You have reached the end of the project planning stage, tasks have been entered, resources have been assigned, and you have even looked at the critical path and at the available slack. Ideally, you know how much wiggle room you have in your project file. Now is the time when you want to save not just the project plan file, but also a snapshot of where everything sits before the project work actually begins. In Office Project 2007 this is called a “baseline plan.”
Create a Baseline
With a baseline, you can save exactly what the project looks like today. Then, as the project progress begins, you can track the tasks and their progress, allowing you to make a comparison later. With this comparison, you can display where the project currently is on top of the project baseline.
In this way you can see throughout the duration of the project (and, maybe more important, at the end of the project) how far off you are in the projections that you made during the project planning process. Seeing where your project stands compared to the plan helps you decide what steps to take to get the project back on track. The best thing that we have going for us as project managers is experience and learning lessons from past projects. Baselines allow you to do that not only throughout the duration of the project but also at the end of the project, so that if a similar project comes up later, you have a plan of reference.
In your baseline plan you will store variables such as plan start dates, finish dates, how much you think a task is going to cost, resources, and your resource assignments. Essentially, your entire plan as it stands at the point is saved within the baseline. To save a baseline, follow these steps:
- Choose Tools, Tracking, and then Set Baseline.
- In the Set Baseline dialog box, accept the defaults and click OK.
Create a baseline
You can see the baseline values within another table that has not yet been introduced: the Variance table. Before viewing the Variance table, it is helpful to first display the Task Sheet view. By changing views, you free up your screen real estate to display just a table view.
- Choose View and then More Views, and in the More Views dialog box, select Task Sheet.
- Click Apply.
- Choose View and Table, and then choose Variance
When you set the baseline, the dates that are in the Start and Finish fields are copied to fields named “Baseline Start” and “Baseline Finish,” and so on, for several fields.
About the Variance Table
Typically, when you see the Variance table for the first time, you will not see a lot of changes between the Start and the Finish fields and the Baseline Start and the Baseline Finish fields. If you have not entered any actual data, you will not see any here. If you view the Variance table immediately after setting the baseline, all Office Project 2007 has done at this point is to copy exactly what it sees in the Start and Finish fields and paste that information into the Baseline Start and the Baseline Finish fields.
However, when the project begins and the project plan file is updated, you will begin to see variances between the actual Start and Finish fields and the Baseline Start and Baseline Finish fields.
Additional Project Statistics
In addition to the Variance table, you can view other project statistic information (actual versus baseline) in the Project Information dialog box. To see this view, choose Project and Project Information, and then click the Statistics button in the Project Information dialog box.
With permission from Microsoft Press, this article content was excerpted from the book, Managing Projects with Microsoft Office Project 2007 (Self-Paced Training Kit for Exam 70-632).