What is Project baseline?
Project baselines are created during the initiation/planning phases of a project. They are included in the original plans agreed for the project by parties with a stake hold in it (including the project team). The Project Manager and project sponsor must both normally approve project baselines.
The type and size of a project determines what baselines are set. Baselines include those related to the original scope of work, its projected cost and delivery schedule, the quality required of the final outcome, the benefits sought by the project and so on. Typical baselines would be the project’s projected start and finish dates, the estimated number of man hours required to complete it, and the estimates of project costs and revenue.
Project baselines provide a fixed basis against which managers can compare aspects of a project’s progress. They serve both to control what is done (e.g. setting boundaries for the scope of work) and to measure performance. For example, they can be used as part of Earned Value Management (EVM) calculation, and to improve estimations for comparable projects in the future. For this reason, project baselines should be as accurate as possible. Those setting them should rely on relevant estimation techniques. (See the topic on ‘Estimation techniques’ for more information.)
Plans do change during the course of a project’s delivery. A stakeholder may request, and have approved, a small change to the scope of work. Cost estimates for certain project components may change slightly due to circumstances beyond the Project Manager’s control. New risks may become apparent which require some changed strategies. In the light of manageable variations, the project baselines remain static. But should changes to baselines be radical, it may be more useful, for management purposes, to create new baselines. It should be clearly documented, however, that this has occurred, and why it was necessary.
Project baselines are constantly referred to throughout a project. Essentially they provide a tool to compare project expectations with project realities.
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