A project baseline provides an essential starting point for monitoring and assessing the performance of your projects.
Without it, your team – and business as a whole – has no reference to measure against either during the roll out of your projects or when post-implementation reviews are undertaken.
What does a baseline provide?
A baseline is a planned state, describing what the business expects the project to look like throughout its development, and typically includes:
- Planned start and finish dates
- Planned effort, which may be shown in hours against resources
- Budgeted or planned cost
- Budgeted or planned revenue
That said, “baseline” can mean different things to different stakeholders and can be expressed in different ways. For example, as a result of planning processes and expected output, the following baselines are typical interpretations:
- Scope baseline
- Cost performance baseline
- Schedule performance baseline
- Technical baseline
- Product baseline
- Cash baseline
- Benefits realisation baseline
These baselines enable the project manager to use baseline types that may describe and communicate project delivery information in different ways to meet the needs and information requirements of various stakeholders in a project.
However, when measuring performance overall, the Performance Measurement Baseline becomes critical.
What is the Performance Measurement Baseline (PMB)?
The Performance Measurement Baseline (PMB) is a time-based budget plan that outlines how the project will be completed and against which performance measures it will be evaluated. The PMB is a direct output of the project planning process; planning typically involves all known stakeholders that have an interest in a project’s outcome.
A PMB is not a single baseline schedule, but rather is made up of several baselines that describe the approved scope, cost and time. The risks are embedded in the PMB and are quantified in the contingencies. These baselines are vital for evaluating performance during the project to judge whether the project is on track, as well as enable project teams to re-assess scheduling throughout a project development.
What benefit can a PMB provide for stakeholders?
The key question for many stakeholders is “… what did we accomplish for the effort we applied?” By applying diligence in the planning processes and developing these specific baseline types, the project manager can objectively assess progress using Earned Value Management tools.
Earned Value (EV) metrics provide the answers to the question above by showing the effort, costs and time involved in a project, an integrated viewpoint that is driven by the PMB.
By applying diligence in the planning processes and developing these specific baseline types, the project manager may use Earned Value Management tools to objectively gauge progress. Earned Value Management techniques are valuable for large or complex projects and we’ll explore these in more detail in a future bulletin article.
What if we need to change the baseline?
The most appropriate time to consider re-baselining a schedule is when there are approved changes to scope, time, cost and risk that will likely impact the baselined delivery date. This approach also means that other issues such as scope creep, poor execution by inexperienced resources, poor planning, or poor change control are not triggers for reassessing the baseline.
However, if the problems are a reflection of built-in overruns caused by bad estimates, then the remaining work requires replanning, the estimates require revision, and the schedule will need re-baselining.
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