Baseline the Project Plan – The Start of Project Metrics
By Greg Cimmarrusti
I remember the fear of baselining a project. It seemed so mystical. As if there was a lock of all data once you did so. My perception was there had to be so many steps in order to do so… not so. In MS Project it is just a couple of steps. But the real power of the baseline comes into the picture when you start applying Earned Value metrics to your plan, which of course, requires a baseline. More on Earned Value in my next blog entry.
But having a baselined schedule allows so many other views to your Project plan. A baselined schedule shows when and what was originally planned compared to where you are now. I can create reports that will show late starts, based on the baseline start date and current start date of a task ( I usually will have a visual flag in a column to represent late starts). The same is true with late finishes. No project or project schedule runs perfectly, so it gives you insight into what really is going on with the work. Interruptions, delays, failure to deliver on time, trying to keep your vendors honest on delivery times, all of these can play havoc to a project. Lessons learned after the project can help future projects in planning tasks and the effort and/or duration for these tasks.
The “Key” to working with baselines is to not rebaseline everytime there is a slight change to the schedule. There are some industries that do not allow changes to a baseline schedule unless the scope, time, or budget drastically changes, then a rebaseline may be in order. My recommendation is to have a Change Control Board (CCB) that monitors change requests and that it is their decision to do a rebaseline and at that I suggest only rebaselining those tasks and sub-tasks that change, otherwise you will end up “forgiving” potentially bad project management and team members that did not deliver as promised.
The Baselined Schedule can be one of the best tools in a project manager’s toolbox. Don’t be afraid, embrace it.
Greg Cimmarrusti, PMP is scheduling and analysis manager at Southern California Edison. You can read more from Greg on his blog, the Project Management Point of View.