Tracking Project Portfolios Using Baselines

Baselines - What they are and how they work

A Project "Baseline" is a saved copy of a project at a point in time that you can use to compare with current and past data. When you "snap a baseline" you are saving a "picture" of what that project looked like at time it was snapped. Baselines also allow you to save a set of "change limits" for each project and portfolio, and then be visually alerted if a change in a project exceeds a set limit.

Viewing, Snapping, and Deleting Baselines

You can snap and view baselines using the "Baselines" menu items (Figure 1).

Figure 1

To snap a new baseline, select the "Snap Baseline" menu item and the values from the currently saved project become the new last baseline. You can also snap the baselines for all the projects in a portfolio at once by selecting the "Snap Portfolio and Projects" from the portfolios "Baselines" menu. To view the last project baseline, select the "Show Baseline" menu item and the enterable fields in the Project form are replaced by the baseline values.

Setting and Using the Change Indicators

The change indicators are visual indicators that a project value has changed outside of a user-specified range compared to the baseline. This allows you to quickly determine which projects have changed by glancing at a portfolio form and which project parameters have changed (attributes and/or timing) by glancing at the project form.

The Change Indicator limit settings allow you to set two ranges of values for attributes that will trigger an indicator being displayed on the project and portfolio form. One limit triggers when there is a minor deviation from the baseline (e.g. exceeding ±5%), and the next one triggers when there is a major deviation from the baseline (e.g. exceeding ±10%).

When a change exceeds a minor or major change limit, the project form field an arrow next to the attribute indicating the type of change (major or minor) by the color and the direction of the change (positive or negative) by the direction. (Figure 2)

Figure 2

You use the Baseline Change Indicator Limit form to view and modify the change indicator limits for each project.

Figure 3

For example, in Figure 4, the minor attribute change limit is 5% and the major attribute change limit is 10%. Changes below 5% would be indicated by a green line in the project form, changes greater than 5% but less than 10% would be indicated by a minor change indicator in the project form, and changes equal to or greater than 10% would be indicated by a major change indicator in the project form.

Figure 4

As we can see from an example Project form (Figure 5), Project Andromeda has one attribute that has changed from the baseline value: "Cost ($)." Notice that the change in "Cost ($)" is a minor postive change (light green color pointing down indicating lower cost).

Figure 5

For example. when we look at the baseline by selecting the "Show Last Baseline" menu item (Figure 6), we can see that the "Cost ($)" has decreased by more than 5% (from "7048" to "6500") from the baseline (Figure 7). Since this is greater than a 5% change but less than a 10% change, it is a "minor" change.

Figure 6

Figure 7

You can return to the last saved Project values in the Project form by selecting the "Show Current Data" menu item (Figure 8)

Figure 8

Project Change Indicators in the Porfolio Form

In addition, after the project is saved the color indicators in the Portfolio form change color (green, yellow or red) for the corresponding projects that have attributes that exceed their baseline limits. "Project Andromeda" has at least one minor (yellow) change, "Project Aries" each has at least one major (red) change, and "Project Aquarius" has no (green) changes. (Figure 9).

Figure 9

From the discussion above, you can see how you can quickly "drill down" into a portfolio to determine what changes have been entered relative to the baselines.

The Project Trend Tracker Form

The Project Baseline Trend Tracker is used to display and analyze the results of portfolio baselines saved over time. (Figure 9)

Figure 9

The top of the form displays a chart for displaying the trends as a line chart and a set of radio buttons, check boxes, and a drop down menu for controlling what data is displayed. Because project SMART scores can change without the ranking changing, charting the project's rank is a useful way to track the relative value in the portfolio.

The form contains two list boxes: the left listbox displays the SMART Score data for the saved portfolio baseline. Clicking a row in the left list box displays the portfolio's attribute values at the time the baseline was snapped.

For Simulation-Prioritization portfolios, a thumbnail button of the SMART Score distribution for the portfolio selected in the left list box is displayed in the upper right of the form. Clicking on that button displays a larger picture of the distribution.

Clicking an Attribute row in the right list box displays the trend for that Attribute in the chart area (Figure 10). Clicking the [SMART Score Trend] returns to charting the left listbox data.

Figure 10

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