User Manual Planning WBS and Schedule


Quick Summary
As any technical writer can tell you, there's no such thing as "just" writing a user manual. This work breakdown in MS Project format includes notes on task estimates and resource allocation, and incorporates cross-functional tasks you could easily overlook.


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What this is

This Microsoft Project file for developing and writing a software user manual includes a work breakdown structure, general scheduling and dependencies, resource allocation, and even beginning leveling information. The WBS runs from conceptualization to final editing and manuscript delivery. Technical writers in other venues (like online help systems or even training material development) could also use this as a base plan, by making changes for appropriate work packages and requirements.


Why it's useful

When you're developing a user manual for a new software package, it can be reassuring to see the estimates and resource allocations others used in similar situations. Aside from the sanity check, it provides a good baseline for your own planning and scheduling efforts, especially when the labyrinthine task is relegated to a single "Write Manual" milestone in the larger project plan. The example in this file won't be an appropriate WBS for every situation, but it provides a good foundation.

In addition, this example provides some real-world resource allocation and reminders of important but often-overlooked tasks. Notes and comments include specific assumptions used to develop the estimates (X number of pages in Y days, for example), which is extremely useful to an inexperienced project team. Duration estimates and preliminary, role-based leveling information is also included. If you've ever been put in charge of this supposedly simple project, or if you just want to get a high-level view of what might be required before you assign it to someone, this file will provide a great example.


How to use it

This guideline has useful information for a wide variety of situations:

  1. Open the companion Microsoft Project schedule file (in the zip file), then save it to your hard drive. NOTE: You must have Microsoft Project or a Project file reader installed on your computer to view the schedule file.
  2. Review its WBS structure, resource allocation, estimates, etc. for ideas on the work breakdown and scheduling for your own small business launch.
  3. Edit it to create your own template if desired.


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