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So far Lucian Ioan has created 18 blog entries.

Creating Budget Or Cost Baselines For Projects

By | October 10th, 2012|Project Management|Comments Off on Creating Budget Or Cost Baselines For Projects

Cost Baseline in RationalPlan Project Management SoftwareIn Project Management, the term project baseline refers to an accepted and approved project plan. Besides the schedule baseline, the cost/budget baseline is the most important part of  a project baseline. The cost baseline is that part of the project baseline that handles the amount of money the project is predicted to cost and on the other side when that money will be spent. It is an approved budget usually in a time distribution format used to estimate, monitor, and control the overall cost performance of the project.

In some cases there can be several intermediary baselines. This happens when either the project was not well planned or when significant changes appear to the scope of the project. However the initial baseline is usually what gets budgeted in the company’s financials. All types of baselines are closely related and changes to one of them will result in changes to the others. If a change is made in the project scope baseline, the schedule baseline gets adjusted and hence the cost baseline will probably have to be changed as well.

How is cost baseline created

When it comes to computing the total cost of the project some estimates need to be done. Once the project schedule is ready and approved, a bottom-up procedure should be used where for each activity of the project it is estimated a detailed cost. This way a total cost for each major phase and for the entire project gets computed. These initial costs of all of the planned activities will become the initial estimated budget.

Cost Analysis

According to PMBOK the cost baseline is a “time-phased budget that is used as a basis against which to measure, monitor, and control overall cost performance on the project.” But many factors can affect the cost performance of a project so the above estimated costs established during the planning phase might not be estimated that well. The true costs of certain tasks may not be well known at planning time. If a given price for materials, trainings or travel costs was taken into consideration at planning phase but at execution time these are increased there is an unforeseen additional cost. (more…)

Managing Projects Using Project Baselines

By | September 24th, 2012|Project Management Software, Project Tracking|1 Comment

Baselines in RationalPlan Project Management SoftwareA baseline as the name suggests is a line that is being used as a base for future measurement. It is a reference. In Project Management, the term baseline refers to an accepted and approved project plan. Usually known as project baseline, it is a must for a project manager that wish to monitor and evaluate the success of the project. Without it there is no possibility to compare the current status of the project with the initial estimated one.

Once established what the baseline is, the next important step is to store it for future use. If it is not stored, then it cannot be used to compare against it and it is meaningless. For a project there can be saved multiple baselines depending on the project size and how often the project plan changes.

To obtain the best efficiency a project manager should best use a project management software to create the detailed project plan. After it gets approved the manager should save it as a baseline project plan. During the project execution, comparisons can be done between the initial baseline estimates and the current status to compute variances. This comparison can be done either manually or automatically by software tools. Of course the second approach is preferred.

Types of project baselines

Since a project baseline includes many data from a project it is difficult to manage it as a whole and usually it is broken into several parts. This makes the complexity of baseline management easier to deal with. Project baselines generally include:

  • Scope baseline – the technical, physical and functional requirements for deliverable products
  • Schedule baseline – the project schedule and all of the elements supporting the schedule
  • Cost/Budget baseline – an approved budget usually in a time distribution format used to estimate, monitor, and control overall cost performance on the project
  • Quality/Risk baseline – the set of known possible changes (uncertainties) that could impact the performance of the project (more…)

Project Management Terms – Assumptions

By | August 6th, 2012|Project Management Glossary|Comments Off on Project Management Terms – Assumptions

Assumptions are factors considered to be true in the planning phase.

As they are not certitudes, a certain degree of risk is involved. In fact, in Risk Identification process as part of the Project Risk Management, assumptions analysis takes an important role. Also, in Qualitative Risk Analysis, assumptions are important input data.

Examples of assumptions:

  • a person or equipment will be available at a certain date
  • the weather will allow an outdoor operation at a certain date
  • stakeholders will take a decision in the next meeting

Assumptions should be documented as part of the basis for the risks list. In RationalPlan Project Management Software a special step of the Project Guide is assigned for Assumptions and Constraints definition.

Project Management Terms – Task Contraints

By | July 30th, 2012|Project Management Glossary|Comments Off on Project Management Terms – Task Contraints

Constraint, Task constraint is a generic term used for factors that are affecting the start and finish date of an activity. Project constraints generally apply for things like the scope, budget, schedule of the project while task constraints, on the other hand, are restrictions that are imposed on tasks to start or finish on a certain date.

Generally there are three types of constraints: soft constraints, hard constraints and constraints that offer a certain degree of flexibility.

A soft constraint does not have any date restriction associated to it and allow the greatest flexibility. Basically they can be used to schedule tasks As Soon As Possible (ASAP) or As Late As Possible (ALAP) relative to the start and the end of the project.

Hard constraints impose a date restriction and can be seen as a “must” constraint that is the task Must Start On (MSO) or Must Finish On (MFO) the given date. These constraints are useful when the task depends on external factors and are strictly connected to certain dates.

Examples of external factors: availability of equipment, contractors milestones, budget availability etc.

