Where do milestones come into the project picture, and what differentiates milestones from objectives, tasks, or deliverables?
In this blog, we’re going to clear up the confusion by giving a clear project milestones definition in project management, get a really good grasp on what project milestones are, and how you can best use them to your advantage.
Here we go:
What are Project Milestones?
Project management milestones are like the markers along a hiking trail. They tell you when you’ve reached an important point and how long you still have to go.
Whereas tasks build up towards the project objectives, milestones are points in time that mark important phases of a project. And whereas deliverables are tangible items that are given to a client, a milestone can be the moment at which a deliverable is completed.
Why are Project Milestones so important?
Is it worth your while to include milestones in your project management plan?
The short answer is, definitely! And the long answer is as follows:
Starting a project planning milestones helps you track project progress. When you have a milestone plan, you can visually see if your project is following a good pace, and how far you are from completion.
A milestone plan is also a great visual to show stakeholders. Stakeholders usually aren’t interested in seeing a nitty-gritty project breakdown, but a milestone plan can show them what they want to see, all in one go.
Setting milestones is a fabulous way to motivate your team. Instead of the project blurring into one unending task, your team will be able to see how much progress they’ve made and feel they’ve accomplished something special with each milestone.
How do you identify milestones in a project?
Before you can define project milestones, you need to be clear on your project’s goals and objectives. You’ll also need a breakdown of project tasks.
Armed with these documents, you can plan project milestones. How? Deciding which points in the project would mark a significant step towards the goal. If for example, you have a series of three tasks that need to be completed to get through the first phase of the project, you can label the completion of those three steps as a milestone.
How do you create a milestone plan and keep on top of it?
Workamajig has a free Gantt Chart template, perfect for marking your project milestones. Once you have your milestones marked out in this beautiful, color-coded document, it’s super important to have a process to keep on top of them.
You can do this easily with Workamajig’s project management reporting software. It’s as simple as running an automatic report that will show you if project milestones are being reached in a timely manner and if they are being reached in a healthy manner. By healthy, I mean that the milestone was achieved without harming the overall project. For example, if a milestone was reached, but the team went over budget to reach it, that isn’t such a great cause for celebration.
Talking of celebration, celebrating project milestones is an excellent habit to get into; one that will benefit yourself, your team, and your clients. When you celebrate a milestone, you show your team that what they accomplished is important and valued. This, in turn, will spur your team on to complete the project to a high quality.
Including stakeholders in milestones, and celebrations takes this up a notch. If a stakeholder knows that they are coming to lunch to celebrate a milestone in their project, they're going to have a pretty good feeling about how the project is going, and they’re also going to go home with a feeling of goodwill. And as we all know, happy clients mean repeat clients!
For some good ideas on how to celebrate milestones, check out this link.
Project milestones template
Use this template to create a basic milestone plan. In the first box is a project milestones example.
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Project milestones examples
Let’s dig a bit deeper and name some real project milestone examples:
Reaching the end of a project phase, e.g. the initiation phase, or the planning phase
Assembling a project team
Completion of a key deliverable, (check out coca cola’s timeline of milestone deliverables)
An important event, like stakeholder approval
How can Workamajig help you with your project milestones?
Gantt charts, reports, budgeting tools-you name it, Workamajig’s got everything on your project milestone wish list.
Create, customize & export reports plus built-in Gantt & burn charts for your visual learners
Stay ahead of the curve with customizable budget status notifications & health meters
It's easy to see what's needed & just as easy to assign work in just a few clicks from the project schedule.
Everything you need is at your fingertips. View workloads by week or day for the whole team, & filter by office, department, role, service, or person.
Plan proactively, not reactively. View real-life utilization, including meetings, vacations, company holidays & job commitments.