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What are the Project Baselines?

A project has three baselines that will be used for performance and progress measurement. They are the scope baseline, the time or schedule baseline, and the cost baseline.

The scope baseline is the sum of the deliverables of the project. It represents all the work that must be done to complete the project. Any deliverables that are not included in the scope baseline will not be delivered to any of the stakeholders.

The time baseline is the schedule of all the work that will be done to produce the scope baseline. Each item of work in the schedule is an item of work that is required to produce an output that either contributes to the delivery of a deliverable or that is an input required by another scheduled task in the project. Scheduled tasks that do not contribute to the delivery of a deliverable or an input to another task should not be part of the project schedule.

The cost baseline is the budget of the project. A budget is the timephased cost of all the work in the project schedule. The cost baseline does not include the contingency budget or the management reserve. The cost baseline is also called the performance baseline. Cost and schedule baselines will be discussed in the sections on cost and time management.

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Because projects are developed over time, the level of detail that is available at any point in time is changing. The establishment of all of the three project baselines is a significant point in the project and determines the end of the planning process.

In most projects the scope baseline can be established first. This is not always the case, as the total cost of the project, the budget, and even the schedule may be predetermined and the scope defined based on the time and money available. Generally, however, it is better to establish the scope of the project first and then, after the stakeholders have agreed to the scope, establish the cost and schedule.

The scope baseline is the baseline from which all changes must be made. The current scope baseline begins with the original scope baseline; all changes that are approved add or subtract from the original scope baseline. After the changes are made, a new baseline is created, which becomes the current baseline. The performance measurement system and the progress measurement system will measure performance and progress against the current baseline. The cost and schedule baselines will probably need to be adjusted each time the scope baseline is changed.

We may choose to establish the scope baseline early or late in the project. Early establishment of the scope baseline has the advantage of giving us a means of tracking changes early in the project since once the baseline is established, all changes to it must be tracked by means of an approved change notification. This is helpful for several reasons. Sometimes changes are requested over and over and are turned down as many times. Having good records of the changes requested and rejected allows these types of changes to be dealt with quickly and easily. Establishing the scope baseline early helps in showing how the project scope has grown since the early part of the project.

However, establishing the scope baseline too early in the project may prove to be costly. When the project is at an early stage in the conceptualization phase and very little of the project is defined, the cost of developing the project definition and recording all the development through the change process is unwieldy and unnecessary.

Once the scope baseline has been established, cost estimates can be made for the work and material costs that are associated with the project. It should be made clear to the stakeholders that the baselines are inclusive of the entire project. Work that is not identified in the scope baseline is not scheduled or budgeted and will not be done. Stakeholders should never assume that an item that is not specifically included in the baselines will be completed.