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Setting a Baseline in Primavera P6

Baselines let you track plan vs. actual for a project plan.

In this article, you will learn how to establish a baseline for your Primavera P6 schedule.

One of the most powerful features of Primavera P6 is its ability to track one or more baselines, which gives you an understanding of where your project is currently, compared to where it was when it first started, or perhaps at some other phase gate or key milestone.

This article will show you how to baseline your schedule in P6 so that you can refer to it later and compare it to how your schedule looks in the future.

Unlike Microsoft Project, which has a simple baseline that only tracks the start and finish dates of each task, baselines in Primavera P6 are much more robust. When you baseline a P6 schedule, you are not just tracking changes to dates; you are making a copy of your entire project, meaning that when you compare a P6 baseline to your current project, you will be able to see the differences between every aspect of your project, not just the dates.

There is no practical limit to the number of baselines that you can create in Primavera P6, though each baseline can take up a considerable amount of space since it is truly a complete copy of the project. Furthermore, while you can create a lot of baselines in P6, you can only have four assigned baselines at a time: one project baseline and up to three user baselines.

Project Baseline

The project baseline in Primavera P6 is the official baseline for your project. It is usually something that is established at the very beginning of your project so that you can compare it to the current state of your project in the future. The project baseline is typically approved by all project stakeholders before your project begins, and is subject to strict change control rules, so should not be changed after it has been set.

User Baselines

User baselines are much less strict than project baselines, so can be created more frequently and with less oversight. Primavera P6 supports up to three official user baselines called Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary. As noted above, it is possible to have a large number of baselines, but only three of those can officially be designated as user baselines at a time.

Creating Baselines

Before you can designate a baseline as a Project Baseline or one of the three Primary, Secondary, or Tertiary User Baselines, you need to actually create the baseline itself. Remember that baselining in Primavera P6 tracks all aspects of the schedule, so when you create a baseline, you are literally making a copy of your project. Here's how:

  1. We’ll start with a simple P6 schedule. Here, we have activities, a WBS, dates, percent complete, and predecessors:

    Simple P6 plan before it is baselined.

  2. To create your first baseline, go to Project > Maintain Baselines:

    Maintain baselines in Primavera P6.

  3. On the Maintain Baselines screen, click Add and then choose to Save a copy of the current project as a new baseline. When you click OK, Primavera P6 will copy your current project and use that to create the new baseline:

    Add a baseline in Primavera P6 that is a copy of the current project.

  4. Once the new baseline has been added, click on it to select it and then give it a Baseline Name and a Baseline Type:

    Name your baseline in Primavera P6 and assign it a baseline type.

  5. Over time, you can add more baselines to your project in the same manner. Remember that you can have as many baselines in your project as needed, but you can only assign four baselines to the pre-defined slots at any given time.

Assigning Baselines

Once your baselines have been defined, you can assign them to the four baseline slots in Primavera P6. To do this:

  1. Go to Project > Assign Baselines:

    Assign a baseline in Primavera P6.

  2. On the Assign Baselines screen, you will see four dropdowns for the Project Baseline, followed by Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary. In our example, we've only defined one baseline so far, so we'll assign it to the Project Baseline by clicking on the dropdown and selecting the baseline that we defined in the previous section:

    Assign the Project Baseline in Primavera P6.

    If you have already defined multiple baselines, you can assign them to the Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary baseline slots, as desired.

Displaying Baseline Dates

Once a baseline has been defined and assigned, you can show your baseline dates in the Primavera P6 Activities grid. To do this:

  1. Right-click in the grid and choose Columns from the context menu:

    Add columns to Primavera P6.

  2. On the Columns screen, expand the Dates category. You will see a list of baseline-related date fields. Select the baseline fields that you need. You can select multiple columns at once by holding down the Ctrl key on your keyboard while left-clicking on multiple columns. In our example, if we want to show the dates associated with the Project Baseline, we should select the BL Project Start and BL Project Finish fields:

    Select the baseline project start and finish fields in Primavera P6.

  3. Once your desired columns are selected, click the Add to List button to move them to the Selected Options list on the right-hand of the screen. Once the columns have been added, you can use the Up and Down buttons to re-order the columns as needed:

    Choose which columns should display in Primavera P6.

  4. Click OK, and you will see the newly-selected baseline columns appear in Primavera P6:

    Primavera P6 activities layout showing baseline dates.

There are four baseline slots in Primavera P6, and there are four pairs of baseline columns that are associated with each of those slots. Depending on which baseline you are using, the columns that you need to add to the Primavera P6 activities grid will vary:

  • Project Baseline: Use the BL Project Start and BL Project Finish columns
  • Primary Baseline: Use the BL1 Start and BL1 Finish columns
  • Secondary Baseline: Use the BL2 Start and BL2 Finish columns
  • Tertiary Baseline: Use the BL3 Start and BL3 Finish columns
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