Properly Utilizing Dependencies, Baselines, & Critical Path with Rolling Wave Planning

TannerS ✭✭
edited 06/22/22 in Smartsheet Basics


I'm an IT project manager and we use the Rolling Wave Planning Technique on our projects. In short, our scope (list of tasks) is continuously evolving as subject matter experts tell us what is and is not needed. We cannot layout a full project plan as we don't know all the deliverables, work packages and tasks. Furthermore, it is difficult to estimate dates until the those things are discovered.

That being said, how can I properly use dependencies, baselines, and the Critical Path Method? These are essential to planning, but as far as I can tell- one cannot get baselines unless they know all their tasks and provide an estimated duration? Furthermore, the Gantt Chart and CPM seem incorrect even with dependencies labeled.

Maybe it's just me, but I have not found any great videos or resources that clearly explain how correctly utilize these tools (Youtube, Google, Smartsheet Training, LinkedIn Learning, etc.)


  • Julio S.
    Julio S. Moderator

    Hi @TannerS ,

    As you point out, Baselines require to know all tasks planned Start and Finish dates from the beginning as these will be pinpointed to perform the respective variance calculations comparing the planned start and finish with the current ones.

    This means that any task inserted after the Baseline was initially set, won't be considered in the Baseline calculations. You would have, however, the option to reset Baselines at any time so that the new information is considered but you should bear in mind that resetting your Baselines will cause the initially planned start and finish dates to be will be overwritten with the current Start and Finish date information so you may want to create additional columns where you can populate this information prior to resetting Baselines. Before starting to use them, I would advise to test out this functionality on a test sheet that may reproduce foreseeable states in your project sheets.

    The following webinar and article can be of help to give you an introductory knowledge about this functionality: Set Baselines on a Project Sheet and Keep Your Projects on Track with Baselines

    Regarding the remaining Project Management features (critical path and dependencies) introducing changes to you project shouldn't have a major impact since these functionalities will adjust along the way of your changes. For example, the critical path will always show any jumps in between tasks based on their predecessor relationship (e.g if task 2 is in row 2 but at some point task 3 is inserted in row 15, you may easily configure this by designating row 2 as the start-finish predecessor of row 15 (task 3) and 15 as the predecessor of row 4 and so on which will reflect in the Critical path as shown in my example below.

    In order to fully understand these functionalities I would strongly advise to review Enable Dependencies and Use PredecessorsTrack the Critical Path in a Project and the Project Management Tutorial.

    Please understand that it is difficult to summon up all Project Management capacities and advise about how to best implement them for your particular case in a single post, however, if you'd need specific advise about any of these when put into practice. Please make sure to include some screenshots showing the implementation and current use of these while hiding any confidential information from your project sheets.

    I hope that this can offer some guidance to help you achieve what you intend.



  • TannerS
    TannerS ✭✭

    Julio, thank you for the response! I will be sure to check the tutorials recommended.