We all hear about the importance of establishing projects baselines. You know it is important, but often don’t know how to do it or what to do with it later. ‘Baseline’ is one of the abstract concepts, yet when applied well is useful and will help distinguish yourself from the average Project Managers that don’t use it.

 Which Baselines to Use?

The baseline could be broken down into the 4 primary constraints of project management and each has a distinct document that can be used to capture the baseline.

  1. Scope baseline setup by >> scope statement
  2. Cost baseline setup by > approved budget
  3. Schedule baseline setup by > approved project schedule
  4. Quality baseline setup by > Quality plan (or sometimes the acceptance criteria)

These 4 components form the basis of the project baseline. There are other baselines per the PMBOK knowledge area, but these are the common key baselines we will report weekly/ monthly to our project stakeholders.

With all the modern project management tools, ticketing system etc. a best practice way to manage baseline and changes throughout the lifecycle of the project is to open a change ticket for each baseline change.

 Baseline update

It is common to have baseline updated a number of times throughout the lifecycle of the project. The common points of update are:

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  1. Project Kickoff – 1-time
  2. End of Discover or Requirement phase – 1-time… usually
  3. Execution phase – multiple times… hopefully not too many.
  4. Close out phase – 1-time

 Project Kickoff (Baseline 1.0)

When the project is approved and officially kicked off, open your first change ticket and put in the:

  1. Key deliverables (Scope)
  2. Cost baseline (monthly cost)
  3. Project schedule (key milestones)
  4. Quality plan (deliverables acceptance criteria, QA test plan etc.)

 Requirement or Discovery phase completion (Baseline 2.0) 

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We often hear project teams make a comment like ‘we know a lot more now than when we started the project’… This happens at the end of the Discovery or Requirement phase. When the project was officially approved, there is a general concept of what needs to be delivered, the general direction. However, this often changes after the requirements collection or discovery is completed. It is then when the project team realize what ‘they are really in for’.  This often happens when business requirements are fully vetted, and tech resource come back to inform the business community what is doable and what is not doable.

 Scope/ Cost/ Schedule/ Quality will be revised at this time… and often not to the liking of the stakeholders. You will hear comments from stakeholders like ‘I thought this was only going to cost $1 million. You are now telling me it is going to cost $2 million?” Make sure you have done your analysis and give a very detailed explanation why each of the baselines are changing. Emphasis on the dependencies, what can be achieved and cannot be achieved must be communicated. Always provide 1 – 3 options, i.e. future Baseline 2.0a, Baseline 2.0b, Baseline 2.0c.

 Once confirmed, file change ticket #2 to capture this baseline #2

 Execution phase baseline updates (Baseline 3.0 and beyond…)

When in execution phase, there are often new discoveries, surprises and the baseline need to be updated again. Make sure you capture the changes in a new change ticket and get your approval.  Provide your options and explain the pros and cons of each option. Hopefully, there are not too many changes while you are in execution.

 Final Baseline (Baseline n…)

The final baseline is when you complete your project, and you hand the outcome/ output over to business as usual (BAU) operations. Each project is a change to the product or services in production baseline, hopefully, improve your company’s current product/ services mix. The bar of the product/ services is set higher … until the next project.

 In conclusion

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Capture project baselines changes throughout the lifecycle of the project, from start to finish. Communicate with your stakeholders and provide informed options as to which option you recommend. If you provide logical reasoning, your project will be successful, and you will set yourself apart from other project managers that do not capture baselines.

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