Milestone planning is one of the most important aspects of project planning, because project milestones are the most visible indicators of project progress.
What are milestones and why are they important?
Milestones typically mark critical decision points, the completion of major project tasks and the ends of various project phases. Senior stakeholders who are not involved in the project on a daily basis become more engaged and attentive as milestones approach. In some cases, milestones even determine when payments are sent to vendors and contractors.
With so much attention being paid to your project management milestones, it’s important that you plan for them appropriately. In fact, many PMs insist that milestones (rather than tasks) should be the primary focus of your project planning process.
In addition to choosing the right milestones based on your project plan and deliverables, project managers also need to ensure that their team members understand the importance of each milestone and stay focused on their goals. The strategies listed here will help you define the right milestones for your projects and guide your team successfully toward each one.
Tips for Better Milestone Planning
1. Identify the proper milestones.
Your project plan will set the tone and pace for your entire project, and the milestones you include in the plan will serve as indicators that work is proceeding on schedule. Choosing the right milestones is critically important, because your team members and other stakeholders can only get an accurate view of the project’s long-term health if they are looking at the right signs.
Along with obvious milestones like the official beginning and end of a project, you’ll most likely need to include at least some of the following events in your milestone planning:
- Completion of major project tasks
- Go/no go decisions and other key decision points
- Initial delivery of a product or service
- Completion of testing and final sign-off
2. Communicate milestone information with your team.
Once you’ve defined your milestones, the next step is to determine how you’ll share milestone information with your team members and other stakeholders. Cloud-based project management solutions like Clarizen can dramatically simplify this process by giving you the ability to add and edit milestones in documents that your team members can view in real-time.
Clarizen’s unique collaboration tools also allow you to add documents and meeting notes to milestones, creating a single, easy-to-manage source for up-to-date information.
3. Track and manage milestones throughout the project.
As a project manager, you’ll spend a part of each day reviewing your list of project milestones and measuring your team’s progress toward each one. Here again, Clarizen accelerates the milestone planning process by giving you full visibility into task progress and other factors that might affect milestone completion. You can also convert existing project tasks into new milestones, which can be particularly helpful when you need to manage several sub-projects within your larger project.
Want to explore how Clarizen can help you plan and execute on key milestones? Contact us today.