What is a Baseline?
A baseline is a fixed reference point in time to measure and compare a project’s progress to completion. Capturing and comparing variances between the current and actual schedule and the originally planned schedule is essential for tracking any deviations and allows project teams to quickly re-prioritise to get projects back on track and delivered on time. The new baselines functionality in Smartsheet will help project managers keep projects on track.
When running projects, how often do the estimated completion times for individual tasks change? They either run over or are completed earlier than anticipated and suddenly the total project timeline has changed.
This new function allows you to track baseline, actual dates and the variance between the two at individual task and total project level.
This launch is a great step forward for Smartsheet, however there is an aspiration to further develop this functionality. One of the biggest points which is still WIP is being able to surface the baseline bars and modelling in reports and dashboards. Another popular improvement will be to see multiple baselines and see how these have changed over time.
So how do you set up the Baselines feature?
- Ensure you have a start and end date in your Smartsheet and be in Gantt view
- Click on the Baselines button in the toolbar
- You will be presented with this screen which shows your actual dates, baselines dates and variances as below.
- If the toggle is set to “show baseline in Gantt” you will visually see the bars in your Gantt view too. Simply switch this off if not required.
- Click “Set” to enable
Once switched on, you will automatically get three new columns added to your Smartsheet. These are:
- Baseline Start – The date in your start column.
- Baseline Finish – The date in your end column.
- Variance – The difference between Actual End Date and Baseline End Date.
These columns are read only and non-editable, however they can be referenced in reports and sheet summaries and can feature in formulas.
Once your baselines are set up, you can use the summary screen to view, edit or remove baseline information. As start and end dates are changed in the project plan, the baselines summary will capture the changes.
To open the baselines summary
- Go to Gantt view
- Click on baselines in the toolbar
In the baseline summary view, you will see the following:
- Show baseline in Gantt – Toggle for enabling baseline in Gantt view.
- Actual – The earliest actual start and latest end dates in your columns.
- Baseline – The earliest and latest baseline start and end dates in your columns established at the time when you enabled the baseline originally.
- Variance – The difference between Actual End Date and Baseline End Date – calculated in decimal days according to the working schedule defined for your project. Variance will display the overall status of your project as Days behind, Days ahead, or On schedule.
- Reset – Establish a new baseline start and end date – see notes below
- Remove – Remove the baseline from your sheet (see the Edit or remove baselines from your sheet section for more information.)
You can choose to reset the data if you wish, however if you would like to keep a history of changes follow these steps otherwise previous data will be lost.
- Rename current columns in your Smartsheet such as Baseline V1, V2 etc and lock the columns.
- Reset baselines which adds 3 new columns but keeps your previous versions
Baselines are discussed in Cheetah Transformations Smartsheet Foundations Training course. Click on the link for more info and dates.
If you would like to discuss this feature or any other Smartsheet feature get in contact with the Cheetah team by clicking this link and we’ll get right back to you.