Setting the Project Baseline

The project baseline represents your expectations for the project.  When you track actual project progress, you can use the baseline to compare your original plan for the project with the actual results. You can track which tasks started earlier or later than planned, exceeded their original budget, took longer than planned, and so on.  You may be able to use this information to prevent problems on future projects and make better time and budget estimates.

After you finish building your plan, but before you begin to execute it, you are ready to set a baseline.  After you save a baseline plan and begin updating your schedule, you may want to periodically save an interim plan. An interim plan is a snapshot of the evolving project plan at a time of your choice.  For example, on a project lasting longer than a year, you might decide to save an interim plan on a quarterly basis. This can be used either for your own information or for reporting purposes.

You can save up to ten (10) interim plans for each schedule.  Since interim plans contain start and finish dates only, they help you to compare changes in the scheduled dates of tasks. This is useful for analyzing the accuracy of your scheduling estimates and for determining when your schedule began to get off track.

Using PM Tools to Compare against the Baseline

Before a project is baselined, you have the current estimate for work, cost, start, finish, and duration.  But the baseline values for these fields remains blank until you capture a baseline, as noted in the following figure:

Figure 1.

Before baselining


Once you capture a baseline for your project in a PM software solution, the current estimate values for work, cost, start, finish, and duration are copied into the baseline fields.  In this way, you’re able to to set a foundation for comparing these values to the baseline as your project progresses.

Figure 2.

After baselining

Our next posts will cover how to set the baseline in Microsoft Project.