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Chapter 14. Tracking Work on a Project > Working with Project Baselines

Working with Project Baselines

As work progresses on a project, circumstances almost always arise that require the originally scheduled activities to be modified. For example, there might be a revision in the list of activities needed to complete the project, especially if the project scope changes. Or resources might not be available, meaning that substitutes have to be assigned. There might be a change in the estimates of the duration of tasks or the amount of work required to finish tasks. Furthermore, as you begin to record actual start and finish dates for tasks, unless you are able to perform project planning miracles, some of these dates will differ from the originally planned dates. As you enter the actual dates, Microsoft Project reschedules successor activities and milestones to reflect the changed circumstances. Therefore, unless you have saved a baseline, you will have no record of the plan as it existed when project execution began.

A Zen Buddhist philosophy says, “no matter where you go, there you are.” This saying is reminiscent of the ever-changing project schedule. If you never set a baseline, you have nothing to measure performance against, and you never have a sense of how well you are progressing.

The PMBOK Guide (that is, the Project Management Institute’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge) defines the baseline as the original plan plus or minus approved changes, and it usually has a modifier along with it (for example, cost baseline, schedule baseline, performance measurement baseline). When you set a baseline, all schedule elements (start date, finish date, duration, cost, and work) are captured so that you can use variance and earned value analysis to determine how well the work is being performed and whether the project is proceeding according to plan.



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