A project milestone helps project managers track their progress and determine how close they are to finishing the project.
For example, while driving, we frequently see signs that tell us how many miles are left till we reach our destination. Because of the signpost, we are aware of our location. In project management, project milestones serve the same purpose.
Though many other tools can provide similar information, the milestone chart is the easiest to show the project status and progress.
Before discussing the milestone chart, let’s understand the project milestones.
Milestones are markers on the project timeline to signify the important events, activities, or tasks.
Major deliverables, start or finish dates for stages, key meetings, etc., are all represented by milestones in the project’s key performance indices (KPI).
They give information on completed key events and deliverables, assist in finding out the current status of the project, and help to balance time so that the project can be finished on time.
Project milestones inform the project manager of their progress and answer the question, “Are we there yet?”
A few examples of project milestones are:
- Critical project deliverables, such as the first version of an app
- The beginning or end date of the project phase, such as the “planning phase” or “designing phase.”
- An essential event, for example, project sponsor approval.
There are several events that do not qualify as project milestones. Only key events related to the project count as key milestones.
For example, celebrating the project completion is a significant occasion. Sadly, due to the fact that it is not included in the project’s schedule, it does not qualify as a project milestone.
What is a Milestone Chart?
Definition: A milestone chart is a graphical chart that provides an easy-to-read representation of a project’s milestones or key events.
A milestone chart depicts major events, known as milestones, that are planned in a project’s schedule. It is a tool for designing programs that keeps track of particular events throughout the timetable of a project.
A milestone chart focuses on important events that are scheduled to occur at specific points in the timeline.
Such events include the start or end of a critical operation, equipment delivery, evaluations, or approvals. The stakeholders in a project can see exactly where they are in the project and how close they are to meeting the next milestone by consulting the milestone charts.
Milestones give the project team a sense of accomplishment and show how their efforts contribute to the project’s aim.
The milestone conversations are not only essential for the team working on the project, but they also make communication much easier. Because it illustrates the progress made on the project, the project manager may share the milestone chart with the stakeholders to guarantee that everyone is heading in the same direction.
The analysis of what the team has accomplished and what still has to be done can be aided by milestones. Imagine them as rungs on a ladder; the more up one climbs, the closer they are to accomplishing what they set out to do.
Why Are Milestone Charts Important?
The project manager, clients, and team members all have a visual tool at their disposal in the form of a milestone chart to track the progression of a project. This will provide early notice if the project is falling behind schedule, allowing for adjustments to be made if necessary.
The scheduling of projects can be improved with the use of milestone charts. They contribute to the management of larger, more sophisticated projects by helping to ensure that critical project deadlines are met.
The communication of the project’s status and progress to senior management and stakeholders is facilitated by the use of milestone charts by project managers.
How to Plan Milestones With a Milestone Chart?
#1. Set Important Benchmarks
Sometimes, the stakeholders have trouble differentiating between the milestones and the tasks. Milestones are particularly noteworthy because they denote transitions in the development of a project, like road indicators that help you keep on track while driving to reach your destination.
The following questions can help decide project milestones:
- Does this task have any bearing on our deadline?
- Is this a task or event?
- Will this point in the project represent any meaning?
- Does this assignment require a review by stakeholders?
- Can we still finish the project if this task is not completed?
#2. Make a Milestone Chart Using a Template
Whiteboard tools (such as monday.com, nTask, etc.) are ideal for creating and sharing a milestone chart. You can start developing a milestone chart using a milestone chart template. Use a basic template to keep track of the smaller phases of a huge project. Then, modify the template to meet your requirements.
#3. Assign a Column to Each Key Milestone
The template for the milestone chart contains columns, each of which symbolizes a particular milestone. After it has been made, the milestone chart can be modified in various ways, including adding sections for different milestones. Be sure to distinguish between important milestones and minor assignments.
The frequency of tracking milestones will depend on the project.
#4. Set Deadlines, Steps, and Objectives
The first row of a milestone chart shows milestone achievement dates. They may be certain dates or periods, but it will depend on the requirements.
In the next column of the milestone chart is a list of the activities that need to be completed to accomplish each milestone. Avoid filling milestones with details to keep the chart clean and simple.
Deliverables are detailed in the very last row of the milestone chart.
These deliverables help determine if milestones are achieved. Make sure these deliverables include evidence that the milestone has been reached.
#5. Update the Milestone Chart Regularly
Milestone charts can adapt to projects’ demands. As the project continues, the project manager can revise the chart based on the situation. It is critical to keep track of the progress of each milestone and collaborate with the project team.
Examples of Milestone Chart
The milestones templates or charts can track the below events.
- The start and end date of the project
- Different tasks of the project gathered from the stakeholders
- Track Team members working on each task
- The total duration that each task would be required to be completed on the project, etc.
