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What is a Work Package?

Smartpedia: A work package defines a work that is to be performed on a defined date and with a planned effort in the course of a project.

Work package as a service to be provided in a project

A work package defines a service that is to be performed in the course of a project on a defined date and with a planned effort. The term itself already indicates it: it is a package of work. Thus a work package can have an internal structure and be divided into smaller work steps. Since there is (or should always be) one responsible person per work package, the project management does not have to deal with all work steps, but can concentrate on larger planning units such as work packages or project phases.

According to PRINCE2, a work package is merely a kind of work order that the project manager places with a team leader. According to the PMBOK Guide, a work package is an element in the work breakdown structure that uses work to produce a deliverable that can be divided into tasks. The work can be performed by a single employee or a team.

The scope of a work package is not defined in principle. The 69901-5:2009-1 “Project management – Project management systems – Part 5 only says: “A work package is the smallest element of the work breakdown structure. It can’t be further subdivided and may lie on any level of subdivision. However, in the creation of a sequence plan a work package can be broken down into activities for better structuring, which are thereby related to each other”.

In theory, a work package could be completed in a few minutes or correspond to a subproject. It is therefore important for organisations and their projects to have a common understanding of the terms used: project, subproject, task, activity, sub-activity, work package, task, etc.

Characteristics of Work Packages

In principle, the following characteristics can be captured:

  • There is one employee responsible for each work package. Other employees can participate in the work package. This can be assigned via resource management and visualised using a Gantt chart, for example.
  • Even if a work package could theoretically be a subproject, it is usually planned in project phases. In principle, a work package is always assigned to a project, whereby a project can of course also include numerous work packages.
  • In terms of content, a work package must contain a clear work order, including a description of the task and the expected result, as well as the start date, end date, planned effort and, if necessary, a budget and planned costs.
  • The efforts made are documented by time recording. And, of course, the stage of completion and status information can also be recorded.
  • Similar to the project phases, it makes sense to plan the duration and scope of work packages relatively evenly.
    If there are relationships to other work results, there should be agreement on the interface used and the transfer of the work results.
  • Of course, changes or change requests in the course of a project can have an impact on work packages. It is advisable to document these effects.


Work Package - example of a template

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Here you will find additional information from our Smartpedia section:

Smartpedia: What is a Work Breakdown Structure?

What is a Work Breakdown Structure?

Smartpedia: How is the Stage of Completion determined?

How is the Stage of Completion determined?