One of the questions I often get asked (even by project managers who should know better) is “What are Project Baselines?”.
My answer is always the same – “A copy of the estimates, estimates of dates, work, duration, and costs”
A project baseline is a copy of the estimates so that the estimates are not overwritten (and forgotten) when the plan changes. (And the plan will change!).
Actual progress can then be compared to the baselined (planned) progress, and corrective action taken.
The fundamental stages of monitoring a project can be defined as plan, baseline, monitor, and then control.
Without the baseline you will have nothing to compare progress to, neither will you be able to make corrective actions to get back to the original plan.
For a short project (up to 2-3 months) you may be able to complete the whole plan in detail, and baseline the whole plan. However, for a longer project, you won’t be able to plan 6, 9, or 12 months into the future with any great accuracy, and so you may choose to baseline an “Interim Plan” over the next 3 months work – or just baseline the next 3 month phase of the project.
So how do you do this in MS Project?
Baselines in MS Project
Firstly, a look at the statistics panel will show you if a baseline exists (File – Project Information – Statistics) or (Project Information from the Project Ribbon, and Statistics)
Secondly save a baseline using Project – Set Baseline, and this is where you can choose the ‘Entire Project’, or ‘Selected Tasks, or ‘Interim Plans’.
Notice that the Baseline fields are now populated.
Now you can start to track the project by entering actual start dates or percentage complete. The Tracking Gantt chart view is a great place to see the current plan against the baselined plan.
A Baseline is a copy of the estimates, usually taken when the planning is completed and before the project begins. A baseline is vital so that actual progress can be compared to the plan, and corrective actions taken.
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