Baselines and Variances
As any good project manager would agree, "he who ignores history is bound to repeat it." That being said, I'm not going to lecture you on performance reviews or post-mortems. There are already too many articles on that topic. Instead, I will show you how to accurately compare your latest project plan with your original baseline. More precisely, I will reveal the simple steps required to calculate the schedule and cost variance of your project using Microsoft Office Project1.
Baselining a Project
Memory doesn't always serve me right. When a client or executive asks me what the baseline finish date for a specific feature was, I usually have to go back to my project plan. It's fairly easy to remember major milestones for a three-month project, but non-essential tasks for a project that lasts 12 to 36 months are harder to recall.
Fortunately, Microsoft Office Project (herein referred to as "MS Project") allows you to save a baseline for your project plan, thereby ensuring that the original data remains intact even when you update your project. At any given point in time, you can go to the "Tools" -> "Tracking" -> "Save Baseline" window, and save a baseline for your project. Once you're done, you can update the "% Complete" field, the "Actual Start" and "Actual Finish" dates, and of course add and remove tasks based on ongoing refinements to the requirements. MS
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