What is Baseline in Project Management?

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Oct 17, 2023

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A baseline for the project will act as the beginning in every project to enable measuring. The very word #baseline# refers to the project plan that is well defined and measured. A project manager who wants to measure and analyze the project's success needs to have a baseline recognized as the project baseline. It becomes difficult to understand the scope of the project and the current status which leads to a lack of direction to the initial estimate done. Using existing data, project baselines play a crucial role in enhancing the result of future activities and ensuring the project remains on track.

An overview of the project baseline

What is the baseline in project management? A baseline is the project's original scope, schedule, and budget. Along with involved parties, the project team defines and reviews these well before the commencement of the project. When accepted, it serves as a benchmark against which you may track the project's development over time.

With proper project management, it will show how a change would affect important project variables and whether the project cost or scope has to modify. A project baseline plan also facilitates the efficiency of change management, as it enables project managers to express their understanding in quantitative terms when modifications occur.

A clearly defined baseline has various advantages

• Establishes a benchmark for evaluating actual performance.

• Predict the project performance

Various kinds of project baselines

As a project baseline contains several project-related data, it is necessary to keep it as a whole and is typically divided into multiple sections. This simplifies baseline management. Typical project baselines usually involve

Various kinds of project baselines


  • Scope baseline – The technical, structural, and functional specifications for items.
  • Schedule baseline – The project timetable and each supporting aspect
  • Cost/Budget baseline – A time-distributed approved budget used to predict, monitor, and control project costs.
  • Quality/Risk baseline – The collection of known and possible alterations (uncertainties) that may affect how well the project is completed.

When should a baseline be established?

Typically, a baseline is established, especially after the completion and approval of the project plan. In this process, you will enter tasks, define dependencies, allocate resources and budgets, etc. The baseline plan should be saved as soon as feasible after the updated schedule. The project manager saves different baselines by tracking fluctuating baseline values whenever the lengthy project planning process. This will help future planners avoid making the same mistakes.

Illustration of a project baseline

Use this social media promotion as a straightforward illustration of a project baseline

Your company wants you to announce a new product with a marketing campaign. With a budget, you're trying to generate brand awareness and drive potential sales of your product.

So, your project baseline might be

  • Capabilities 300 direct sales
  • Timetable One month
  • Budget 1,00,000

Here, you must list all initiatives needed to enhance the conversion rate and reach the ultimate target of 300 sales. This would comprise planning for online posts across many platforms, including copy and design specifications. You may then use a content calendar to plan your posting schedule, including the best timeframes to promote each item. Finally, prepare a specific budget that breaks down your costs by sector.

The significance of a baseline project planning

  • Having a baseline plan in place assists project managers in creating a boundary and guardrails that no one can pass without discussion and shows if modification is viable.
  •  A strong starting strategy is one approach to identifying marketing and project team connectivity issues and discrepancies immediately. 
  • Keeping everyone up to date on project costs, timelines, scope, and responsibilities are critical for getting things started on a project. A baseline for the project unifies the teams around the deliverables.
  • It is impossible to determine whether a project is profitable without a baseline strategy.

How is a baseline used?

Baselines are documented or saved electronically, and they are used to maintain a project on schedule. The scope of a project can vary, estimates can be revised, and resources can also become available. Thus baselines don't have to be fixed in stone. They can be modified as needed.

The actual timeline, budget, and scope of the work need to be compared to the established baseline during the entirety of the project, as well as after it has been finished, and any differences need to be investigated.

Here are four ways to maximize your project's baseline plan.

1. Consider the difference between actual and planned Performance

Usually, project teams evaluate this initially when using a baseline. You can evaluate the current schedule with the scheduled time if you'd like.

Essentially, you are ensuring that you are making the anticipated improvements. It's usual for slight alterations between planned and actual dates, but the project schedule and major milestones should be within justification.

2. Examine the Accuracy of Predictions

After your initial comparison, examine the facts to see what you can understand. This is a beneficial exercise when your project runs below schedule. Inaccurate initial estimates are a common cause of project delays. Re-estimate projects, so you have reasonable future date assumptions. That will undoubtedly affect your project schedule. Create a specific baseline that perfectly represents what you can do through communicating with the project sponsor and realigning expectations.

3. Calculate earned value using data

Earned Value tracking is another option. This method of project reporting requires a defined timeline.

Your baseline representation is precisely that. You'll need a reliable baseline to get the most out of EV. Then, you can execute your EV calculations to calculate the appropriate parameters for project tracking. You can readily compare actual and anticipated progress.

4. Evaluate project successes

You'll have a post-project evaluation meeting to see if the project's original aims and objectives were achieved. There should be some unique baseline for a good project result.

As a result, your timetable is merely an input into discussing the project's goals and quality criteria. It is an excellent resource for determining whether or not data-driven success criteria have been met. In addition to that, you can use it as a source of references to better understand how modifications would affect the project.

What are the Baseline Project Leader Responsibilities?

During work, the Project Leader must monitor variations from the baseline. However, after planning, all stakeholders agree on this strategy and anticipate actual results to be as expected. During the execution of the project, it is the responsibility of the project manager to determine whether there has been any deviation from the project's baselines on budget, schedule, or scope. Project-impacting corrective and preventive measures must be implemented when there is the potential for budget overruns or delays due to project-related risks.

When Should Project Baseline Changes Take Place?

The baseline can sometimes be updated, but the process should not be so simple. Because the purpose of establishing a baseline is to see how close you are to achieving your objectives. If a baseline is modified too frequently, variances or deviations from the initial concept will be confusing. A project baseline usually is only updated when there's been an accepted modification request or when the project sponsor has given their approval.

During the Execution Process, official recommendations for modifications to the baseline can be made. Once the stakeholders have integrated and agreed upon the project baselines, it will be easy to update them since a baseline will serve as the benchmark for measuring project performance. Therefore, altering this point of reference will result in inaccurate performance measurements. Consequently, a baseline is revised upon receipt of an official request and the agreement of the sponsor or client.

During the project planning phase known as Perform Integrated Change Control, modifications are reviewed, discussed, and ultimately approved. The change control board evaluates the effects of improvements on the project. The implications of a change are first reevaluated in the context of the project plans, and only after that is the change itself put into action if the change control board permits it.

The advantages of establishing a project baseline

There are three key advantages to having a project baseline that has been approved

  1. Projects with better estimates can be better understood by comparing the actual cost, timing, or scope of the project to a baseline. This data can then be added to improve the planning and estimation of future projects.
  2. A baseline serves as a benchmark against which to evaluate the development of a project. Without one, comparing project performance is difficult.
  3. You can compare actual performance versus your strategy by computing earned value (EV). But it's more than just a simple performance evaluation tool. In addition to this, it helps you examine project trends and determine whether or not a project is likely to have difficulties in the near or far future.


Establishing and maintaining a baseline is one of the essential tools for monitoring the progress of a project. The original estimates can serve as reference points for the project managers, allowing them to compare the project's current stage to the original estimations. Project managers can more easily keep track of baseline estimations and actual project data using project management software. A project baseline helps assess project success and improve future forecasts. With PMP training, you'll learn how to use baselines in various project contexts. Explore innovative techniques for reducing time, avoiding disruptions, and executing the ambitious growth initiatives outlined by the PMP certification online.


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