Developing a Baseline Budget For a Project: Direct and Indirect Costs

Developing a Baseline Budget For a Project: Direct and Indirect Costs
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The best of plans for a project will fail unless the project’s progress is properly monitored and managed. Baseline budgets for a project and baseline schedules contain the required reference points that can be used in any analysis. The baseline budget contains a breakdown of expected contracted costs of various items while a baseline schedule would contain details of the times required to complete various tasks.

A baseline budget for a project must list the cost elements that can be monitored as a project goes forward. Each item or task within the project should be separately budgeted. Even if a task only involves a person making a phone call, you still must budget for the person’s time. If materials for a particular task are ordered separately from the installation, they must both be listed as separate parts of the baseline budget.

Once you establish a baseline budget, you can move forward on the project. You will need to compare the costs that you are actually incurring to the those listed in the baseline budget to determine whether you are under budget or over budget. If projects are broken into various phases, it is essential that baseline budgets also follow those phases.

What’s Included?

Other than the examples given above, what exactly do you need to include? Baseline budgets must separately list direct costs, indirect costs, contingencies, risks and profits to the stakeholder. While direct and indirect costs are dependent on the location and schedule of the project, contingencies, risks and profits are purely governed by the owners of the project and depend upon their own assessment of the project.

Direct costs have to include direct labor costs as well as subcontracted costs for various tasks. Other costs that have to be assessed for the baseline budget are the costs of the material based on market assessment or budgetary costs obtained from suppliers. Equipment costs need to be worked out separately depending on the running costs, hire or lease of such equipments and the period for which they are required for the execution of the project. Depending on the cost budget, an owner may decide to buy a piece of equipment rather than rent it for the duration of the project.

Indirect costs can include overhead costs for offices and staff that cannot be directly attributed to any particular task. They are resources that you have on hand that you will utilize for other projects. All costs for communication, travel, stationery, security, etc., fall under the heading of indirect costs. You must also allow for taxes, municipal charges, and other costs that you may incur as the project is being executed.

For every task or subtask of the project, you should work out a baseline cost. The assumptions made for arriving at the figures in a baseline budget must be identified. This will be useful for comparison where variances occur. Baseline budgets must also allow for inflation and other foreseeable cost increases.