For any particular project, your project plan is the map that outlines the entire journey. However, as a project is made up of many small tasks that all combine together, milestones are used to get an easier and quicker view of a project’s direction.
Project milestones are the waypoints along the course of the project. Imagine someone is giving directions and they say: “Keep going straight and take a left at the Starbucks, then continue until the Post Office and the building you want is next to that”, the Starbucks and the Post Office are the milestones, the markers that stand out from everything else as signals of progress.
When creating your own project management milestone schedule however, things are not as simple as just listing every deliverable due date or sign-off point. Project milestones should have a clear and consistent meaning and recognize a point of culmination of a collection of different task strands. To give you a better idea of when to use milestones in your project plan we’ll take a closer look at some of the elements that define them.
Most days during the execution of a project are focused on individual task progress, however some will stick out as being of special significance. It is these that can be listed in a project management milestone schedule. Examples of these key dates to note are:
- regulatory or executive approval
- stakeholder meetings
- contract signing
Keeping track of deadlines
Deadlines are different from key dates in that they are obligations on the part of your team. Having laid out the project’s timeline, these deadlines are tangible indicators of project progress for clients and other stakeholders. As such, missing them is never a good sign, even if, within the maelstrom of project mechanics they might seem like just another day. By making these deadlines milestones, you are ensuring that you and your team are aware of their significance for your project.
Visualizing potential resource issues or bottlenecks
As one task or project phase is completed it is often necessary to pivot or reallocate resources to another strand of the project. This has knock-on effects for the new area being worked on or when collaboration depends on something being finished by a certain date. These directional switches and handovers can be key friction areas where delays can happen or team members end up under-utilized, thus they are important milestones to keep note of and ensure that all phases transition smoothly.
Enterprise companies with modern project management solutions like Clarizen have the advantage here, as it facilitates the collaboration with external vendors and partners via the PM tool. Tasks can be assigned and milestones and deliverables tracked by those external to the organization, all in a protected, permissions-based environment.
Project milestones, as waypoints along your project’s journey to completion provide important targets and recognition of success. As well as communicating these to stakeholders they also give an opportunity to congratulate your team on having achieved a key objective in the life-cycle of the project. Don’t be afraid to send around a message or organize an event to mark the reaching of project milestones.