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The Difference Between a Baseline Plan and an Interim Plan

written by: Misty Faucheux • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 5/15/2013

Are you like many who are confused by what's a baseline and what's an interim plan? Well, furrow your brow no more. Learn what baseline and interim plans are and when you should used them.

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    Baseline Versus Interim

    Baseline and interim plans are crucial to all forms of project management. But many people find it hard to tell the two apart. In order to help you understand these two concepts, this article will break down what they are and where they should be used.

    It may be best to start off with what a baseline plan is. Baseline plans are used to track the progress of an entire project. Baseline plans comprise the following items:

    • Starting date – when a project begins.
    • Ending date – when the task should be completed.
    • Durations – when work is being done.
    • Labor – amount of work that needs to be done to finish a task.
    • Total cost – how much the project should cost.

    The baseline allows you to compare what work has been done with what work should have been accomplished. If the actual data differs dramatically from the baseline plan, you may be off schedule or off budget. If you find that you need to change your plan, you can add more baselines to your strategy. Overall, these will help you measure changes and see whether or not you are on track with your project.

    The baseline plan is focused on the project as a whole. It helps you with creating a schedule and helps you stick to that schedule. The interim plan focuses on current, actual data and what work has been done. The interim plan is started after the project has already begun. You can use the data from the interim plan to compare it with the baseline plan. This will tell you how much progress has been made and whether or not you are on track.

    An interim plan is comprised of the following items:

    • Starting date of a task.
    • Ending date of a task.

    Interim plans are task-specific and can be created at different stages of a project. While the baseline plan is used for the entire project, the interim plan is only used for tasks.

    If you choose to have multiple baseline plans, you may not need an interim plan. For larger, more complex projects with varying milestones, multiple baseline plans may be best. But, if you want to keep track of starting and ending dates of individual tasks, it would be best to use an interim plan. These work especially well at set intervals, like on a monthly or quarterly basis.