In a recent post I mentioned incorrect use, or no use at all of the baseline functionality in Ms Project. In this post I would like to dive deeper into baselines from an application perspective.
There can be only eleven
You can create only 10+1 unique baselines in your schedule at any given moment. I say 10+1 because we have a special baseline that has some attributes the other baselines don’t have. Baseline 1 to 10 are “normal” and then there is “Baseline”, without a number. I’ll get back to the differences later on. for now let’s look at the quantity of baselines. Is it a bad/good thing that we have (only) eleven? In my post about not using the baseline I had a definition of a baseline that said:
In project management, the baseline is the original range, total cost and schedule of a project. It is used to measure the amount of deviation of performance from the original plan. Before the execution of the project, the baseline must be properly defined and documented.
So in Project management, you would be ok with just 1 baseline, because you have only one Original range? Not quite. Just think about scope changes in a project, within range of say 5% of the budget, time or quality it’s all acceptable. But once you exceed this line you’ll need new budget, resources or time.
When ever you have a scope change that needs official approval, you want to set a new baseline. A new view of the range your project can operate within.
In that light: do you want to manage a project that had 10 scope changes? Or would it be wise to kill the project and start with a new one?
What is stored in baselines
The baseline plan is a snapshot of your schedule at the time that you save the baseline and includes information about tasks, resources, and assignments. (source, applies to Project 2003 and up).
But what information? Here is a list that I made using Project Professional 2013, there may be fewer fields in earlier versions:
Now why are all assignment fields the same as the Resource (and Task) fields? Assignments can’t exist without them. The fields above are also time phased when applicable.
What isn’t stored in baselines
Very important to know what is stored, but maybe as important to know what isn’t stored! Only the fields mentioned above (including their 1 to 10 brothers and sisters) will be filled with information. So deleting a task or resource or assignment will also delete all the information stored on that row! including all baseline information! Also if you change the name of a task you will not get an overview of all previous names.
I can’t think of a solution for the changed name dilemma but there is a solution for the deleted tasks: Don’t delete them 🙂 just make them inactive, this is a functionality that is added since Project Professional 2010. A inactive task has all the information still stored within the rows, but will not count when you make a report on your schedule. If you ever need that information back in the schedule, just reactivate.
Visibility of the baselines
Now we will have a closer look at our friend “Baseline”, sometimes called “Baseline 0”. This one will show up by default when you select the tracking Gantt view.
Now I say default, but you can manipulate the view to show just about any baseline you want. You can also ad any of the baseline task columns (mentioned above) in the view. And you can make Resource and/or assignment views showing baseline data as well. So build your own view that suites your needs. Make your manager want that baseline data. Have multiple baselines? That doesn’t matter, have a look at this guest post by Bonnie Biafore.
Baseline use in a Project Server environment
All of the above information holds true to the server version of the product. With one exception/addition. You got “Protected baselines” here is a definition:
Allows a user to save a protected baseline or clear a protected baseline associated with an enterprise project published to the Project Server database. Grant this permission to project managers who have to save baselines in their projects. Baselines are saved by using the Set Baseline functionality accessed from the Project Professional ribbon on the Project tab in the Schedule group. Click the Set Baseline button and then select Save Baseline or Clear Baseline. Protected Baselines are in the range of Baseline 0–5 inclusive. Only users who have Save Unprotected Baseline, Open Project and Save Project Category permissions are able to save Baselines in Baseline 6–10.
That means that your company can use baseline 0 to 5 to build centralized reports and that you are free to use numbers 6 to 10 for your own goals.
I hope you liked the post, let me know if I missed some crucial information or if you like me to post about anything else. You can now sign up to my newsletter read about the newsletter here. Have a great day and thank you for reading!