The Importance of a Baseline Schedule

Time management is one of the most important processes in project management. It is the discipline of planning and controlling the duration of a project. A baseline schedule is a main project management document that should be created before the project starts. It demonstrates the project execution strategy, key project deliverables, activity planned dates and major project milestones. Typically, activities are grouped under different work breakdown structure levels. Engineering, procurement, production, testing etc. processes are highlighted in baseline schedules. In project management, a baseline creates starting point for your project plans. Almost everything starts with baselines. Before to start, let’s take a look at the project scheduling concept.

Project Scheduling

If you are working in the field of project management, most probably you are working with project schedules or working close to the schedulers.

Many organizations and project teams have different approaches for building workable schedules. There are various tools and techniques available for scheduling. However all the schedules are not executable and they don’t reflect the real project conditions. Project scheduling is the art of planning which activities need to get done in a timeframe. While creating project schedules, project teams must determine which organizational resources will be allocated to complete these tasks. From this aspect, project schedule is a document that plans and documents all the works needed to deliver the project on time.

While creating a project schedule, the expert must ask this question to himsel;

  • Which tasks are being scheduled and for what purposes ?

Basically the answer of this question requires experts knowledge and experience. Many experts have their opinions on what is required to create a workable schedule. Basically project scheduling follows below steps ;

  • Creating the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
  • Defining the work packages
  • Defining activities
  • Defining logic and relationships
  • Defining and assigning resources
  • Defining timeframe
  • Analyzing the critical path and the overall schedule

Baseline Schedule

Baseline schedule is also known as schedule baseline or target schedule. It is an approved copy of project schedule that can be used to analyze the project performance and report the schedule variances. Baseline schedule creates a road map to prepare baseline budget, mobilization plans, resource allocation plans and other important project management documents.

According to PMBOK Guide, a Project Schedule represents “The planned dates for performing activities and the planned dates for meeting milestones.”

Baselines are the approved frozen versions of the project schedules. Before updating the project schedule for the first time, baseline schedule is retained as a target. This means the baseline schedule is the same as the project schedule at the beginning.

As the project progressed and tasks are performed, the baseline schedule may deviate from the actual schedule. It may not reflect the current project status. Risks and unforeseen events may effect and some changes outside the control of project management team may cause delays.

Under these circumstances remedial actions should be taken and recovery plans should be created.

Scope changes may result in additional or omitted work. Therefore, duration and cost estimates may change. It is important to emphasize that baselines should only be changed when there is an approved change request related to project scope changes. It can be changed only through formal change control procedures.

Baseline Schedule Tracking

After the approval of the baseline schedule by the stakeholders, it will be retained as target. Schedule tracking is to analyze the differences between the planned and the actual dates. Changes in the critical path, schedule variances and delays are determined and reported in all updates.

Importance of Having a Baseline Schedule

A baseline schedule allows you to understand the performance of your project over time. For instance let’s say major deliverables of your project will be completed in the next month. If you don’t have a schedule baseline, you will not decide if your performance is enough to complete the project on time. If you have a baseline and it shows that the major deliverables must be completed in two weeks,  you need to make adjustments to speed up your progress.

Having a proper baseline provides many benefits to the project team. Three of them are as follows;

  • Comparison of Planned and Actuals: As we discuss above, baseline schedule provides planned figures which are used to make comparisons between the actual figures.
  • Performance Measurement and Earned Value Analysis: Project teams can perform earned value analysis by using the planned values of the baseline schedule and actuals from the work performance reports.
  • Improving Future Estimates : Documenting the cost and schedule performance calculations helps to improve future plans and estimates.

Below are some problems that you must overcome if you don’t have a proper baseline schedule.

  • Inadequate resource planning (inc. labor, material and equipment)
  • Delays on the schedule
  • Quality management problems
  • Problems in change management
  • Customer /Stakeholder dissatisfaction
  • Inadequate progress and performance reporting


In project time management, baseline schedules are used as references to analyze the schedule performance of the project. It is a reference document which compares the planned and the actual dates. Earned Value Analysis (EVA) and Schedule Performance Index (SPI) can be used in conjunction with the baselines to understand how far ahead or behind the project is at the point of analysis.

In this article we discuss baseline schedule and its importance for a successful project management. If you want to add or share anything, you can do so through the comments box below.

See Also

Baseline Budget

Kickoff Meeting Agenda Template

External References


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