What Are Milestones in Project Management and How to Define Them?
A project milestone can be considered as a tool that delineates a point in a project schedule and shows an important achievement in it. Milestones should demonstrate a clear sequence of events that incrementally build up until a project is complete.
Applying project milestones is a way of knowing how the project is advancing.
Milestones have zero duration – they symbolize an achievement or a point of time in a project.
When do we use project milestones?
Project managers use milestones to mark:
- the start of significant work phases
- the end of significant work phases
- the deadlines for something
- when an important decision is being made
Experienced project managers know how useful in scheduling they are. Milestones break off chunks of a project to make it less daunting.
You may find milestones in different project management tools and software functionality. They are commonly represented as the Gantt chart feature.
A Gantt chart is a visual representation of your scheduling. They are laid out on a timeline with tasks as points along the path. Milestones divide this timeline into project phases.
How frequently to apply milestones in planning
There is an optimal rule of thumb to put milestones in your plan about once a month. However, you can use your own professional judgment.
Some months may consist of a lot of activity with important meetings being marked as milestones, decisions being taken and the closure of one phase and the start of another one. In other months, you may focus on execution, and there is very little that you can hang a milestone on.
How to scheduling with milestones?
With the help of milestones, you can accurately estimate the time it will take to complete your project. Milestones are often used in scheduling methodologies, for example – the Critical Path Method, that is aimed to determine major scheduling periods. They will also assist you if you need to calculate the slack in your project by segmenting the project into intervals, or smaller timeframes.
You may also use milestones to remind yourself about board meetings and any important event. It’s a great way to make sure everyone is aware of upcoming meetings.
Milestones can be linked like tasks – when the phase of one milestone cannot begin until the completion of the phase before it.
You will not block team members by having them wait or by not allowing them what they need to move forward with their tasks.
How to track progress with Milestones?
Milestones help to recognize how far you’ve come in the project. You may note the completed milestones and measure the distance you are from the project finish line.
This will be useful when you will communicate with stakeholders. Usually, they are not interested in detailed reports about the project’s progress and just want broad strokes that indicate whether the project is moving along as scheduled. In this case, milestones are ideal as they demonstrate the major phases you’ve finished at this point in the project.
Your goal is to present them the milestones you completed this month and the ones you’re on track to complete for the coming month.
Milestones and Gantt Charts
Many project management services add milestones to the Gantt charts – they look like diamonds icons to a point on the timeline.
To create a milestone, pick the task on your schedule and change the property to a milestone. By hovering over the milestone icon, you can view its name.
Online Gantt chart software helps to get the full advantages of milestones. Planning your project with such tools, you just add the tasks and their duration, including the due dates. Gantt chart will populate the timeline automatically.
Gantt chart software also provides teams with collaboration options: you may share updates and files, create dialogues with the team members.
If you have a long project plan and many milestones, it will be easier to drop off completed milestones each reporting cycle.
It’s better to report the milestones that are upcoming or completed that month. Next month take off anything that was completed last month.
As we can see, milestones are a real project management tool for scheduling, planning, and reporting. They are easy to use and helpful.
What do you think about using milestones in project management?