Let’s see an example of a milestone chart for a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) product that requires proper testing to release in the market.
The first milestone is to create a benchmark and gather the requirements for testing the MVP product launched. This would be identifying and understanding the target audience.
The next milestone is to plan and create the test cases for all the modules designed for the MVP.
Regression testing can also be scheduled for the MVP Product:
- Regression Test Case Step 1
- Regression Test Case Step 2
Another milestone is creating the Quality Analysis report of the product launched.
How to Create a Project Milestone Chart?
The following steps can help you create a milestone chart.
Step 1: Define Project Objectives
Before constructing a milestone chart, define the project objectives and timeline. Project objectives help the team understand the desired project outcome. After establishing project objectives, create a basic project timeline, beginning with a start and finish date.
Step 2: Make a List of Tasks
Prepare a task list after the preliminary timetable has been created. Link tasks with dates so you can track them later and save time.
Step 3: Establish Milestones
Before you can even begin to set project milestones, you need to know what those milestones are.
Objectives are more important than milestones. An objective should outline what happens once a project is completed and how it interacts with wider company objectives; a milestone enables you to look ahead in the project or back at what has been previously completed.
Many professionals confuse a deliverable with a milestone. Deliverables are things that can be touched and felt, such as reports, products, and so on. The project team will use a milestone as a standard to measure their progress.
Consider the following questions to determine whether or not anything qualifies as a milestone:
- Does this task affect the project’s deadline?
- Is this a key milestone in the project that signals progress?
- Should stakeholders examine this task?
- Is it possible to complete the project without completing this task?
If your answers are yes to the above questions, the task is a milestone.
Step 4: Make a Project Timeline
You can now put everything in place and make a schedule using the tasks, objectives, phases, milestones, deliverables, etc. Check the deliverable’s duration to ensure that each segment is sufficiently long.
Include all of the project’s activities and stages in the timeline tool, apply the project management dependencies, modify the phases as required, and be sure to call out any important to-dos, deliverables, or milestones.
Step 5: Share the Milestone Chart With Relevant Stakeholders
It is now possible to share the milestone chart with the project team to ensure that nothing is overlooked and that dependencies and milestones are examined. Ensure project phases are long to avoid bottlenecks or other concerns.
The team will not proceed with the distribution of the milestone chart to additional stakeholders until they have validated that the timetable is accurate.
In this way, stakeholders can better grasp the activities and phases that need to be finished to complete the project.
Step 6: Include Documentation
Throughout the project’s life cycle, any documents, notes, and correspondence related to the project can be added to the appropriate tasks, stages, or milestones. A milestone chart is never complete; it is a living project management tool that must be adjusted and expanded to stay current with the project.
Adding information to the timetable will assist the project team in keeping track of the status, progress, and balance of work.
Step 7: Commemorate Achievements
Celebrate as the team accomplishes a milestone. Recognizing the team’s efforts by celebrating milestones promotes morale and increases engagement.
Sample Milestone Chart
Benefits of Using a Milestone Chart
In order for team members and management to fulfill their responsibilities and ensure that the project stays on track until its conclusion, it is important that a milestones chart be established.
Some benefits of milestone charts are:
Monitor the Project’s Schedule and Development
Project milestones help the project manager monitor the timeline, deliverables, and key performance indicators (KPIs). With each milestone reached, management can see the progress and compare it with the planned progress.
Boost Team Cooperation
When a project involves several teams, resources, and sometimes even team members from different locations or time zones, it is necessary for those teams to collaborate effectively. The establishment of milestones stimulates teamwork, which is necessary for the timely and successful completion of projects within budget constraints.
A project constraint hurts the dependent tasks. The workflow bottlenecks may be caused by impediments or the lack of essential resources to finish projects and meet deadlines. It obstructs project progress and can affect the project objectives.
Monitor the Budget and Schedule
Two factors—on-time delivery and budget adherence—judge a project’s success. Project managers can compare planned and actual results in terms of cost and schedule by using milestones between stages. They can then take the appropriate corrective or preventive actions if required.
It Supports Stakeholder Engagement
The ability to convey the status of a project to stakeholders and gain their approval is facilitated by milestones. People who have a stake in the project want to know whether or not it is moving along according to the plans. This method of reporting is most effective when used alongside milestones, as the latter calls attention to the accomplishments.
It Simplifies the Billing Procedure
Many businesses use milestone billing. It is a time-based invoicing to receive payment from clients. It helps decides when to send payments to suppliers and other contractors—this aids in monitoring timely payments to important suppliers based on predetermined occasions.
A milestone chart displays significant phases or events that occur throughout the life cycle of a project. The achievement of each successive milestone represents the progress made toward the project’s overall goal. A milestone chart is an effective approach for demonstrating to project stakeholders how far along the project currently is and for keeping the team engaged.