Difference Between WBS and Project Plan (With Table)

The term ‘project management tools’ refers to tools that help teams or individuals to organize and manage their tasks and projects better. These are not for the project managers alone. These tools provide various customizations that make them useful for all kinds of teams. They help in planning, collaborating, documenting, and evaluating the various projects at hand.

WBS vs Project Plan

The main difference between WBS and Project Plan is that WBS takes the whole project into account. On the other hand, the project plan takes into account a small part of the whole project. Essentially, WBS divides the project into small parts. For each of these parts, a project plan is made.

WBS stands for work breakdown structure. It forms the core of project planning and is used by project managers to divide the main project into smaller parts. In this, work is represented hierarchically and visually to understand the work at hand better. The project may be divided into partial projects, work packages, and deliverables.

The project plan gives a broad framework that acts as the basis of all further planning. It is a document made with a word processing tool and is formally approved. Its main use is for documenting planning assumptions and facilitating communication among various stakeholders of the project. It also contains illustrations to help in the visualization of the key aspects.

Comparison Table Between WBS and Project Plan

Parameters of Comparison


Project Plan


Deals with the entire project

Deals with the smaller parts of the project

Order of creation

Before the project gets approved

After the approval of the project

Purpose of creation

Shows the scale of the project and its cost

For setting a practical timetable for the creation of each part


It focuses on the whole budget.

It focuses on the cost for each part of the project to stay within budget

Kind of tool

Result-oriented tool

Action-oriented tool

What is WBS?

Work Breakdown Structure is a common productivity technique that helps in making the work at hand more approachable and manageable. It breaks the work into smaller parts and serves as a very useful project management document. It alone integrates cost, scope, and schedule for the whole project.

WBS is defined by the Project Management Institute (PMI) as the decomposition of work based on a hierarchy that is to be executed by the project handling team. It is of two types: 1. Deliverable-based and 2. Phase-based. The former is the most preferred approach and common too.

WBS decomposes the main project into partial projects, work packages, and deliverables. Work packages are part of the lowest level of planning that is assigned to individuals. Various work packages together form deliverables which in turn joins together to form partial projects that finally form the end project.

The main use of WBS is as a planning tool to help the team in planning and organizing the scope of the project with deliverables. It acts as a tool to monitor and control the project. Various software tools help in the successful creation of WBS. It is created before a project plan.

What is Project Plan?

A project plan defines in detail goals and objectives, the way of achieving them, resources needed, associated timelines, and budgets for completing the same. It also defines who will be responsible for a particular job. It usually comprises a resource list, risk plan, statement of work, and a project schedule.

It holds a very important role in the successful completion of any project. It contains all the necessary information and thus guides the project at every step. It also clearly states the duties and responsibilities of every stakeholder. It helps in getting clarity and ridding the project of any confusion that may arise in the future.

It contains the entire scope of the project covering deliverables, business needs and problems, objectives, and key achievements of the project. The main proponents of the project plan are as follows:

  • Objectives and goals
  • Scope
  • Approach
  • Cost plan
  • Resource plan
  • Projects and tasks of the project

It is the end product of all the planning efforts, covering in detail every small part of the project. A well-defined project plan helps in the successful completion and smooth execution of the project. Thus, a lot of time is spent by project managers on the same.

Main Differences Between WBS and Project Plan

  1. Work Breakdown Structure essentially deals with the project as a whole and decomposes the project into various small parts. On the other hand, the project plan gives comprehensive detail about each of these parts.
  2. WBS is created before a project plan. On the other hand, a project plan is always created after WBS is made and approved.
  3. WBS shows the scale and cost of the whole project whereas the project plan provides the scale and cost for every part of the project.
  4. WBS gives the budget for the entire project and the project plan helps in ensuring that each part adheres to the same.
  5. WBS is a result-oriented tool whereas a project plan is action-oriented.


Both WBS and the project plan help in giving a scientific approach for the successful completion of the project and making it cost-effective. These tools play a crucial role in the successful handling of the project. Though it is wrongly considered to be the same thing, there are distinct differences between the two.

In WBS, the goal of each section is to contain the component needed in the upper sections. In a project plan, each process needs to be done within a limited time frame and if it is not made correctly, then it has severe repercussions on the project. Essentially, the main focus of WBS results while the project plan deals with actions.


  • https://stumejournals.com/journals/sbs/2018/2/87
  • https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4615-0947-9_11