Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar iconNot recorded
Adobe PDF icon

3 Main Benefits of Project Baselining

~ By Linda Russell

Time is money blue vintage stamp

When you have finished planning your project, and you have all the scheduled dates, hours, and costs (and charges if applicable) agreed, why is it a good idea to store these values? We explore the reasons.

What is a Baseline?

A baseline is a set of stored values. Usually, these will be:

  • Original Scheduled Start and Finish Dates
  • Planned Effort (may be expressed in hours)
  • Planned or Budgeted Cost
  • Planned or Budgeted Revenue

Why Baseline?

The main benefits of having a project baseline are:

  • Ability to assess performance
  • Earned Value calculation
  • Improved future estimating accuracy

Assessing Performance

If you know what the plan was, you can compare this with the actuals, and make a judgement on whether you're on track or not. Your software may have a "traffic light" or similar system to indicate this. This provides you with variance information which can be useful for future estimating.

For instance, a task was planned to start last week and the planned effort/duration was ten days. It should, therefore, finish at the end of this week. It is now Monday of week 2. The task started last Wednesday and, having reviewed the task, you now estimate that it will take another eight days to complete it.

Planned Start Monday Week 1Actual Start Wednesday Week 1
Planned Finish Friday Week 2 Scheduled Finish Wednesday Week 3
Planned Duration 10 daysRevised Duration 11 days

Hence, on current estimates, the task will take an extra day to complete and will be three days late.

This is a somewhat crude way of assessing how well you're doing. If you add a value for progress (percentage complete), a better measure is to use Earned Value. If you record the actual hours spent on the task, your software may be able to calculate the percentage complete value.

Earned Value

With Earned Value, you compare the planned hours and costs of work with the actual hours and costs, taking into account the progress on each task and the project as a whole. It often includes the calculation of a performance indicator.

This allows you to see trends in performance, and thus to predict potential overruns. At an individual task level, it is a good indicator of how much time and cost should have been spent so far, compared to how much time and cost has been spent.

However, it is advisable not to place too much reliance on such forecasts, especially in the early stages of the project's lifecycle, as few tasks have been started or completed; as time moves forward, the accuracy of the predictions increases, although you are still reliant on peoples' assessments of progress.

When a task is completed, the Earned Value figures will be equal to the planned figures, so this measure cannot be used to enhance estimating accuracy.

Improved Estimating

When you create your plan, you estimate how long each task will take, and how much effort will be required to complete it. You may also work out the likely costs and if you're charging for work done, what the revenue will be. How do you do this? The tools most commonly used are previous experience - plus a device such as a crystal ball!

You can improve the accuracy of your estimating if you have a record of previous estimates compared with the actual outcome. This can give you a margin of error (perhaps as a percentage) which you can build into all future estimates.

If your project management software has a template facility, at the end of each project you can use the variance data to update the template tasks with revised estimates.

Conclusion

Having a baseline for each project allows you to monitor current project performance and also to improve the accuracy of future estimates.


Linda Russell has an M.A. (with Distinction) in Technical Authorship, and over 25 years' experience in software implementation and consultancy.


Comments

Be the first to comment on this article.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
2000
Enter the word shark backwards.
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

Building a Business Case for Your Project

Ball of business documents

To get stakeholders or management to approve your project, you will need to build a solid business case. Here are the basic steps for creating a business case.

Project Planning in a Nutshell

Gantt chart

This article provides an overview of why it is important to prepare a project plan. It also shows what elements a good project plan will include.

Is Project Management Certification Worth It?

University students in a classroom watching a presentation

Do recognised professional credentials increase your worth in the jobs market? Will the effort of studying to pass the exam improve your career prospects?

Learning from Project Failures

Success and failure directional signs

Some of the most important lessons we learn come from failures. Kenneth Darter explains a simple four step process to make sure the same failures aren't repeated.

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

Michelle Lim commented on…
PMP Exam Day Tips
- Thu 15 August 11:53pm

Michelle Lim commented on…
PMP Exam Day Tips
- Thu 15 August 11:51pm

Stanford Komba commented on…
Project Planning a Step by Step Guide
- Mon 12 August 2:07am

Latest tweets

General Project Management • Project Plan https://t.co/4HsDgia1BH about 7 days ago

RT @NestorAlemanPM: @ProjectSmart Reading the question posted in the link attached, where a fresh engineering graduated would like to work… about 14 days ago

General Project Management • Re: Future Project Manager Needs Advice https://t.co/2FK1KgbhYk about 15 days ago