Project baseline is a simple but useful tool used by project managers for monitoring project progress. In this article, I will explain what project baseline is, and explore how it can be useful.

What is project baseline?

Project Baseline is a tool used to compare actual project performance with the decided upon values. Any variances in the project actuals are easily noticeable in the Gantt chart. 

At the start of every project, baselines are decided and implemented after discussion with clients and project managers. 

Project aspects like Cost, Schedule and Scope are necessary to evaluate the performance of a project at any given time. So, every project can be baselined as:

  • Cost Baseline
  • Schedule Baseline
  • Scope Baseline

Let’s try to understand the baselines one by one,

Cost Baseline:-
It is a total cost of the project or the approved budget of a project.

Schedule Baseline: –

It includes the start and end date of a project, along with the duration in which project needs to be completed. 

The grey area in the Gantt chart is the scheduled baseline of the project. If the project is on track the grey area will match the blue area.

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Scope Baseline:- 

Every project has to have certain outputs and Scope of the project includes all the deliverables of a project. Scope Baseline has three elements i.e Scope Statement, WBS and WBS dictionary.

WBS is a hierarchical decomposition of tasks in a project and WBS dictionary gives detailed information about the WBS.

All the three baselines when combined can be used for performance evaluation and is referred to as Performance Measurement Baseline (PMB).

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Example:- 

Let’s try to understand Project Baseline with an example.

You want to build a backyard and decide to hire a few people to do a job. You then decide on a budget, schedule and scope of the project. 
Suppose you are ready to spend an amount of $5000 and you are available for the initial 2 weeks of September.
Then $5000 is your Cost Baseline and initial 2 weeks of September is your Schedule Baseline. The Scope Baseline of the project will include deliverables of the project. 

How to Baseline a project?

Baselining a project is easy, tools like Celoxis lets you setup baselines without any hassle. You just have to select the project you want to baseline and click on setup baseline option. 

To know more about how to setup project baseline you can check out our article here.

Why do you need a Baseline?

The primary question is do you really need a baseline. And if you have one how beneficial would it is. To really understand these let’s look at the benefits. 
Performance Evaluation:- 
We track performance in every aspect of our life and performance tracking of a project is of key importance. 

Let’s say, your project is on track to be completed in a month. But the Scheduled baseline is 20 days. In this case, you need to speed up the tasks to avoid missing the deadline.

Comparing the actual progress with the baseline lets you see the deviation of the project actuals from the original baseline.

Not having a clear indication of the baseline to map whether the project is on the track creates a waterfall effect which results in uncontrolled project behaviour.

Conclusion : –

Often times, when the PM’s are working in a Controlled Environment, the deadline of a project, is very critical. To ensure the delivery of the project within scheduled time under the allotted budget is essential. Thus, Project baseline can be an important tool to achieve these targets.

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