A baseline is a consistent point of reference used for comparison. In the business world, the performance of a project or product is usually compared against a baseline number for expenses, revenue, or any number of other variables. A project's baseline figure may be exceeded or missed.
A corporation that wishes to measure the success of a product line, for example, can use the number of units sold in the first year as a baseline against which following annual sales are measured. The baseline serves as the starting point for measuring all future sales.
A baseline can be any number that serves as a logical and well-defined starting point for comparison. It can be used to assess the consequences of a change, track the progress of an improvement effort, or compare two points in time.
A public firm, for example, will track the performance of each product line by selecting one year as a baseline and comparing all following years to it.
When preparing a financial statement or budget analysis, a baseline is frequently used. The statement or analysis uses existing revenues and spending as a baseline to determine whether a new project is successfully implemented.
The following are the primary advantages of using a baseline:
- It provides a detailed perspective of how a project will progress over time.
- It allows teams to justify and contextualize delays, adjustments, and the dreaded "scope creep".
- Even non-technical stakeholders will be able to understand the final goals and estimated timescales of a development project.
- A baseline is a straightforward approach to assess corporate performance over time, particularly when compared to previous outcomes.
- Projects a clear image of a project's planned timetable, allowing the team to stay on track.
- Provides a strategy for determining which resources are required and when they are required during the project's life cycle.
- Allows for proper reflection and reporting of progress.
- Allows businesses to evaluate their present performance to a certain benchmark based on their own previous performance (horizontal financial analysis) and the benchmark developed relative to comparable organizations in the industry.
- Financial injections and leakages should be projected so that funds can be managed appropriately.
- In horizontal financial analysis, the initial reporting period's statistics serve as the baselines for comparing following periods.
- The approved budget numbers serve as the baselines for comparing actual spending in project budgeting.
- The baseline is the expected or maximum level of performance in information technology management.