A project is rarely a simple, linear flow of activities progressing smoothly as planned. Any experienced project manager understands that a full scale project is comprised of any tasks and sub-tasks a bulk of which may be inter-related thus requiring careful planning before changes can be affected.
As with the Arrow Diagramming Method, activities are the building blocks of a project. In order to ensure a successful project, each activity must be carried out successfully.
Despite laying out a tentative project timeline and a scope of work document for the endeavor, due to changing market trends and shifting stakeholder interests sometimes project objectives and the flow of activities tying the beginning to the end have to be altered.
From this are the baseline schedule (also referred to as schedule baseline) and project schedule.
What is Schedule Baseline?
A project is considered successful if it manages to fulfill the two following criteria:
- It sticks to a timeline that respects the needs of the project and the capabilities of the technical partners and vendors.
- It uses all the business assets and allocates resources efficiently
To balance out these two demands, the management and the production teams meet to create a project schedule or timeline. This timeline is a practical one. It takes into consideration the interests of all those involved, along with the implementation partners.
But the schedule is non-negotiable. Once it is prepared and approved by all parties, no further changes can be made to it.
In an ideal case scenario, the project and its activities progress according to the pace set up the schedule baseline without any interruptions or delays.
What’s the difference between schedule baseline and project schedule?
However in real industry conditions, a project without minor mishaps and delays is almost unheard of! This is why the baseline schedule and the project schedule are two different documents and entities. The project schedule is protean. It accommodates all the changes, delays and problems which the management team may encounter on its way to project completion. Due dates and milestone deliverables are shuffled and re-shuffled. These alterations and deviations from the ideal schedule are reflected in the project schedule.
An objective comparison of these two schedules, using project scheduling software gives a project manager a good idea of exactly how much the progress of the project is lagging behind the ideal or the intended progress. This comparison also brings into focus the delay between the scheduled deadline and the actual, practical completion date of the project.
The project schedule thus is a living project document which keeps changing over the course of the project whereas the schedule baseline is a part of the frozen project plan not subjected to alterations and incapable of accommodating delays and back-logs.
In the scheme of things both schedules are required to gauge the schedule performance of the project and thus the success of the endeavor.