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Project Management - What is a Project Baseline?

Updated on March 29, 2015
Getting the baseline right is essential to delivering a project successfully
Getting the baseline right is essential to delivering a project successfully | Source

Introduction

A project baseline is an important project document that defines exactly who, what, where, when, why and how a project will deliver to its requirements. It includes details of the scope, quality, timescales and budgets that a particular project is delivering to. In this article, we explore the project baseline document in detail, including the types of areas that it should typically cover.

Project baselines are created and documented at the beginning of a project as part of the original business case for taking a project forward. We'll explore the details of what a project baseline might include.

  • Project areas
  • Project scope
  • Project timescales
  • Project budgets
  • Project quality
  • Documenting a project baseline
  • Reporting against the project baseline
  • Changing the project baseline


Project areas

A project baseline will define the following areas:

  • Why - The drivers behind why the business is initiating the project and what it wants to get out of it.
  • What - What exactly the project is going to deliver.
  • Who - The teams, managers, employees, organizations and other parties that are involved in delivering a project.
  • How - The various frameworks, methodologies and other aspects of how a project will be managed and delivered.
  • When - The timescales of when a project will be started, key delivery dates and when it is expected to complete.
  • Where - The various areas of the business that the project is going to influence or impact upon.

If you want to successfully manage a project, you need to build it from a strong foundation
If you want to successfully manage a project, you need to build it from a strong foundation | Source

The scope of the project

Precisely define what the project is going to deliver.

  • Understand how the project is going to meet business requirements.
  • Establish what the project will do and what it won't do (i.e. what is in and out of scope).
  • Provide measurements for understanding if the project has met its requirements.

The project timescale

Precisely define when the project is going to deliver.

  • Establish a high-level plan and schedule for what the project is going to do.
  • Identify key dates and milestones that the project will deliver to.
  • Understand how project delivery times will affect the business.

The project budget

Precisely define how much a project is going to cost.

  • Understand the cost of ongoing resources (e.g. staff costs, benefits, maintenance).
  • Understand one-off fixed costs (e.g. capital purchases, hardware, software).
  • Understand the impact of the project on business turnover and profit (the business value).

You need to be sure that you're spending your project budget in the right way; a baseline document can help you to achieve that
You need to be sure that you're spending your project budget in the right way; a baseline document can help you to achieve that | Source

The project quality

Precisely define the quality the project will deliver.

  • Meet business requirements and get sign-off from the business.
  • Deliver expected business results.
  • Do not cause unnecessary risks, issues or impacts.

Read more of our helpful, expert guides to successfully managing a project:

Documenting a project baseline

A project baseline is normally put together by a project manager and their team, working together with the business to understand their exact requirements. Once the baseline is created, it is then reviewed and signed-off by the business. It then becomes one of the governing documents for the project.

Understanding how a project fits together is crucial
Understanding how a project fits together is crucial | Source

Reporting against the project baseline

The project baseline is a useful document to measure progress against. Tracking progress, financials, dates and quality against the baseline allows everyone to see at a glance how the project is progressing against their expectations.

Project baselines and when to use them

Changing the project baseline

It is possible that from time to time, due to risks, issues or circumstances beyond the project's control, that a project can no longer deliver to the timescales, budget, quality or scope originally defined in the project baseline document. If this is the case, agreement to create a new project baseline document should be sought from the business. Once the new document is created, it should again be reviewed and signed-off.

Ultimately, a project baseline helps everyone work towards a common goal
Ultimately, a project baseline helps everyone work towards a common goal | Source

What do you think is the most important part of a project baseline?

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In closing

A project baseline is a tremendously helpful way for all stakeholders to understand what is involved in delivering a particular project. A good project baseline document can help to keep everyone up-to-date, flag any potential issues and help to ensure the smooth delivery and effective management of a project.

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    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 2 years ago

      very useful

    • Uzochukwu Mike profile image

      Uzochukw Mike 2 years ago from Oba

      Thanks Paul for writing on this topic. It is informative. I have been hearing about project management but that you have taught me today.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks Paul. I will be checking out more of your hubs.

    • Paul Maplesden profile image
      Author

      Paul Maplesden 2 years ago from Asheville, NC

      I am delighted that you have found it useful. I have a few other project management hubs on my profile and will be adding some more over the next few days.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We are starting a new project in Cambodia and evaluating one so this is good info for me just to refresh my mind.