Term Definition

Baseline is the value or condition against which all future measurements will be compared. The baseline is a point of reference. In project management there are three baselines – schedule baselinecost baseline and scope baseline. The combination of all three baselines is referred to as the performance measurement baseline.

A baseline is a fixed schedule, which represents the standard that is used to measure the performance of the project. Every time a change to the scope of the project is approved, the schedule should be adjusted and a new revision of the baseline should be used instead. Many project management software packages have a feature, which allows the project manager to maintain a baseline schedule and track revisions to it.

In project management, establishing the baseline is the formal end of project planning and the beginning of project execution and control. Controlling the project baseline is critical to project success. Changes can drastically impact a project and if you don’t know where you started it is difficult to control the project. It is equally important to begin with clearly understood requirements, accurate costs and schedule estimates. After the initial iterative planning process, the planning baselines must be frozen and put under configuration control.

Developing a project baseline for large-scale projects will include building a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and establishing the key relationships between scope, schedule, costs, risk management and the management of these. Other important project baseline considerations are change management, status reporting, and a continued incorporation of lessons learned throughout the baseline development process.

Good budget tracking, cost accounting, resource utilization and allocation, scope control, and schedule management are major factors that influence the success of any project. Project managers must track the progress of tasks, costs and time against the baseline and use repeatable procedures to gather data, assess earned value and report status.

Area of Application
Project Plan

Related Terms
Scope (Scope creep)

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