project baselines

The importance of project baselines cannot be overstated. If you’ve ever struggled to execute, complete, or manage a project you were given, it’s likely because you didn’t have a project baseline.

I’ll go over the project baselines in detail in this post.

What are Project Baselines?

A project baseline is a project management metric that measures how far a project has progressed. They are the approved project progress plans. Project baselines allow you to assess the project’s status and progress in terms of cost, schedule, and scope.

These baselines serve as a project’s benchmark and provide insight into its performance, allowing project managers to make appropriate process modifications as needed. Supervisors can use project baselines to analyze the efficiency of their projects.

The project baselines are also known as performance measurement baselines.

The Types of Project Baselines

Project baselines include three types of baseline: 

  1. Schedule Baseline
  2. Scope Baseline, and
  3. Cost Baseline

These three benchmarks are individually assessed, controlled, and monitored to ensure the project is on track. 

types of project baselines

Schedule Baseline

The project’s duration and the activities’ completion are the focus of a schedule baseline. The schedule can be managed by the project manager by keeping an eye on the critical path or milestones as described in the schedule management plan.

The total and free float of activities and network paths must be controlled if the project manager monitors the timetable through the critical path. They must keep an eye on the milestone attaining date on the timeline if the schedule is dependent on milestones.

Scope Baseline

The scope of the project determines how the project manager will finish the work. A project’s scope baseline addresses the “what” question. It establishes the project’s goal and directs how the project manager will accomplish the project.

The project scope statement, work breakdown structure, and WBS Dictionary make up the scope baseline.

Cost Baseline

A cost baseline is a project’s cost estimate. It considers the cost of all project tasks as well as the contingency reserve.

A project cost baseline lays out all of the resources that a project will need. Manpower, money, direct and indirect costs, and so on are all addressed. The project’s total cost is divided into categories. 

Example of Project Baselines

Assume you’ve been assigned an awareness campaign by your local hospital. The campaign’s goal is to raise health awareness and urge senior folks to have frequent exams. This would assist in preventing many illnesses from becoming worse, enhance community health, and increase hospital income.

The three project baselines would be

  1. Scope: Approach 200 new paid patients
  2. Schedule: Two months
  3. Cost: 1,500 USD

The process to develop baselines are as follows:

  • First, outline tasks that will ensure the audience reaches out and make them aware of their health risks and the importance of medical checkups — up to 200 new clients. Plan outreach methods for these patients such as door-to-door outreach, road walks, community events, etc.
  • Develop the timeline or schedule for the campaign. 
  • Create the schedule baseline and then budget.

How to Create the Ideal Project Baseline?

Creating an ideal project baseline is the first step to efficient project execution and successful completion.

The scope of work must be defined. The client will provide the full scope of work if you get the project through the contract, and it is a fixed-price contract.

However, if the project is in-house, the scope of work will be defined following consultation with stakeholders.

Define project objectives, deliverables, critical risks, milestones, assumptions, constraints, etc.

Afterward, create WBS and break down the work packages to the activity level so you can estimate activity duration and assign resources.

Your scope baseline is now complete.

Determine activity sequence, apply assumption and constraints and resource limitation and develop network diagram.

Now you can develop your schedule baseline.

You have already applied the resource and know the duration of each activity. Apply the cost and estimate the cost of each activity and sum them up, add contingency reserve and get the cost baseline.

Your cost baseline is ready.

Changes in Project Baselines

Project baselines are authorized project blueprints, and the project manager does not have the power to alter them. To make modifications to project baselines, they must go via an integrated change control system and obtain permission.

These are baselines for performance measurement, and they should be changed as needed.

When Should You Update a Project Baselines?

You can update project baselines in the following cases:

  1. When clients request a change in scope, you will raise a change and update the scope baseline. You can also update the scope baseline to avoid any risks that can greatly impact your project objectives.
  2. When any risks occur and use all schedule contingencies, you will need to raise the change request and update the schedule once the change request is approved. But, before raising the change request, see if you can compress the schedule using fast-tracking or crashing. If yes, you won’t raise a request to update the schedule.
  3. If you update the scope beeline or schedule baseline, you will need to update the cost baseline. Project baselines are connected, and changes in one baseline can cause changes in other baselines. 

Sometimes, governmental restrictions, new regulations, environmental hazards, and stakeholders can cause changes in project baselines.

How To Use Your Project Baseline

It’s just as important to use a project baseline as it is to create one. A project baseline can be helpful in a variety of situations.

Project baselines can be used to monitor and manage the project. Project baselines aid in the identification of emerging issues early in the project life cycle and the provision of relevant remedies.

The project baseline can be used to evaluate performance. Because the project baseline informs you about the project’s scope, activity length, expenses, and resource requirements, you can use this information to predict what an optimally functioning unit will look like. Units that aren’t operating well can be improved or replaced.

To avoid cost overruns, a project baseline might be used. A precise project baseline is necessary for effective financial management. Before resources are committed to project implementation, inflated expenses are evaluated and trimmed.

Project managers can utilize project baselines to create performance reports on their projects. It is easy to refer to the project baseline and provide a summary of the project’s operations when reporting because the project execution, resources, and schedules are already emphasized in project baselines.

Benefits of a Project Baseline

The benefits of having project baselines are as follows:

  • Project baseline consists of cost baseline, schedule baseline, and scope baseline. You can measure your status and know if you are ahead of schedule, behind schedule, under budget, over budget, etc. You will have better estimates of your project metrics.
  • You will have a planned performance and the actual performance. These help you compare the performance analysis, and you can provide your stakeholders with better performance assessment reports.
  • Project baselines can control and guide tools to carry out work and assign tasks to the project management team. The team will have an understanding of their roles and responsibilities, and the project will have fewer conflicts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why is it Important to Have a Baseline in Project Management?

A: There are many reasons why the project must have project baselines. 

Project baselines serve as a benchmark against which the project manager may measure the project’s current expenses, scope, and timeline. The project manager can monitor the progress of the project’s scope, budget, and schedule. They can take remedial measures to get the project back on track if they are performing poorly.

It also serves as a quality control metric for evaluating the performance of a project and the methods employed to complete it.

The project managers can perform earned value analysis using project baselines. With this study, you can see if you’re straying from the performance baselines, which gives you information on cost and schedule performance. You can predict and analyze future results.

Conclusion

Project baselines play an important part in project management, and the latter’s success is dependent on the former.

Before you begin your project, you must ensure that you have established baselines for it and that they have been accepted. It gives you project status, a foundation for measuring project progress, and the ability to forecast project performance.