Baselining is a critical part of tracking a project. Essentially a snapshot of the project schedule, the baseline should be captured once the schedule is complete and before schedule tracking can commence. A baseline is set to enable comparison with an up-to-date schedule later in the project and assess the performance of the project over time. In this article we look to understand Microsoft Project Baselines in more detail.

4 fundamental questions about baselining in Microsoft Project

1) How many Baselines are there?

To help measure a change in the schedule, and ensure the baseline history is saved, Microsoft Project supports 11 baselines. The unnumbered baseline is also referred to as “Baseline 0”, and Baselines 1-10.  Baseline 0 is treated as the control baseline.

2) How do you set a Baseline?

To set the baseline in Microsoft Project, go to the Project ribbon and select Set Baseline

Set a baseline in Microsoft Project Online

From the list, select the unnumbered Baseline (Baseline 0) and click OK.

Selecting unnumbered baseline in Microsoft Project Online

This is the list of fields that are saved:

Baseline fields saved in Microsoft Project Online

To keep a historical record of how the baseline has changed, it is a best practice to always set the baseline twice. Therefore, after Baseline 0 has been set, the above steps need to be repeated to make a copy of the baseline to Baseline 10.

If the baseline needs changing after this, Baseline 0 should be re-saved while also saving a copy of that change into the next available baseline. This ensures that Baseline 0 is always up to date with the latest approved data, while you can consult the history of baseline changes, from 10 to 1.

As mentioned above, it’s important that Baseline 0 is treated as the control baseline as this is used to derive any calculated RAG indicators, either in PWA or associated reports.

Note: Given that the project baseline represents a commitment, it should not be changed lightly but only when formally approved –usually following receipt and approval of a change request.

Set a saved baseline in Project Online

It’s useful to know that, after a baseline is saved, the date when it was saved is included next to it in the list of baselines. This can help when choosing which numbered baseline to use and is a good reference for remembering when a baseline of project data was last captured.

3) How do you view a Baseline?

There are a few ways to view the baseline data captured against a project.

Microsoft Project provides a statistical summary of the project which includes baseline data. This is accessed through the Project Information dialog box under the Project tab on the ribbon.

Project information in baselines

From the Project Information dialog box, click the Statistics button to view the following:

Project statistics in the project information dialog box

Baseline data can also be inserted as columns into the data entry table.

Baseline data in to the data entry table

However, one of the most notable ways is via the Tracking Gantt view.Tracking Gantt View

Tracking Gantt table in Project Online baseline

The Tracking Gantt is a great way to visualise progress for a number of reasons:

  • It shows the critical path in red
  • It shows the current baseline (Baseline 0), and
  • The visual on percent complete against each task

The Tracking Gantt only enables comparison of the current schedule with Baseline 0 – the latest approved baseline – but what if you want to compare the current schedule with the original baseline?

Microsoft Project provides this option under Gantt Chart Format on the ribbon.

Gantt chart format in Project Baselines

The Baseline dropdown provides the option to show every saved baseline compared to the current Gantt view.

4) What is a ‘Protected Baseline’?

Simply put, “Protected Baselines” are in the range of Baseline 0-5 inclusive whilst “Unprotected Baselines” are in the range of Baseline 6-10 inclusive. Using security permissions, it is possible for Project Online Administrators to lockdown both Protected and Unprotected Baselines to prevent project managers from having the ability to set baselines in their projects.

Some organisations choose to lock down the Protected Baselines, whereby only Administrators or the PMO are able to set Baseline 0-5 for building centralised reports but leave the Unprotected Baselines free for a Project Manager’s own use.

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