Product Breakdown Structure

PBS Software Made Easy!

This web page explains how to create a Product Breakdown Structure (PBS) using MindView. We show what a Product Breakdown Structure (PBS) is and how it can help in the organization and execution of a project.

Key Features for Developing a Product Breakdown Structure (PBS)

  1. What is PBS?
  2. Why choose MindView for PBS software?
  3. Creating a PBS
  4. Division of work in the PBS: The 100% Rule
  5. Entering costs to the PBS
  6. Different layouts
  7. Implementing a PBS
  8. Exporting to Microsoft Office applications


PBS Software in MindView

Screenshot of an sample Product Breakdown Structure (PBS).



What is a PBS?

A Product Breakdown Structure (PBS) is a product based planning method used to analyze, document and communicate the outcomes of a project. A formal PBS comes in the form of a hierarchy. Through this hierarchy, project planners can see a clear relationship between the different levels of a system under consideration.

Similar to the work breakdown structure, a PBS provides a detailed hierarchical structure of components that make up a project. These components can be the physical, functional, or conceptual pieces of a project. It is vital for a PBS to include all sections of a project in order to ensure that all aspects are considered.

A thorough PBS also provides a clear understanding of what the project is to deliver. Unlike the work breakdown structure (WBS), the product breakdown structure only includes the physical architecture of a product. The WBS, on the other hand, includes physical architecture of a product in addition to the data and service elements that are required in a project.

The PBS is often created as a foundation for the WBS. Entire projects can derail when project managers overlook a small component that should have been included in the PBS. This point represents the importance of a thorough, detailed product breakdown structure.

Consider our motorcycle design project in context of only outlining the parts needed which will define our PBS. We have decided that we want to have the large items, such as engine, frame and suspension to construct our motorcycle. We also need the required components to support these larger items we intend to build.

A Product Breakdown Structure can show you at a glance:

  • What the various elements of the project are
  • How the necessary physical items make the elements of the project
  • How the cost or budget is distributed between the elements of the project
  • How the larger elements of the project are subdivided into smaller ones

Why Choose MindView for PBS Software?

MindView is a highly effective way of brainstorming, developing and structuring ideas visually. Ideal for use by individuals, small teams or large groups, MindView generates mind maps which you can use in presentations, reports, web sites and more.

Mind Maps can be small and simple, like the one above showing a PBS, or large and complex. With a comprehensive range of export options to Microsoft® Office applications including Microsoft® Project, HTML and other formats, MindView is an effective and versatile concept development tool.

MindView allows you to add calculation fields to track cost or budget (for example), and it includes project management capabilities that allow you to create task lists and Gantt charts from your PBS.

MindView provides six interchangeable views (see below), enabling you to create a Product Breakdown Structure in a top down or left-to-right layout and then transfer information directly to the built-in Gantt chart.


product breakdown structure

Screenshot from MindView of the different views available.

To summarize, MindView provides:

  • A quick and easy way to brainstorm ideas into a logical structure: ideal for creating a PBS.
  • Different ways of viewing the PBS.
  • The ability to add numbers (costs, percentages) to your PBS.
  • Gantt functionality so that you can easily create a task list and schedule from the completed PBS.
  • The ability to export to Microsoft® Project or Excel.


Creating a PBS

To create a Product Breakdown Structure you start from the end product, or deliverable, in its entirety and work downwards to increasing levels of detail or work packages. MindView is ideal for this because it allows you to enter elements quickly and then arrange them into a structure that makes sense for your particular project. It’s an easy matter to rearrange things when you change your mind.

The steps in creating a typical PBS are:

  1. Define the project’s end product. This is usually no more than a title: “Motorcycle” for example. It forms the root of the Product Breakdown Structure document.

    PBS Step 1

  2. Define the main deliverables. These are the main components of the project’s end product, for example, for a motorcycle, engine, frame, and suspension. These become sections or ‘main branches’ under the root, defined in the previous step.

    PBS Step 1

  3. Break down the main deliverables into their sub-components using as many sub-branches as needed until you have manageable ‘units of work’ which do not need to be subdivided further.  Keeping in mind these sub-units are the physical make-ups of the deliverable.
    pbs product breakdown structure

    Example PBS: a real PBS will have more detail than this. Refer to the PBS at the top of this page.

  4. Finally you should have a structure with the root at one end and, furthest from the root, work packages. Taken together, the units of work make up the total work in the project, and there should be no overlap between them.

Division of work in the PBS: the 100% rule

Once the basic layout of the Product Breakdown Structure is complete, we add numbers to indicate the percentage of the total work that the various elements of the project represent. These percentage numbers are ideally added to the branches that are lowest in the hierarchy (furthest from the root), but if that proves too detailed they can be entered on intermediate branches.

The important thing is that they should add up to 100% at the root, which represents the work for the whole project.

Create a PBS in the MindView free trial.


Example PBS with work percentages, following the 100% rule.

Example PBS with work percentages, following the 100% rule.

Points to note in the example above:

  • MindView automatically totals the entered figures providing subtotals on intermediate branches (such as Seat and Headlight) and a grand total on the root.
  • The grand total on the root is 100%.


Entering costs to the PBS

You can add cost figures in much the same way as the work percentages. In the following example we have added a Budget field in the MindView PBS document:

Example PBS with work percentages and budget figures

Example PBS with work percentages, following the 100% rule.

Different layouts

A PBS displayed in MindView´s left-to-right view

A PBS displayed in MindView´s left-to-right view

Implementing a PBS

The main purpose of a PBS is to define the work packages, so you will need to add or remove elements as and when the scope of the project changes. Always make sure that the Work figure on the root branch is 100%. You can use the PBS to keep track of costs by adding figures for Budget and Actual as outlined above.

A PBS created with MindView also provides a good basis for preparing a task list and Gantt chart for use by project management. To do this:

  1. Using a copy of the PBS document you have created, you can easily add task and time information (resources, duration etc.) to the work package level by switching to MindView’ s project management mode.
  2. Once the task information is defined the PBS can easily be switched into the built-in Gantt Chart.
  3. In the Gantt chart, the user has the ability to define dependencies, constraint types, lag times etc.
  4. For more complicated projects an export to MS Project is available.


Exporting to Microsoft Office applications

You can export your PBS to Microsoft Excel or Word, choosing from many professionally designed templates for the export.

PBS exported from MindView to MS Excel

PBS exported from MindView to MS Excel

Gantt exported from MindView to MS Project

Gantt exported from MindView to MS Project


Learn more about MindView or download the demo.