Project Management - What is a Project Baseline?
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
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.
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).
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:
Introduction to project management - The main concepts of project management
How project management can help your small business - How project management can help your small business launch new products, services and processes
The main objectives of project management - The things project management should accomplish
The project management plan - One of the most vital aspects of getting a project right
What is a project baseline? - How to baseline a project
Resource scheduling and planning - Making sure the right people do the right things at the right time
‘What If?’ scenarios - A critical part of risk and issue management
Project portfolio management - For when just managing one project isn’t enough
Communications management for projects - Getting your project messages read and acted on
The right project management software - Essential to running a project well
Get project management experience - Want to break into the field? Here are some tips and tricks
Project management training - How to find the right training course for you
Project management consulting - Learn about consulting for project management
Choosing the right specialist - Make sure you get your money’s worth
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.
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.
What do you think is the most important part of a project baseline?
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.