Ever traveled by road? Do you notice the signposts you see by the roadside every few miles, that indicate the distance you need to further cover to reach your destination? That’s what a project milestone is like. The signposts are your milestones while your project is like your destination.
While the signs are not vital and though you can reach your destinations without them. The fact that they exist gives you the reassurance that you are on the right path and you know just how close you are to reaching your destination. Project milestones perform the same purpose in project management. These milestones will let you know just how much progress you’ve achieved and keep your team motivated by enabling them to envision success and giving them a sense of achievement. They act as signposts through the course of your project, helping ensure you stay on track.
What Are Project Milestones?
Milestones are signs in a project that signifies a change or stage in development. They indicate key events and map forward movement in your project plan.
Project milestones are certain points in your timeline that indicate an important achievement or the fruition of a major step in the project. They are the places or checkpoints along a project’s timeline that identify when activities or groups of activities or a measurable level of work have been completed or when a new phase of activity is launched. Project milestones are extremely important for ensuring effective management and keeping the team on track.
Project milestones are a way of knowing how the project is advancing, as they help you showcase just how far you’ve come and how much further you have to go. By looking at the milestones that you’ve achieved, progress is visible. That is, you can see that you’re moving forward. These milestones can be deliverables or they can just be signposts that you use along the way to mark your progress.
What makes Project Milestones Important?
Project milestones help team members and project managers stay obliged to keep things on track for smooth project delivery. Project milestones significantly help project managers in implementing effective management principles in their projects. It helps managers keep track of the schedule, deadlines and enable them to reach critical KPIs. With the achievement of successive milestones, management can also maintain a more accurate understanding of how the project is advancing according to the initial plan.
Another importance is that with project milestones, you can easily identify the bottlenecks of the project and address them. The bottlenecks of a project can be the setbacks that hinder the workflow or the unavailability of critical resources to complete tasks and meet milestone deliverables. Simply put, bottlenecks within a project severely impact the subsequent tasks and dependencies and hinder project progress resulting in delays in delivery and cost escalation.
Also, setting up project milestones helps in improving team collaboration. For instance, when a project involves many teams, resources, and maybe even team members from different locations/time zones, effective collaboration of teams comes to be important. Hence, establishing milestones helps the resource teamwork with better productivity and in delivering the projects on time and within a fixed budget.
Project milestones also help project managers in tracking budget and adhering to timeline which are elements that define a project’s success.
Since budgets and timeline are mostly planned at the start of the project, milestones between project phases help managers check planned vs. actuals in terms of budget and timeline and take necessary corrective actions ahead of time.
Project milestones also enable managers to convey project progress updates to stakeholders and get their approvals. Stakeholders are always interested to know if the project is moving forward as scheduled or not. Milestones are ideal for this kind of reporting because milestones show the significant phases that the team has accomplished to date.
Project managers often set milestones to help their team work at peak productivity. When you set up project milestones you’re deciding when specific things need to be completed. You may need project milestones just to make sure you’re on track. You might need them in order to keep the client informed of what’s going on with their project. You also might need them to show your boss that everything is moving along or that your team is really getting the work done. These milestones are going to help everyone stay accountable and they’re going to allow you to keep an eye on everything. All you need to do is set up the milestones that are necessary for your project.
How do you set Project Milestones?
Setting milestones in the early phases of the project life cycle offers a broad view of what to expect with the progress of the project. Now that you know what a typical project milestone is, how do you create/set and use them in projects? Well, it’s going to require you to take a close look at the overall goal and the tasks that make up the project.
The first strategy or step that will help you define the right milestones for your projects is creating a project goal. The project first needs to have a plan with a definite objective.
After creating a detailed project plan and structure, you then proceed to split your entire project into tasks and subtasks. These tasks are then organized and grouped into different project phases. This not only keeps things organized but also facilitates the easy tracking of your project.
After your project has a clear structure and plan, then comes the most important part which is milestone planning. It is one of the most significant components of project planning because they act as a visible indicator of project progress.
In defining milestones, you need to first identify and determine the critical tasks of major project phases, assign milestones to them and then delegate the tasks to team members.
Now that your milestones are ready, mapping them is the next step to take. This is where a Gantt Chart comes in. A Gantt chart is a visualization of your entire project timeline. It provides a visualization of useful project parameters like the entire project schedule, the allotted time for each task and their current progress, assigned project team members and task dependencies on a single platform in real-time. This enables you to track useful aspects of the project such as the milestone schedules, the allotted time for each milestone delivery, assigned resources, etc.
Additionally, they map out every critical milestone and minor milestone of the project. This way, it becomes very easy for project managers to visualize all project milestones with a bird’ eye view and take proactive measures ahead of the curve.
Common Project Milestones Examples
Within a project, several different things could be considered a milestone but some are more common than others. These are the things that you want to take a look at to make sure you’re following along the way you should be and to make sure that your team is executing their tasks. The following are the examples of the milestone in Project Management that you should include in your project plan;
Start and End Dates of Project Phases
These two are fundamental milestones because they let you know when things are getting started and you can also deduce the last possible day that you should be working on the project and how long it will take to achieve your milestones.
If you need someone outside of yourself or a direct member of your team to review something then that’s another time you’re going to need a milestone. This is where you will need to halt some of your steps and whatever you’re working on to wait for that higher-level approval.
Just in case there is an urgency for you to give a report to your client or with your project manager or head before spending outside of a particular boundary, Budget Check is another sector where a milestone will be required. There’ll be a need to halt work till the budget gets evaluated and authorization to proceed.
Every bit of the deliveries is considered a milestone, if your client proposes deliverables before the initial agreed time for the deliverables. There will be a need to have all the work that leads to that deliverable attained, and then deliver the item, document or whatever it may be to the client.
Extensively, there is an abundance of stuff that could be referred to as deliverables. What is most crucial is that you need to check in with the people that are superior to you and your client in the chain, to know and work skillfully on their expectations.
Going with this idea will help set yourself up for a bigger achievement and there will be this strong conviction within you that you’ll get all your tasks completed as they should be, and finally, outlining your milestones will get effortless. Always keep in mind that milestones are key events that define your project’s success. Project milestones do not only help you track project progress but also serve as checkpoints, keeping you focused on your overall goals. Setting the right milestones would make you feel and perform better as a project manager and all you need are the right tools to help you do it.