Milestones: what they are and how they help you plan your projects
Is your project going over budget? Or are you not on the schedule? There is a planning tool that you have never thought of, milestones. Project milestones are an underrated tool that helps you in the planning of a project, but above all that allows you to stay on track so that you do not go beyond the budget or the expected times.
But what are milestones?
The milestone (literally ” milestone “, the stone placed on the side of the road that indicates the missing distance to the nearest point of interest) in a project indicates and marks an important point of arrival (and departure) in the cycle of a project. You will immediately think of the beginning or end of a project, but rather it refers to the conclusion or termination of a phase, usually made up of several tasks, on a certain date or time frame and with the achievement of certain requirements.
When the milestone is reached, then everything has been done according to certain terms and directions. This ensures that the project stays and develops in the right direction.
Defining these “milestones” not only helps you in more complex projects because it allows you to break them down into more small in order to be able to deal with them with organization but above all to be able to foresee and maintain the direction undertaken, having more awareness on times and its delivery.
The milestones, therefore, allow you to define at what moment, at what date the project phase will be reached and implemented, but not how.
So we’re talking about when, not how. What you intend to accomplish, not how.
They can also be applied to the internal business and team functioning to verify the evolution of work.
What is the difference between milestones and other planning tools?
Milestones and objectives
If the milestones mark very specific points (with a set date) in the path of realization and completion of a project , the objectives indicate the general and ultimate intent that the project wants to achieve.
|Specific checkpoints in the path to achieving the goal||General goal of the project|
Milestones and deliverables
If the milestones score milestones as a project progresses, the deliverables indicate the intermediate measurable results brought about by the completion of tasks .
|Verification of project progress through predetermined points||Ace ciated to the tasks, they indicate a measurable result once completed|
Milestones and tasks
If milestones show the date and time for which a group of activities must be completed, the tasks are precisely those activities that must be done to bring a completion of a milestone for that given date.
|Point of arrival in a project on a specific and defined date||Series of activities to be carried out in a given period|
How to identify and define the milestones?
As we saw earlier, milestones are not tasks, so it can be more difficult to spot them.
1. Define them at the beginning of the project
The most suitable time to define them is certainly when you are in the early stages of the life of the project when you are defining together with your team, the roadmap that you will and will have to follow to bring it complete. In fact, in the first moments, the details are not yet fully defined, but you are aware of the project requirements and delivery times.
One way to help you define them, is to ask yourself the following questions:
- When will a review or check meeting be needed?
- When is it important to inform the team, client or investors of progress?
- When is it expected? that something is delivered? At what point or part of the project?
In relation to an insight on the team or work:
- When do they need to be ordered / prepared / planned the materials?
- When is the introduction of the various elements of the team expected in the project?
2. The number of milestones per project
As with any approach, too much could lead to confusion and numerous milestones would only complicate your project or its evolution.
There is no exact number to establish, but keep in mind that every important event in the course of your project must be tracked and covered by a milestone.
3. How to indicate the milestones
You have defined them, they are in adequate number, but now how do you label them?
To make them recognizable, they must be categorized with a label indicating completeness or achievement of a stage. Do not choose any indication that may be ambiguous, confusing or too general such as “Conclusion of phase 1, Goal of the month, etc.”.
- Introduction of the monitoring system
- HR resource recruitment
- Delivery of the RSVP security protocol
Below is a general project example for a delivery of a product to a customer according to the distribution and planning in milestones:
6 reasons so milestones can help you
Now that we have seen how to define them, we give you 6 reasons why you should immediately get to work and draw up the milestones of your next project:
- More efficient communication
By helping you track the progress your project is making, you also improve your ability to predict implementation and completion times more efficiently.
Having therefore all the evolution information at your disposal, you will be able to communicate in a more precise and transparent way the progress of the project and the various deadlines to your customers, partners, collaborators, etc.
The milestones in fact allow you to communicate the crucial points of a project, once reached, also giving you the times of realization and completion of the others.
- Optimization of delivery times
If you find it difficult to meet the deadlines or if you simply want to improve and understand what are the obstacles or activities that slow you down, divide your projects into milestones and then into small phases, assigning the resources and tools suitable to achieve the requirements, allows you to monitor and improve the timing of tasks in the various phases.
- Help to keep the project in the right direction
Thanks to the milestones, you will always have a tool to keep under control that all the requirements of your project are respected step by step, helping you set control checkpoints to ensure that nothing is left behind. You won’t find yourself at the last moment checking that everything has been done and that something may be missing.
- Greater team involvement
If you work together with a team, setting milestones is a great way to help make every member feel engaged as he will be aware of and always attentive to deadlines, shortcomings, non-requisites or any needs that arise during the process.
- Identify potential blocks
Having in mind phases (and the consequent delivery dates) with their requirements to be achieved and the resources assigned to each phase, it is possible to identify what the possible problems may be or the nodes to be addressed.
- Easier project management
Having a well-defined schedule, where details are divided and distributed by milestones, project management becomes easier and you can concentrate on your tasks.