Saturday, February 13, 2016

Working with Multiple Baselines in MS Project 2016

A saying goes as:
“Planning is indispensable, but plans are useless.”

In real world projects (as also in daily life), it rarely happens that you exactly follow the planned course of action. You have to make changes to your plan. But planning is needed and it can not be avoided. Because planning sets the direction, gives a possible end date and lets you and your team members know what is expected to be executed at what point of time.

Planning, of course has to be monitored. To monitor the plan, we baseline the project. Any variations - with respect to scope, time, cost etc. – are tracked. It is against the baseline, where the variances are monitored, tracked and reported.

But when plans change we need to adjust our course. When many changes have  happened, then we have to rebaseline - because the previous baseline is no longer relevant. Your sponsor will approve this baseline after due considerations.  Microsoft® Project software gives the option to have multiple baselines. It provides 11 baselines for a project. When you re-baseline the project, your tracking will happen to the latest baseline, which is approved by the sponsor. When the project is complete, you measure the changes, with respect to the final baseline. This is what also PMI® and other standard bodies on project/program/portfolio management say. 

Why View Multiple Baselines?
Say, you are in Baseline 2. And you want to see what has happened since the beginning, i.e., you want to see the information for Baseline (0), Baseline 1 as well. How will you check on these changes? This is a question that I get many times in my “Practical PMP® with MS Project” or standalone  “MS Project” classes. Hence, this post.

Putting this need into a diagram, the need looks like this.

Measurement happens with respect to the status date. In any project-portfolio management software, one should be able to look back at any baseline and find out what are the differences with respect to the key objectives for the project. In MS Project you can do that by checking on the Tracking Gantt Chart (or making some formatting changes to Gantt Chart). 

This is how it comes a for project created in the Tracking Gantt.

This shows information only with respect to the baseline that you have selected – but NOT all the baselines. 

Multiple Baselines Gantt:

How about seeing all the baseline information in a single graph?
It means, I want to see information for Baseline 0, Baseline 1, and also Baseline 2 as on the status date. That also can be done in MS Project. How? Just switch to Multiple Baselines Gantt view. If you are in Task tab, go to View group -- More Views … and then select Multiple Baselines Gantt. 

In this special Gantt view, all the baselines information will be showed. The formatting is not what you might expect to have properly. Here only lines will be visible and it may not give you information that you need. It comes as follows, for the above project created.

As you can see, from here you really can not make out what is happening. So we have to make some changes.

Formatting Multiple Baselines Gantt:
To format the Multiple Baselines Gantt, go to Format tab -- Bar styles -- Format -- Bar Styles…

Or you can simply also right on the graphical side of the Gantt Chart and click on Bar Styles. This will also open the Bar Style box.
Now we will do formatting for the 3 baselines. I’ve done the following formatting:

Baseline (0) -- Black Bars 
Baseline 1 --  Orange Bars
Baseline 2 -- Green Bars

In addition, I have also added the % completion in each bar – with each bar being visually more prominent by increasing the width. For the final baseline information, I have added the name of the tasks to the right. All these formatting are done in Bar Styles box.

After formatting is applied, the Multiple Baselines Gantt looks as below. Note that the corresponding milestones are also formatted for respective baselines.

By looking at the Multiple Baselines Gantt Chart, I can say what has happened to each task over a period of time, what is the latest percent complete for each task, and who are the team members working on these tasks. 

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