Creating the Baselines
A baseline is the line you draw in the sand that states, "This was my intention. This is what I planned to do." You always create a project plan with the best possible way of getting the work done. You might modify your planning at the end to get to a certain objective, but you understand exactly what the trade-offs are in getting to the objectives. You build the best possible plan and save it. This is your baseline. It provides a point in time for you to compare your plans against what is actually happening. You need to create several baselines when you have finished your project planning:
Schedule baseline—The schedule baseline is a copy of the tasks that your team must complete to execute the project on time. It is usually a copy of the network diagram or a Gantt chart of the schedule, showing each task, the predecessors and successors for each task, as well as the needed duration of each task. You'll want to save this copy at the end of planning before any actual executing work begins.
You can save this copy via either a project management software program, a spreadsheet, or any other electronic means. A hard copy will also do, if you value simplicity. The best way is to let your project management software keep the baseline for you; it will also do comparisons for you when you want to know if you are on track or off track.
Really cautious project managers also store a copy of their project schedule in their project management software, just in case they lose their current copy of the project.
Cost baseline—You create the cost baseline during the budgeting process. This is the sum of all the work of the tasks of the project by resource and resource rate needed per task. Another view of the cost baseline is the budget minus any fees, reserves, or contingency money. This could be a spreadsheet that you've created that depicts all the budget components for your project.
Again, the best way to create this kind of baseline is to let your project management software keep the baseline for you. The cost baseline will be stored within your project software tool if you populate the resource sheet with the project resources and their resource rate. You will also be able to run reports to do comparisons on what you've planned to spend versus what you have spent.
Your organization might also have mechanized tools or spreadsheets that you must fill in for your accounting department. Find out what is required before you settle on a method.
Product requirements baseline—You created the requirements for the product of the project early in your planning process. You now need to baseline those requirements before you begin to create the product and basically execute those requirements. This is probably a text document, so you can create a baseline by doing the following:
- Get a signature from the project client on the completeness and approval of the requirements.
- Save a copy or use document versioning to show the version of the product requirements that were approved.
Use this approved document as a marker to show the features and functions of what you plan to create; it will become very useful when people ask for changes in the product. You'll get into that discussion in Chapter 13.
- Quality baseline—The quality baseline is the information that you gathered in your quality planning process. This information spells out the quality objectives that you have planned for the project. You'll again use this information while you are executing your quality plan, to compare your quality performance back to your objectives in your plan. You'll probably get signatures and do version control to create this baseline.
Putting all these baselines together creates what the PMBOK® Guide calls the performance measurement baseline. This is the sum and collection of all the parameters that you use to measure whether you are executing your project correctly. This includes all the baselines we just talked about. You are executing your project correctly if you will successfully deliver according to the triple constraints of time, budget, and the agreed-upon Measure of Performance.
When can you change a baseline or rebaseline? Good question. Most organizations have set rules regarding when a project manager can rebaseline. The rule of thumb is only after some type of major event. Say, for instance, that you have signatures on the product requirements, and you've built the project schedule and budget to build that product. A major event occurs like one of the following:
- The executive in charge of the product leaves the organization and a new executive joins the firm. The two have different visions for the product.
- A competitor launches a product very similar to yours.
You get the picture. The event makes you go back and rethink and redo the requirements; therefore, you have to replan the entire project. This is the type of situation that requires you to rebaseline different elements or the whole project because you are basically starting over on your project planning. The key here is to get approval from your project sponsor before you baseline. You can't rebaseline just because something goes wrong; it has to be major and approved.