PSA – Work Breakdown Structure

This post is part of a series I’m creating connected with Project Service Automation (PSA) for Microsoft Dynamics 365. This time I will consider the work breakdown structure. (Or Gantt if you prefer.)

The work breakdown structure enables the project manager to create estimates for work and financial costs on a project at a task level. And then to track progress on the project against these tasks. This is achieved with a graphical view of the data commonly known as the Gantt chart. I have given an example of a work breakdown structure below. Anyone familiar with Microsoft Project will probably quite quick appreciate how the Gantt will operate.

It is true that the features available in PSA are probably less than those in Microsoft Project, having said that most of the key capabilities that Project Managers will routinely use are available. And as I have described in another post you can always export the chart into Microsoft Project and edit there if required. You can view that post here.

As you can see the project is made up of a number of tasks, many of which sub-tasks are grouped below their parent. Meaning there are effectively three basic types of task line.

Task Type Details
Project Root Node The project root node is your top-level project task, it is always displayed as the project name. All other project tasks are created under the Project Root Node. The start and end date are calculated based on the earliest and latest task times. And other columns, such as effort, are a sum of all the tasks in the project. The Project Root Node cannot be edited or deleted.
Summary Task A summary task has a grouping of other tasks below it. (These may be Leaf Nodes Tasks or other Summary Tasks.) Like the Project Root Node its attributes are derived as a sum of the tasks below it. Meaning its name can be edited but all scheduling properties such as start date or duration cannot be changes. Deleting a summary task will delete all of its tasks.
Leaf Node Task A Leaf Node Task is the most detailed task on the project, it is your “actual” task. And therefore, has an estimated effort, start date and so on. All of the attributes can be changed and will roll up to its associated summary task or project root node as required. Each Leaf Node can also be associated with resources.

In the toolbar was can use the ADD TASK option to create new tasks. The INDENT and OUTDENT options can be used to govern the tasks position in the hierarchy and therefore if it is a leaf node or a summary task. As a test I’ve added several tasks below, notice the WBS ID. It reflects not only the sequence of the tasks but also their position in the work breakdown structure hierarchy. So, a child task of task 2.5 will be 2.5.1. And a child task of 2.5.1 would be etc.

Move Up / Down

We can use the move up and move down buttons to adjust the position of tasks with the project plan. Notice that if you do this the WBS ID will automatically be changed to reflect its new position in the task hierarchy.

Automatic scheduling v manual schedule

By default, tasks will be classed as automatically scheduled. This means that as I enter the effort the end date will be calculated automatically. (Based on the working hours defined in the project’s calendar template.) However clicking the icon shown below will allow me to change the task to be manually scheduled. Then you will need to enter the start / end dates manually.

Automatic scheduling will front load the effort. To demonstrate this I created two tasks, one that was automatically scheduled and one that is manual. They both started on a Monday and were for 30 hours’ effort in a 40 hour week. With the automatic task the system gave me an end date of Thursday. With the amount of effort on Thursday being less hours. (As it was front loaded.) With the manual task I entered an end date of Friday. This will spread the effort evenly, meaning we’d plan 6 hours per day Monday to Friday.

The best way to see the impact of this front loading is to look at the Project estimate view and display the effort by day. (As I have shown below.)


Another feature of the work breakdown structure is the ability to define one (or more) predecessors. You can see below that I have entered the WBS ID for the predecessor on a task. Once you have done this you may need to click the REFRESH button to see the impact. After I’d refreshed the Gantt view you can see that the two tasks are now linked. The logic for predecessors is always to make the tasks start date immediately after the previous tasks end date. (Microsoft Project includes concepts of lag times and linking tasks based on start date rather than end date, if you need those types of options you may find manual scheduling will be required.)

Another way to set the predecessors is to select a task and drag the end of one task to the start of another.


I have already described in previous posts how we can assign roles to specific tasks. And then use the “GENERATE PROJECT TEAM” button to create a set of generic resources. We can then take the generic resource details and book actual resources as required.

Project Estimates View

As mentioned already, we have an alternate view of project information called the Project estimates view. You will find this in the navigation on the project.

The project estimates view is really useful to see the spread of “activity” on the project in terms of sales price, cost price or effort. Typically you will be using this view to see effort by resource role. And (if required) you can optionally use the CHOOSE COLUMNS button to additionally include the resource name.

As mentioned in my introduction, the work breakdown structure doesn’t offer as many features as Microsoft Project. But I hope you can see that the key features are available. I personally think having less features isn’t a problem, as generally speaking I like to keep my plans simple and PSA offers me all of the main features I need. J

5 thoughts on “PSA – Work Breakdown Structure

  1. Pingback: PSA – Complete Guide | Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Unified Service Desk

  2. Have you found a way to create a task and assign it less than 1 hour for effort hours? For example, can I assign a task as 30, or 15 min effort?


    • Great question and thanks for reading my blog.

      Everything I have seen (so far) is that the smallest unit of time is 1 hour. Often this will be acceptable. At my company, for example, we charge in half day blocks. But I guess that won’t work for all organisations.

      I guess you have tried entering .5 of an hour already????


  3. Hi,

    Have you ever encountered a situation where the returned Effort Hours is not correct? When I entered a Start Date and End Date (say to be completed on Monday, March 13 same day), the returned Effort Hours initially is 1. But when I changed the end date to March 14 and put it back to March 13, the returned value is now 7. In both, the value is incorrect as it should be 8 since the project’s calendar is a 5-day/8-hour work week (Monday to Friday).
    Now, selecting a Start Date and End Date falling on a day of the week other than Monday (Note: task is to be completed the same day), the returned Effort Hours is initially 1 but doing the same action as above, the calculated Effort Hours is now correct to be 8.


    • Interesting, I haven’t seen specifically this. What surprises me is that the effort defaults at all. As the duration and effort estimate could be quite different. I may have a task that starts on Monday and finishes on Friday. So 5 days duration but I have 1 days effort in that period.

      On my projects I have stuck to keeping all costs / prices / recording based in hours. As missing them seems confusing to me. Yet I have noticed that sometimes when I am creating estimate lines it still defaults to days. I am manually changing this to be hours. (I am doing this as early on I saw some problems with the calculations when I mix concepts hours and days.) It might be worth you checking everything is consistently using hours as the unit of measure.



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