A baseline schedule is an essential project management tool that serves as a point of comparison for the actual progress of a project against completion deadlines. The baseline schedule includes the approved project schedule and any approved changes to that schedule as specified in a signed contract between parties such as between an owner and a general contractor. It is usually created during the planning phase, together with the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and the budget.

Also known as a target schedule, it contains all the tasks, durations, dependencies, and resources necessary to complete the project and serves as a benchmark for tracking progress.

Read on to learn why contractors in California should build a baseline schedule as a necessary part of their project planning.

Why Is Building a Baseline Schedule Essential?

Building a baseline schedule is vital for every business and project manager. It serves as a starting point for the project manager to track progress, identify issues, and make adjustments to keep the project on track. If you don’t have a baseline schedule, there is no standard against which to compare actual progress. Additionally, without it, you have no way of knowing if your project is on track or if any issues need your attention. Here are some advantages of creating a baseline schedule before embarking on a project:

You can break down your project into manageable parts through a work breakdown structure to identify and plan resource utilization accordingly.

The baseline schedule helps set realistic delivery dates for your project deliverables.

It’s an essential management tool that helps you communicate with stakeholders regarding the project’s progress.

A baseline schedule helps determine which activities should be carried out simultaneously and which ones should be done sequentially. Additionally, it provides a point of comparison for determining whether your construction work is on time or behind schedule.

You can estimate expenses and costs more accurately, foresee potential risks in advance, and track progress against the original plan.

Tips for Creating an Effective Baseline Schedule

Here are some practical, effective steps to follow when building a baseline schedule:

First, develop an overall work breakdown structure by breaking down the entire project into smaller tasks that can be completed independently of one another. It means that work on some tasks may overlap with other tasks, but it also allows you to see which activities have dependencies and need to be done sequentially.

Break down each task into individual elements of work. Even if one task seems like a single item, you should further break it down into steps to ensure there is no ambiguity about what needs to be done and when. Consider how much time each element will take and how much labor you’ll need to employ. Estimation is the integral component of a project plan, no matter what the project is. So, when calculating task duration, use top-down estimating and include only approved tasks in your baseline schedule.

Be sure to include milestones and tasks in your project plan and map your resources requirements. Also, don’t forget to record critical dates, such as approvals, contract deadlines, etc.

Communication with your team is vital in creating a baseline schedule. While you may be able to create it on your own, input from others allows for more accurate results and buy-in from team members responsible for completing their tasks. Whether you need help to develop an effective baseline schedule for your next construction project or require litigation support, our specialized consultants can help you! The Swaney Corporation-Crowe Construction, Inc. has experts in CPM scheduling and analysis to help California contractors carry their projects out efficiently and on-time. Call our office at (707) 665-9668 to talk to our experts!