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What Goes into a Scope Baseline

What does a good scope baseline look like? In this blog post, we explain what you should include in your project's scope baseline and why each item is important.

Projects are complex undertakings, with many variables that can change over time. As a project manager, it is your job to accept and manage those changes in order to ensure that your project is completed on time, within budget and of high quality.

As you work your way through the project management life cycle, you will learn about some of the tools and techniques available to help you remain in control of these changes. The scope baseline for a project is one such tool — essential for managing changes and keeping projects on track.

What is a scope baseline in project management?

An approved version of your project scope is known as a scope baseline.

A scope baseline is composed of your project scope statement, requirements documentation, the work breakdown structure (WBS), and the WBS dictionary where all details of your work breakdown structure are collated.

A project scope baseline functions as an important record for measuring the performance of a project against the original project management plan. Using this tool, teams can detect and assess any deviations between the actual work being done and the original objectives of a project, as well as track project progress and take corrective action.

A good scope baseline is able to communicate a project's goal and work requires in a clear and concise manner, as well as outline what resources are needed and how much time will be required to complete the project. It outlines in detail all activities of the project, such as:

  • Project resources
  • Project timelines
  • Project deliverables
  • Project boundaries
  • Key project stakeholders
  • Resource constraints

Scope baseline, together with cost baseline and schedule baseline, form a project baseline, also know as a performance measurement baseline.

New to baselining a project? Check out this guide. 📖

Why project scope baselines are important

While a cost baseline includes how much money the project should cost, the scope baseline gives you a snapshot of what your project is, how long it should take, and when it should be done.

The purpose of a scope baseline is to help a project manager track changes in the project and react to change requests through a formal change management process.

A scope baseline also serves as an agreement between you and your stakeholders about what work needs doing in order for the project to be successful.

It's important to capture all project information in one place so that it can be referenced later if the project scope changes. The scope baseline is the foundation on which the rest of the project work will be built, so you want to get it right. Having this information documented will also help you when it comes to creating your stakeholder communication plan and managing stakeholders.

How to create a project scope baseline

To create a project scope baseline, you must design a visual deconstruction of a project - detailed sections of your project in diagrams and/or in a Gantt Chart. The diagrams help project managers visualize all that is needed to complete a project. This is your WBS.

The next step is to build a WBS dictionary that expands each section of activities, deliverables, and schedule information.

Defining a project scope is the third step in creating a scope baseline. A project scope puts a clear boundary on what should be in a project and what shouldn’t. This helps project managers make a budget and schedule for a project, and control scope in the future.

Creating a project scope statement comes next. This is the fourth step in the process of creating a baseline and the project scope statement defines the scope of a project while ensuring key stakeholders agree to and understand the project. As a result, there will be reduced uncertainty, such as change requests, as the project progresses.

The last step is to present your WBS, WBS dictionary, and scope statement to the project stakeholders for approval. Once you get an approved version, your scope baseline is ready.

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