Keeping your customers happy through Baselining!
Updated: Feb 15, 2022
There's an old saying in management with companies undertaking work and projects at a prolific rate, ‘if you're not measuring it you are not doing it!’ Where everyone is busy trying to get as much done as they possibly can with limited resources, it is very easy to go storming ahead and put together a project plan and move forward whilst updating the plan as you go. This approach is good for seeing what is actually happening at any point in time but how do you know how the project is really performing if you don't have a record of your original starting position? Without this information it's very difficult to measure whether you are on track, ahead of or behind schedule. Smartsheet has recently released their baselining capability for its project templates and this is a very welcome enhancement to avoid workarounds.
The ability to set a baseline means that you can save a snapshot of your project schedule at any specific point in time and as the project moves on you can update your project plan to reflect reality i.e. what has been accomplished and what is still left to go. It is very useful to be able to compare the actual position and the future forecast position against the baseline that you previously set. Setting a baseline allows the project manager to understand potential delays and to make alterations and adaptations to reschedule tasks within the overall project. It also allows the organisation to measure all projects from a holistic perspective, recognising possible trends and reasons for reoccurring delays or setbacks in specific areas. The continuous measurement of projects through baselining allows for better estimates and planning from the outset, minimising the need for changes and helps to keep end customers happy!
There needs to be a consistent organisational approach to baselining which can take place in different ways, for example once at the beginning of each project or both at the beginning and then periodically throughout the life cycle of the project. An organisation can apply baselining in multiple ways to follow their project life cycle, creating additional checkpoints that need to be passed through in order to proceed. This increases the degree of accuracy on the estimated task timelines, budgets and completion dates for the next stage of the project and therefore for the project overall. Some organisations will baseline the entire schedule at the outset.
What is guaranteed, is that a project will face certain changes, such as updated scope, time or budget which may impact the project schedule or costs. Once a change request is acknowledged and approved by all key stakeholders, it is normal for the remainder of the plan to be re baselined which means that the original part of the plan retains the original baseline but the remainder of the plan is reported and tracked against the new, revised baseline. This means that projects can have multiple baselines throughout their life cycle. The practice of baselining not only allows you to measure the difference between the original dates and targets that you were aiming for but how these have changed, forecasted new results and calculated the differences in cost expenditure. When you consider a particular point in time such as today's date you can quite accurately measure whether a project is over performing or underperforming from both the position of time but also cost. For example, a project could be on track from a timescale perspective but may have already exceeded the intended budget for that point in time. It is therefore likely (by analysing the cost data of the Baseline) that the project will continue to overspend for the remainder of the project and will require more budget.
Baselining is a key tool to set, measure and manage your key performance metrics, timescales and budgets. It allows you to adopt an agile approach throughout by adapting and making necessary change with a true understanding of how your project is performing.
If you would like to explore baselining in more detail to see how it can benefit your projects and work within your organisation then contact the PPS Team today.