What is a Baseline?
Smartpedia: A baseline is a concrete version of a configuration. As a snapshot in the development process, it represents all intermediate results at a defined point in time.
Baseline – the documented snapshot
In the course of product or software development, configuration management handles and labels related work results as so-called configurations. A baseline – also known as a baseline or reference configuration – is a concrete version of such a configuration. It is a snapshot of the development process and represents all intermediate results at the time of saving. In IEEE, the baseline is described as “A specification or product that has been formally reviewed and agreed on, that thereafter serves as the basis for further development, and that can be changed only through formal change control procedures”. In other words: a baseline is
- a specification,
- who passed a formal review,
- which is declared the basis for further developments,
- and can subsequently only be changed by a process of formal change.
Where are baselines used?
In addition to product and software development, the baseline concept and configuration management also have an impact on requirements management. As configuration elements, a baseline can include all
- documents such as customer specifications, system or software requirement specifications architectural drafts,
- UML or SysML diagrams such as requirement diagrams or state diagrams,
- acceptance criteria and test cases.
It thus also becomes an active tool against scope creep as the uncontrolled addition of features to the project scope, without taking into account the effects on deadlines and costs. At the same time, it is also an instrument in the course of audits, for example, when it comes to tracking changes in relation to a reference configuration.
Basically, configuration management facilitates the comparison of different work statuses and offers the possibility to fall back on earlier baselines aka project statuses. Usually a simple naming convention like 1.2.3 is used:
- The first digit stands for a (major) release, i.e. a configuration that is delivered to customers and marketed accordingly.
- The second digit stands for a (minor) release, i.e. a configuration that may only be delivered to selected customers.
- The third digit is an internal numbering and describes only a small revision.
Baselines are not only drawn in the course of product or software development. Also in project management – e.g. when working with project phases – it makes sense to document the current status of the work results. For example, a baseline could be drawn for each milestone to facilitate project control and monitoring.
There are a number of tools that support baselining: Configuration management software such as
- Red Hat Ansible,
- ATLASSIAN Bamboo,
- MICROFOCUS PVCS or
but also many programmes for requirements management or requirements engineering such as
- ReqSuite RM,
- Polarion Requirements,
- DOORS Next,
- Enterprise Architekt,
- Jama Connect,
- Helix ALM,
- Visure Requirements,
- Cradle or
and also solutions for project management offer corresponding features.
The term baseline is also used in other situations: In tennis, for example, a player orients himself on the baseline, which he wants to defend depending on his playing style. In research, the baseline can represent a starting point. And a baseline is also the opposite of a headline.
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