Baseline Data

What is Baseline Data?

Baseline data is a set of information often employed to compare other data acquired afterwards. It serves as the foundation of most research projects.

Baseline data is an initial collection of data which serves as a basis for comparison with the subsequently acquired data.

In business, the success of a project or product is often measured against a baseline number for costs, sales, or any number of other variables. A project may exceed a baseline number or fail to meet it.

For example, a company that wants to measure the success of a product line can use the number of units sold during the first year as a baseline against which subsequent annual sales are measured. The baseline serves as the starting point against which all future sales are measured.

What Does Baseline Data Mean?

In order to study different subjects, researchers require a certain degree of previous information to establish the scope and reach of their investigation. This information is often called baseline data, since it serves as the starting point for the research project and it can help the researchers to develop hypotheses founded on results obtained previously by other investigators. For companies, baseline data is particularly important to keep research projects small enough so they can be actually funded. Consulting and research companies often provide these broad data sets where different conclusions, findings and hypothesis can be drawn to develop deeper research studies more associated with the company’s target market or segment.

A baseline data, in this case, can be the gender distribution of the country, state or city where the company functions. By using this data, companies can understand what’s the actual size of their market and then they can develop further studies to understand the behavior of the segment they are interested to reach. Baseline data also serves as comparison, since it can be weighed against new information obtained from other sources to judge the accuracy or relevance of this newly acquired set of data.

Example of Baseline

Budget Baseline

A budget that was approved at a point in time. Used for purposes such as controlling change to a budget or forecasting future costs. For example, a government might use the current year’s annual budget as a baseline and apply inflation projections in order to forecast future budget deficits.

Project Baseline

The approved schedule, budget and scope of a project at a point in time. Project baselines are a basic tool of project change management.

Project budgeting works from what is known as a cost baseline. The cost baseline is the budget approved for the project, usually broken down in some detail by cost category and cost period of time.

If a company opens a new warehouse, for example, and the cost baseline has been set at $100,000 per month every month for 10 months, any monthly cost exceeding $100,000 is a red flag for the budget analyst.

However, project costs inevitably fluctuate from baseline numbers as unknown and unexpected expenses or even, in some cases, savings are realized. The cost baseline can be updated to reflect actual project costs.


The approved configuration of something such as a software service at a point in time.

In information technology management, a baseline may be set for anticipated or maximal levels of performance. There are three commonly-used baseline points: cost, scope, and schedule.

Software applications used by project management professionals typically are designed to maintain and track these three critical baseline measurements.

Functional Baseline

An approved version of requirements or specifications.