Creating a Baseline Schedule Within a Project in Microsoft Project 2010

August is traditionally the month when most people take their summer vacations, but the PM Central team is looking forward to the fall, when SharePoint Project Management Central™ R2.0 will be released.

One of the great new features in R2.0 is the ability for project managers (PMs) to baseline their schedules. (A baseline is a snapshot of a project schedule that includes information about tasks, resources and assignments.) Project managers use baselines to take snapshots of the project values that were approved and agreed upon. They also use baselines to make sure that the values don't change significantly from the original project plan.

With the option to baseline schedules in PM Central R2.0, now PMs can monitor schedule and cost changes within PM Central and compare them with earlier versions—a critical part of project tracking. (Learn more about baselines in this Microsoft Project Help article.)

Creating baselines was something that I hadn't done before, so I played around with baselines in Microsoft Project 2010 to get some familiarity with them. If you're new to baselines too, or new to Microsoft Project 2010, then follow along to learn how to do the following:

  • Create Tasks and Assign Resources
  • Add Columns to the Views
  • Set the Baseline
  • Compare the Baseline Schedule to the Actual Schedule

Create Tasks and Assign Resources
Create a project schedule with a project summary, budget work and budget cost following the steps outlined in this blog: Assigning Budget Work and Budget Cost to Projects in Microsoft Project 2010. My project summary is Project1, my task summary is Task Summary, and my two tasks are T1 and T2. Now assign nonbudget resources to T1 and T2.

assign nonbudget resources to T1 and T2

Go to the Resource Usage view and add the Work and Cost columns to the view by selecting Work and Cost from the drop-down list under Add New Column.

go to the Resource Usage view

add Work and Cost columns

Add Columns to the Views
Add the following columns to the Tracking Gantt or Gantt Chart views:

  • Baseline Budget Cost
  • Baseline Budget Work
  • Cost
  • Work
  • Baseline Cost
  • Baseline Work

add the columns to the view

The view gets rather crowded with all of those columns, so just adjust the column widths as best you can.

Since you haven't set the baseline for the project yet, the values for Baseline Budget Cost and Baseline Budget Work are zero, and those values will only appear for the project summary. Baseline Cost and Baseline Work area also zero because the baseline hasn't been set yet.

Add the Actual Cost, Actual Work and % Complete columns. Since the tasks haven't been started yet, the % Complete for both tasks is zero, so Actual Cost and Actual Work are also zero.

add Actual Cost, Actual Work and % Complete columns

Add the Actual Start and Actual Finish columns. Since the % Complete is zero, Actual Start doesn't contain a date. Because % Complete is not 100%, Actual Finish doesn't contain a date.

add Actual Start and Actual Finish columns

Add the Baseline Start and Baseline Finish columns. They don't have values because the baseline hasn't been set yet.

add Baseline Start and Baseline Finish

The Gantt chart only shows one line for each task because the baseline hasn't been set yet.

without a set baseline, the Gantt chart just shows one line

Set the Baseline
Now that we have all the columns we need, we can set the baseline. Select Project from the ribbon and then select Set Baseline > Set Baseline.

use the ribbon to set the baseline

Now that you set the baseline, notice that the baseline columns such as Baseline Start have values.

the Baseline columns now have values

And the Gantt chart shows 2 lines for each task, reflecting the baseline schedule and the actual schedule.

the Gantt chart now shows two lines, one for the baseline

Baseline Budget Cost's value is based on Budget Cost. Baseline Budget Work's value is based on Budget Work. Baseline Cost's value is based on Cost. Baseline Work's value is based on Work.

Compare the Baseline Schedule to the Actual Schedule
To compare the baseline schedule to the actual schedule, you first need to make changes to your project.

Change T1's % Complete value to 10%. Notice that Actual Start uses the value from Start.

change T1's % Complete value

Change T1's start date to 8/5. Actual Start also changes to 8/5, but Baseline Start is still 8/3 because that was the start date when the baseline was set. Notice that the Gantt chart shows the changes between the baseline and the current project.

the Baseline Start shows the original start date

Change T1's % Complete to 100%. Now T1's Actual Finish has a value of 8/5 while Baseline Finish reflects the original finish date from when the baseline was set.

Baseline Finish shows the original finish date

Change T2's Finish to 8/13. The Baseline Finish still displays 8/6.

the Baseline Finish still shows the original finish date

Change T2's Duration to 10 days. The following columns don't change because they're based on the budget cost and budget work of the project summary (Project1), so they're not impacted or changed when the schedule changes:

  • Baseline Budget Cost
  • Budget Cost
  • Baseline Budget Work
  • Budget Work

the Baseline columns don't change

But Cost changes to $4,400 based on the new duration of 11 days. Work changes to 88 hours based on the 11-day duration. So now Cost is more than Baseline Cost ($4,400 to $1,600) and Work is more than Baseline Work (88 hours to 32 hours).

Cost and Work change

I can see why adding all those columns was worth the effort because now I have a great way to visually track my project schedule.

Interested in more PM Central and Microsoft Project content? Then check out the following blogs and KBs:

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