Just What Is a Baseline?
Creating or setting a baseline in Microsoft Project is like taking your project's temperature periodically to see how it’s doing. At the start of a project, when the manager has all the tasks in place, the people are assigned and the money is budgeted, he creates a baseline of data for his project so that he can measure its progress. It’s important to set the baseline at the outset, because once risks become a reality and life's little detours happen to your project, you won’t be able to measure the changes going back to its very beginning.
You, as the project manager, will find baselines a useful way to document the shift in budgeting—in terms of money carved out of the budget as well as dedicated hours of labor.
- In Microsoft Project, baselines measure five parameters—start dates, finish dates, durations, costs, and work or labor estimates.
- You might need to submit a report on the extra financial commitment in terms of materials or labor to complete the project, and setting baselines at various points in the process lets you pinpoint where overruns occurred.
- Setting a baseline also allows you to review your project at a later date as a valuable resource for planning the next similar project.
Microsoft Project actually lets you “take your project’s temperature” 11 times throughout its duration. Most project managers really don’t need that many readings on their project, but the software allows you that amount if you need them.
In fact, you can set more than 11 baselines, because Project will let you clear a baseline. Also, you can set several interim plans, but they track only scheduling changes. It’s worth repeating this; too many baselines or interims is not recommended until you become pretty confident working with Project. Too many statistics can cloud the total picture.