Lesson 4: Baseline


 Now that you've create the WBS structure of your project and the planning process is almost finished, you can set a baseline for your project. You can set a baseline after you finished planning your project or you can set one after you finished a critical phase of your project and the baseline will contain information about the tasks, resources and assignments within their phase. The project baseline should always come in-between the planning phase and the start of the project. You should only re-baseline when you have major changes in your project such as; delays, overrun of budget or loss of key resources. The right place in time to do the first baseline is when the initial planning is done and the budget is approved. Set a baseline for your project so that you can track its progress against the original project plan. A baseline is a reference point for the project schedule.

   A project baseline is an initial snapshot of your schedule when you first save your project information to track progress and compare your updates. Baselines help you visualize and attain your project schedule, work and cost objectives. Baseline it is very useful especially in the case of small projects that use agile development, so they need to know in each week which is the difference between the original plan and the current status.

   A baseline is a static copy of plan data that's compared with actual and current data. Baselines helps you compare actual vs. planned. Baseline your schedule means taking a copy of your schedule and set aside for comparison later on. A baseline is a snapshot/a picture of your project at a particular moment in time.

    A baseline saves nearly 20 pieces of information, including totals information for tasks, resources, and assignments. Baseline will essentially store 5 things: cost, work, duration, start date and finish date. In Project Plan 365, a baseline is a copy of the Start, Finish, Work, and Cost for all the Resources and Assignments, plus Duration for all the Tasks in your project. When you do a baseline you save the following data about the project at that specific point in time:

  • Tasks: Duration, Start and Finish dates, work, cost.
  • Resources: Work, cost, start and finish.
  • Assignments: Start and Finish dates, work, costs.

   Together, this data represents the state of your plan at the time the baseline is saved. The baseline will be a valuable tool to use as your project progresses, and after it completes, to compare how the real life of your project matched up with what you projected during the planning stages. Baselines are really important to establish in order to give you a point in time to reflect upon and a area where you can refer back to determine whether or not you're assessments are correct, that the durations you've placed in terms of the tasks time are correct and if the costs are correct so that it helps you improve your estimating for future projects.  

   A baseline is not a separate file. When you save a baseline, Project Plan 365 simply copies the information in scheduled fields to the baseline fields. For example, when you save a baseline, Project Plan 365 copies the information from the Start and Finish fields into the Baseline Start and Baseline Finish fields.   

   The process of tracking baselines in Project Plan 365 is quite simple. This involves using the Project Statistics dialog, apply Baseline table to Tracking Gantt and add baseline columns in a task view. Initially all the baseline columns are empty until you save a baseline. Once a project’s baseline data has been saved, it can be used to analyze project performance. Tracking Gantt is a type of Gantt Chart view, that is designed to compare baseline dates and eventually show all these differences. The Tracking Gantt allows you to view changes to the baseline schedule graphically and to easily compare the project schedule against the initial plan. The variance between the task bars is easy to track. Initially when nothing is updated, the bars are the same, they match each other, but when you start updating your plan, you'll notice slippage if you come behind schedule.  

icon_exercises.png           Practice

   1. For the current project create a baseline. To set a baseline, use the Set Baseline option, which can be found under Project menu.

Gantt Chart create tasks

    2. To view the baseline data of your project that was just saved, apply Baseline table to Gantt Chart view. Click on Table option under Project menu, then select More Tables, and from the opened dialog select Baseline.

You should obtain something like this:​


Apply the Entry table in Gantt Chart view to come back to the default table in this view.

    3. Switch to Tracking Gantt view. Placing baseline columns adjacent to current project columns in a task view makes it easy to make planned versus actual comparisons for each task. Using the Insert Column option, add the Baseline Duration column in this view. To add Baseline Duration column, select Work column, right-click on its column heading in the task view. Select the "Insert Column" option from the drop-down list that appears.

 After inserting this column, the Tracking Gantt view should look like below:


Notice that currently, the values in the Baseline Duration column are an exact copy of the values from the Duration column.