The project baseline is the starting point of your project plan. Basically, the baseline in project management talks about the scope, initial cost, workflow and schedule of your projects.
Setting the project baseline should be done at the start of the project otherwise the project managers will not have a mechanism to make important measures along with the project execution. It works as a measure so that the project will not deviate from the plan.
The project baseline document will change whenever the project owner, team members or the client requests a change in the project process. Changing the baseline document will equip team members with the updated record for project change.
The baseline document is also referred to at the close of the project to see if the project followed the baseline specifications or if there are any discrepancies the project team should address. This baseline document will, in short, determine if the adjustments are required in the project or not.
If the project team decides to make changes to the project, they must consider the following:
- Quality benchmark, as quality increase the project cost.
- Project schedule, as making timeline adjustments increase the project completion time.
Importance of project baseline
The project baseline is important as it works as a reference point to compare and measure the progress of the project against the plan. This helps in measuring the performance of the project during the execution period.
Look at this example to understand the importance of baseline. Let’s assume that the project is set to complete in eight weeks and your baseline schedule says that the project will complete in six weeks. You will inform your team that there is a serious problem so that they can work more quickly to improve the progress.
If the project baseline becomes ineffective and not give the required importance then the following problems may arise, such as:
- Lack of adequate resources:
You may underestimate the number of resources required if your schedule is not well planned. This problem may arise when your project manager fails to estimate correctly how many workers will be required to make the job done. The project team may get demotivated along with the project execution phase when they are overburdened with the work.
- Delay in project schedule:
If you have not set the project baseline then your project schedule will cause delays because of lack of human resources, delayed product delivery and other such events affecting your project execution. The longer the delays in the project schedule, it will result in more project costs.
- An issue in monitoring the project’s progress:
How will you measure the progress when you have not defined the project baseline clearly? Project management tools like nTask will help get track of the project and makes it easy for you to identify the bottlenecks in your project.
- An issue in managing the project quality
More importantly, when your project scope is not well defined then this will have an inverse impact on your project deliverable’s quality.
- Lack of aligned change management
In the absence of a baseline, it is hard to keep track and organize change at any level. There will be no means of measurement otherwise, and you will face an issue when measuring the change estimates.
Components of Project Baseline
Usually, the project baseline has three components:
All these three project baselines are separately reported, controlled and monitored to check if they are on track. An issue Performance Measurement Baseline (PMB) when they are fully integrated. The performance measurement baseline gives you the capability to effectively manage and monitor how a change affects other components.
When the project baseline is integrated, the change in one component like change in schedule will increase the cost and project scope, likewise. Organizations face a hurdle to find a suitable tool to track the project baseline and integrate it fully.
You can use nTask, one of the best project management tools, with an awesome feature for managing projects from start to finish.
You need to make sure that the baseline should be fully controlled and documented. If you want to make changes in the baseline, it should be done by following proper change procedures like filling out the change request form and get it approved from the top management or client.
Important: Download the change request document here.
However, the changes should not be done frequently as it will disturb the project fully and result in project failure. Minor and occasional changes can be easily implemented without affecting the project goals. When you make frequent changes the project baseline will be made useless.
If you want to set a new baseline for the project then you should save the prior baselines and create the new baseline afterward so that you can keep a historical record.
Moreover, if your project baseline is not clear to all the stakeholders then it will result in project failure. It is of immense importance that all the stakeholders should support the baseline of the project.
Benefits of setting project baseline
There are three main benefits of setting a project baseline:
- Improved performance assessment: The project baseline provides a standard to measure the progress of the project. Not setting the project baseline will make it difficult to measure your key project metrics.
- Better project estimates: Setting the project baseline will give you the capability to estimate the project scope, schedule, costs, and benefits. This also tells you if the project has over-performed or under-performed. This estimate can give key figures to help you create the plan for your next project in setting a benchmark.
- Help in measuring the earned value of the project: The earned value gives you the ability to compare the planned project performance with the actual performance. It also equips you to get the trends and forecasts on the project discrepancies.
How to create a baseline for your project plan?
When you are given a new project, the project manager needs to make the project plan and includes the three major components of the project baseline.
- Create project scope baseline
The project scope baseline is one of the most important documents in your project plan. While creating a project scope baseline you will answer the following questions:
- What are your project deliverables, with key milestones and dependencies?
- What do you want to achieve from your project?
- What problem do you need to solve with your project?
- What are your project resources?
- Identify the work that needs to be done?
After you have answered the above questions, then you will develop a work breakdown structure so that bigger goals are defined with smaller achievable items.
- Create project cost baseline
In the project cost baseline, you will need to identify the cost that is expected to incur on your project. Try to estimate the cost of each task. Come up with a cost amount taken from the suppliers during your surveys and calculate the average wage rate that will be given to your workforce.
- Create a project schedule baseline
The project schedule baseline is dependent on your above two; cost and scope baselines. As your tasks and activities are identified in your project you will be creating the project schedule baseline.
First, identify the resources for all the tasks and create an estimate of how much time each task will require to be fully completed. Use these estimates to develop the schedule for the project and assign team members to each task by defining the activity timeframe. The start and end dates of the activities are important in the schedule baseline.
A kick-off meeting for the project
After you are all set and have fully prepared the project baseline, it’s time for the project kick-off meeting. You will need to meet with all the project stakeholders to buy-in their consent for the baseline approval.
In this meeting, you will require to explain your plan to all the stakeholders including your managers, team members, investors, and clients. Explain to them about the scope, cost and schedule baseline, and how it will help in measuring the progress of your project. Also, explain to the management of how the baseline variances will be catered in your metrics. If any stakeholder raises a concern you should update it on the project plan therein.
Check out this guide to learn more about kick-off meetings:
As it turns out:
The project baseline is a practice that can help to measure the project progress and keep the project on track by keeping your team motivated to achieve your project goals. You will overcome many problems and generate favorable results if you utilize the project baseline effectively.