Flexible constraints also impose a date restriction but as opposed to hard ones they only control the earliest or latest start or finish dates for a task. They act like some deadlines:

  • a task can Start No Earlier Than (SNET) or Finish No Earlier Than (FNET) the given date; it is limited to start or finish after that date but not earlier
  • a task can Start No Later Than (SNLT) or Finish No Later Than (FNLT) the given date; it is limited in the upfront and can not pass that date but can be moved to a previous date

A good project plan is the one that uses hard constraints as less as possible. This ensures a smooth shift in time of the whole project and this is mostly useful when creating project templates. Once a project template is created the project managers can just change the project estimated start date and all the schedule gets shifted and ready to be used.

Project Management Terms – Project Constraints

By | July 25th, 2012|Project Management Glossary|1 Comment

Constraints, Project constraints are restrictions that affect the project by imposing limitations on costs, resources or project schedule. For example, a predefined budget is a constraint that may limit staffing and schedule options. Through the imposed limitations constraints are important data input for the Scope Definition and Planning as part of the Project Scope Management.

Examples of constraints:

  • contractual obligations
  • cost, time, quality
  • actual technological level

In RationalPlan Project Management Software a special step in the Project Guide is dedicated to Assumptions and Constraints documentation.

Working With Subprojects And Master Projects

By | March 2nd, 2012|Project Management Software, Project Portfolio Management|Comments Off on Working With Subprojects And Master Projects

Managing projects is not a trivial job. You need to have the necessary skills, experience and of course the right project management tools to help you. But when it comes to managing large projects things are becoming even more complicated.

Sometimes companies need to manage large projects that extend on several years and that require a huge amount of work to be completed. This kind of projects are too big to be handled as a whole and must be decomposed in several smaller parts. Each part is treated as a separate project with its own assigned project manager and its own budget and time constraints. However all these projects are related and are actually subprojects of a master project.

The idea is that the program manager is running multiple projects and all those projects are managed by other project managers. As a program manager, you need to see a consolidated schedule view to see how the program is doing. The master project should offer the structure of the subprojects and show the dependencies between the projects. Of course resources can be shared so that overallocations and overtime costs to be detected and correctly computed.
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Project Management – The Light On The Critical Path

By | February 21st, 2012|Project Management Software, Project Tracking|2 Comments

The mysterious critical path notion seems to put project managers in difficulty and especially the novice ones. However if anyone would take just a few minutes from his precious time to pay a closer attention to it things would be a lot more clear.

The origin

In order to clear things up we need to have a background knowledge. On short it all started with the Critical Path Method (CPM) an algorithm for scheduling activities within a project. This method is best used within the project scheduling phase and basically it requires to construct a model of the project that includes:

  • the list of activities needed to complete the project (aka Work Breakdown Structure defined in the project planning phase)
  • the duration estimates for these activities
  • the dependencies between the tasks

Graphical representation


There are two possibilities to render the structure created according to CPM: activity on arrow and activity on node. The most used representation nowadays is the activity on node. The activities are rendered as nodes and each node contains the duration of that activity while the dependencies are rendered as arrows where the arrowhead points to the successor while the tail to the predecessor.

To some extent a Gantt chart can also be considered as a CPM presentation although a more complex one. (more…)

Project Management is not Business Management

By | March 24th, 2010|Business Management, Project Management Software|Comments Off on Project Management is not Business Management

One of the most prominent characteristic of a project as a concept, is its sharp delimitation in time. It has clear start and end dates and is designed to achieve a unique scope, unlike the ongoing operations specific for business management.

Sometimes, the end date of a project is the most important characteristic of the project. It is the starting point when designing the project deployment, any other characteristic being subordinated to this. In fact using a project management software allows a project manager to add a higher level of transparency regarding the interaction between various factors that interact when developing a project. Keeping some of this variables constant (like the end date of a project), allows to the project managers to determine and control the others (like cost or scope of the project).

Because of it’s very limited nature, a project duration can be clearly divided into five main phases. In the following observations we will presume that the client has clear expectations regarding the project and knows decently well what results he needs. The five main phases of a project are the following:

  • defining
  • planning
  • execution
  • controlling
  • closure

In the defining stage an important aspect is to speak with the people who are affected or exert influence over the project evolution. These people are referred to as the stakeholders. Getting their feedback will help you outline the project activities. This is commonly known as the scope (the work that should be done). It is equally important to write down both what will and will not be achieved. You want to make sure you know what the stakeholders are expecting. In this phase the aims and objectives are set, including the development of project deliverables and the desired outcomes of a specific set of activities.

The planning stage presumes breaking the deliverables into subdeliverables down to a level where activities can be outlined. Subsequently can be defined  the relations between tasks and their timeline for completion. An important aspect of this stage is defining the requirements for completion of the project, stipulating the needed resources as well as any other requirements deemed necessary. The risks and project constraints are identified and contingency plans originated to address any of these potential issues.

The execution phase takes the major part of the project. Here is most likely that surprises and conflicts to occur and sometimes corrective actions should be taken in order to bring the expected performance in accordance with the project plan. Project manager is responsible for coordinating individuals and make them acting like members of the same team.

As the work begins, the next stage of controlling the project defines the success or failure of a project manager, as the constant surveillance and adaption of project plan are required to reflect the progression of  involved activities. A project manager should take advantage of the methodologies and software available on the market. A large number of them are available online.

In the project closure stage, the team will be pulled together to analyze project performance and outline the learned lessons.

Stand By Soft is the provider of RationalPlan, a powerful project management software capable of handling multiple interrelated projects and covering project management areas starting with WBS construction, project planning and scheduling to progress tracking etc.