule Management Plan

Described in Section 6.1.3.1. A key input from the schedule management plan is the prescribed level of detail necessary to manage the work.

6.2.1.2 Scope Baseline

Described in Section 5.4.3.1. The project WBS, deliverables, constraints, and assumptions documented in the scope baseline are considered explicitly while defining activities.

6.2.1.3 Enterprise Environmental Factors

Described in Section 2.1.5. Enterprise environmental factors that influence the Define Activities process include, but are not limited to:

  • Organizational cultures and structure,
  • Published commercial information from commercial databases, and
  • Project management information system (PMIS).

6.2.1.4 Organizational Process Assets

Described in Section 2.1.4. The organizational process assets that can influence the Define Activities process include, but are not limited to:

  • Lessons learned knowledge base containing historical information regarding activity lists used by previous similar projects,
  • Standardized processes,
  • Templates that contain a standard activity list or a portion of an activity list from a previous project, and
  • Existing formal and informal activity planning-related policies, procedures, and guidelines, such as the scheduling methodology, that are considered in developing the activity definitions.

6.2.2. Define Activities: Tools and Techniques

6.2.2.1 Decomposition

Decomposition is a technique used for dividing and subdividing the project scope and project deliverables into smaller, more manageable parts. Activities represent the effort needed to complete a work package. The Define Activities process defines the final outputs as activities rather than deliverables, as done in the Create WBS process (Section 5.4).

The activity list, WBS, and WBS dictionary can be developed either sequentially or concurrently, with the WBS and WBS dictionary as the basis for development of the final activity list. Each work package within the WBS is decomposed into the activities required to produce the work package deliverables. Involving team members in the decomposition can lead to better and more accurate results.

6.2.2.2 Rolling Wave Planning

Rolling wave planning is an iterative planning technique in which the work to be accomplished in the near term is planned in detail, while the work in the future is planned at a higher level. It is a form of progressive elaboration. Therefore, work can exist at various levels of detail depending on where it is in the project life cycle. During early strategic planning, when information is less defined, work packages may be decomposed to the known level of detail. As more is known about the upcoming events in the near term, work packages can be decomposed into activities.

6.2.2.3 Expert Judgment

Project team members or other experts, who are experienced and skilled in developing detailed project scope statements, the WBS, and project schedules, can provide expertise in defining activities.

6.2.3. Define Activities: Outputs

6.2.3.1 Activity List

The activity list is a comprehensive list that includes all schedule activities required on the project. The activity list also includes the activity identifier and a scope of work description for each activity in sufficient detail to ensure that project team members understand what work is required to be completed. Each activity should have a unique title that describes its place in the schedule, even if that activity title is displayed outside the context of the project schedule.

6.2.3.2 Activity Attributes

Activities, distinct from milestones, have durations, during which the work of that activity is performed, and may have resources and costs associated with that work. Activity attributes extend the description of the activity by identifying the multiple components associated with each activity. The components for each activity evolve over time. During the initial stages of the project, they include the activity identifier (ID), WBS ID, and activity label or name, and when completed, may include activity codes, activity description, predecessor activities, successor activities, logical relationships, leads and lags (Section 6.3.2.3), resource requirements, imposed dates, constraints, and assumptions. Activity attributes can be used to identify the person responsible for executing the work, geographic area, or place where the work has to be performed, the project calendar the activity is assigned to, and activity type such as level of effort (often abbreviated as LOE), discrete effort, and apportioned effort. Activity attributes are used for schedule development and for selecting, ordering, and sorting the planned schedule activities in various ways within reports. The number of attributes varies by application area.

6.2.3.3 Milestone List

A milestone is a significant point or event in a project. A milestone list is a list identifying all project milestones and indicates whether the milestone is mandatory, such as those required by contract, or optional, such as those based upon historical information. Milestones are similar to regular schedule activities, with the same structure and attributes, but they have zero duration because milestones represent a moment in time.