project baseline

Project Baseline: Learn How to Measure the Performance of a Project

4 min. read

Project baseline refers to a snapshot of the project taken at a certain time. For instance, a project baseline is taken once the project planning process is finished, and later. The objective of the baseline is seeing how far the actual results deviated from the plans. So these plans are compared to the project baseline. Or if a change request is approved, impacts to the cost, schedule etc. are revised in the plans and then a new baseline is taken. There are different kinds of baseline in a project as explained in PMP training course.

What is Performance Measurement Baseline?

Performance measurement baseline is constituted with three different baselines as seen in the figure below.

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The first one is Scope Baseline and it includes:

  • Project scope statement which includes the work that will be done throughout the project and requirements of the work as well.
  • Work Breakdown Structure shows the hierarchy of the activities, components, and work packages that will help to complete the overall project work. For instance, consider the airplane manufacturing project. Audio system, multimedia systems etc. are parts of the entertainment system which is a work package. Other systems like avionic systems, communication system work package all together constitute the completion of an airplane manufacturing project.
  • WBS dictionary provides detailed information about the items in the WBS.

Schedule Baseline describes the agreed on the schedule of the project. Schedule baseline includes start and end dates of each activity. It provides milestones in the project and also the duration of the project and completion date of the project can be checked from the schedule baseline.

Cost Baseline: It provides time-phased cost budget. The amount of money that will be spent throughout the project is detailed with the dates that payments will take place and amount that will be paid. Based on this baseline, the company arranges it funding for the project respectively.

You can find further details about baselines if you enroll in a PMI certification training.

What are the Duties of the Project Manager with the Baseline?

The project manager must look into deviations from the baseline when work is being done. Because after the planning process is completed, this plan is agreed on by all stakeholders and everybody expects that actual results will be as planned during planning. The role of the project manager is to check during project execution whether there is any variance from the cost baseline, schedule baseline or scope baseline. If there is a risk that will cause to exceed project budget, or if there is a risk that will cause project delay, corrective and preventive actions that will impact the project should be taken.

When the Changes Should Occur in the Project Baseline?

The baseline can be changed but it should not be so easy. Because each baseline is for checking how well you could reach to your plans. If a baseline changes too frequently, deviations or variance from the initial planning will be deceptive. Therefore, in the real-world, a project baseline is generally changed only if there is an approved change request or with the acknowledgment of the project sponsor.

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Changes to the baseline can be formally requested during Executing Process Group or project monitoring and control process group. Project baseline updates cannot be done easily once they are tied and agreed by the stakeholders. Because a baseline will be the reference point to check project performance. So, changing this reference point will cause misleading performance measurements. Therefore, a baseline is updated with an official request and with the approval of the project sponsor or customer. 

Changes are evaluated and approved through the Perform Integrated Change Control process of the project integration managementChanges are evaluated by the change control board with its impacts to the project. If a change is approved by the change control board, then impacts of the change are revised in the project plans first, and then the change is implemented. Lectures about change management can be found in CAPM courses as well.

Deviations from the project baseline are often due to incomplete risk identification and risk management. If there is a deviation from the baseline, for instance, if the cost of an activity or item is exceeding the planned values, or if an activity or work package is taking longer than the planned duration, then there might have been an unanticipated work or impact. This is mainly because of improper risk identification and risk management.

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