A project milestone schedule is a management tool used to define a point in a project’s timeline. These milestones can indicate the start and the end of a project and the completion of a major phase of work. Milestones can represent anything that has started or finished, although they are most commonly used as a scheduling tool.
You can see how a milestone can help with scheduling if it focuses on essential progress milestones in a project. Just as tasks divide a more extensive project into manageable sections, milestones divide project phases to help project managers plan, schedule, and execute them.
What Is a Milestone Schedule?
A milestone schedule, often known as a milestone chart, is essentially a schedule that divides a project schedule into main segments using milestones. It is utilized when project managers or sponsors need to convey an overview of the project schedule with stakeholders or team members without going into detail because of its simplicity.
How to decide the milestones of the project?
Project milestones, as previously defined, track progress by dividing the project into phases. A milestone is a point at which one phase ends and another begins. The project management institute (PMI) defines project management as having five stages: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, and closing.
Milestones are more about a period than the particular completion of activities or project deliverables. Hence the question is if you may have milestones that do not correspond to project phases. The quick answer is yes. In a project, you can set any milestones you want. Traditionally, projects are divided into phases, but you can establish a milestone to represent a major task, important event, deliverable, or other events.
Project Milestones Examples
What better way to illustrate the use of milestones in project management than with some examples? So let’s look at some typical project milestones at each stage of the project life cycle.
- Project approval
- Start and end of phases of the project
- Approval of project charter
- Securing financing, equipment, or resources
- Assembling a project team
- Approval of project plan
- Project kick-off meeting
- Completing critical tasks
- Producing key project deliverables
- Reaching project goals and objectives
- Project completion
These milestone examples apply to any project, regardless of industry. However, as a project manager, you are allowed to create the project milestone schedule that will assist you in planning, executing, and tracking the progress of your project.
Why is it essential to have a milestone in a project schedule?
Project milestones are dates in your schedule that indicate a significant achievement or the completion of a major project phase. Project milestones are essential for good project management and keeping the team on track.
They are easy to incorporate into your project plan and do not necessitate any additional resources or time. You could even incorporate them into an ongoing project.
Examples of Milestones in Project Management
Now that you understand what a milestone in project management is, let’s look at a few scenarios when a milestone in a project may occur.
- The project’s start and finish dates, as well as any special project management phases
- Major deliveries are sent to the client for approval.
- Stakeholders’ approval for the project
- Completion of a complicated and critical task your project depends on
- Delivering a crucial presentation or deciding on specific features at a stakeholder meeting
Setting up project milestone schedule is not necessary. You can complete your project without ever defining any milestones. However, it is strongly advised that you do so.
Why setting a milestone important for a project?
Milestones help everyone involved in the project. For example, team members are more productive, and clients can better grasp the progress. Similarly, project managers find milestones useful and use them to stay on track with the initial project plan.
Now, let’s go over how project milestones assist the team, clients, other stakeholders, and project managers in detail.
1. Project team
The team gains a sense of achievement and finds it easier to work while focusing on short-term goals. Employees feel appreciated and respected when important milestones are recognized. Breaking up the monotonous work cycle can also have a significant impact on your team’s productivity.
Milestones are a tried-and-true approach to keeping project team members engaged and motivated throughout the project schedule, particularly in the complex long-term life cycle.
2. Clients and other Stakeholders
They find it easier to follow project progress and stay up to date on where the project is at any given time. Stakeholders also understand who is responsible for what step of the execution phase, which increases accountability and transparency in your projects.
3. Project Manager
Project managers worldwide believe that milestones greatly aid in the implementation of effective management principles in their projects. Even if managers are working on numerous projects simultaneously, assigning project milestones in the milestone schedule will help them perform better.
Another fact about project milestones is that they have no bearing on the overall timeline of your project because they are simply checkpoints that must be passed. You can also set up automatic updates in the beginning, to ensure that everyone receives a simple notification when a single milestone is achieved.
Benefits of Milestones in a Project Management
Project milestones assist team members and managers in staying accountable and on track for smooth project delivery. Let us look at some of its advantages:
1. Monitor Project Progress and Deadlines
The project execution phase begins once the milestones have been identified and defined. Project milestones assist managers in staying on schedule, meeting deadlines, and meeting critical KPIs. In addition, with the completion of successive milestones, management can maintain a more accurate understanding of how the project progresses according to the original plan.
2. Improve Team Collaboration
Effective team collaboration becomes critical when a project involves multiple teams, resources, and possibly team members from different locations/time zones. Setting milestones allows the resource team to work more productively and deliver projects on time and within budget.
3. Identify Potential issues
A bottleneck within a project has a significant impact on the tasks and dependencies that follow. Bottlenecks can be obstacles that disrupt workflow or a lack of critical resources to complete tasks and meet milestone deliverables. Overall, it stymies project progress, resulting in delivery delays and cost overruns.
4. Facilitate Communication with Stakeholders
Project milestones make it easier for managers to communicate project progress updates to stakeholders and obtain their approval. Stakeholders are always curious as to whether or not the project is progressing as planned. Milestones are ideal for this type of reporting because they demonstrate the significant phases that the team has completed thus far.
5. Streamline the Invoicing Process
Milestone billing is a common practice among professional service organizations. It is a time-based billing structure that is used for invoicing client payments. It is also used to determine when payments are made to vendors and third-party collaborators. This helps in keeping track of key suppliers’ timely payments based on agreed-upon events or deliverables.