There are many important documents for project management, and one of them is a baseline. So what is a baseline in project management? Why should a project manager dedicate time to one?
What is a Baseline in Project Management
So what is a baseline in project management? A baseline in project management is also known as a project baseline, and it’s a clearly defined point in a project plan. So it’s used as a reference point to measure performance and progress against. The triple constraints of project management play into the project baseline. They make up the components of a project baseline. Project managers use scope, schedule, and cost to know the health of the project.
The project baseline is what project managers use to determine the overall health of a project. If a project is falling behind schedule, then using the project management triangle, there will be an effect on the cost and/or scope. It also means there is a change in the project baseline. Some changes are unavoidable; however, that means that changes to the project baseline are necessary. Even if changes are made to the original project baseline, the project manager must keep the initial project baseline to better understand the issues.
Benefits of a Project Baseline
Project baselines are a necessary part of project management. So a project manager will probably build some project baseline no matter what. However, when a project baseline is approved by all parties, it can be especially useful. The approved project baseline provides many benefits to the current project as well as future projects.
One of the biggest benefits to an approved project baseline is the improvement in estimating capabilities for the company. Approved project baselines, past project baselines, and documentation of changing project baselines can improve future baselines. Companies can use them to see which projects came under or over the baseline. From there they can make necessary changes.
Companies can also use the project baseline to calculate the earned value of a project. Earned value is a way to compare the actual performance of the project to the original project baseline. One of its great benefits is that project managers can use it to determine project trends and sometimes predict whether the project will have issues in the future.
Creating a Project Baseline
A common starting place for a project is determining the overall goals, responsibilities, and roles. Depending on whether you’re the general contractor or a trade contractor, that will be different. A general contractor is more likely to develop the overall project goals and then turn to the subcontractors to fill out the finer details for their specific section of a project.
Project managers can’t set a project baseline until they set scope, budget, and timeline. So a project manager must use the estimate and their expertise to establish a scope, budget, and schedule that will work for the project. Then they can break it down into completion periods to better judge the project against. The completion periods, percentages, or other units of measurement are the project baseline.
Revising Your Baseline
Most projects have changes to the schedule or scope of work. While project managers try to avoid this, unforeseen circumstances happen which cause changes. These changes can impact the project performance, resources, and especially the baseline. When this happens, project managers must change the baseline for the project. Because the way the current project is no longer matches the scenario for the original baseline.
Baseline revisions should only take place if the appropriate change process must take place. Project managers should only make changes to the baselines moving forward. When project managers change the entire baseline to fit the current time frame, it changes historical data. It also makes it more difficult to use old baselines and project performance data to make better estimates. Changing the entire project baseline alters the history of the agreement between trade contractors and general contractor and/or owner.
Project Baselines Help Project Managers Avoid These Problems
Not having a project baseline can be detrimental to a project. A project baseline helps project managers avoid these problems. Project baselines are helpful in avoiding inadequate resources. They are similar to plans and schedules; project managers can use them to get the right resources to the site on time. This, in turn, prevents schedule delays and other issues with resource issues.
Baselines are also a good way to enforce proper change management. Proper change management involves tracking and managing all changes and change orders. Project baselines are a great way to determine the outcome from those changes. A project manager should know what the original baselines were and what the expected outcome of the changes. From there they can determine if the changes were effective and if it is a good way to adjust the project. This data is especially important since it can be used to prevent similar issues in future projects.