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Project Management

The How and Why of Using Milestones in Your Project Plan

Brett Harned
February 14, 2017

Project plans are maps that chart the course of your projects. As you build a plan, you’ll begin to map out the tasks, dependencies, task owners, and more. While you’re doing that, you won’t want to forget a very important component of any project plan: milestones.

A milestone is a marker in a project that signifies a change or stage in development. Milestones are powerful components of a project plan because they show key events and map forward movement. They act as signposts through the course of your project, as they help to ensure that you’re staying on track. Without project milestone tracking, you’re just monitoring tasks and not necessarily following the right path in your project. Milestones can do more than just show progress—they can help you to communicate what’s happening with your project. TeamGantt includes milestone chart features in its project management software, so it seamlessly syncs with all of your gantt chart's moving parts. Keep reading to learn how to create milestones in your own project plans!

Is it a Task or a Milestone?

You’re not building a rocket here, you’re building a project plan and the components aren’t that complex. That said, distinguishing between tasks and milestones can be difficult on larger projects, or if the project you’re managing just isn’t within the realm of your expertise (yet).  If you have ever been confused about what is (or isn't) a milestone in your project plan, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is this a task or a deliverable?
  2. Will this impact the final deadline?
  3. Is this an important moment in the project that will indicate forward progress?
  4. Does this need to be reviewed by stakeholders?
  5. Is this an event that impacts the project?

Answering questions like the above will help you determine if something should be a task or a milestone in a project. Essentially, you want to make the most important events of your project as milestones so that they are easily viewed and mapped by the project team. Milestones are given additional significance over tasks in a plan so that the PM can track the tasks while the team and stakeholders can focus on forward progress.

Why Use Milestones?

Milestones can benefit your project plans in a number of ways:

Monitor Deadlines

No plan is ever complete without a list of deadlines! The best way to make them noticeable is to use the project management milestones and deliverables technique. What does this mean? Make the deliverables milestones!

Why do this? Well, it’s no secret that not everyone wants to pore over your beautiful project plan to find key dates. Most people—your teammates included—want a top level view of key dates and events. Milestones are great for this purpose, because they’re called out in a special way (usually with a diamond) in project plans. And, while you should list the tasks and effort leading to a milestone, you should present the milestone at the end of those tasks to signify a delivery, or even a presentation of the deliverable.

Make it Easy to Spot Important Dates

Are there days from now until the end of your project that could impact your project in some way? Maybe your team will need to be out of the office for a mandatory training. Maybe there is a board meeting that you’re expected to attend. It’s important to keep all of these important events in mind when you’re planning a project, because they could possibly impact your project schedule. So why not include them with your project milestones so you can track them all in one place?

Identify Potential Project Bottlenecks

Many projects rely on the work produced by external teams or partners in order to make forward progress. If you’re not tracking those external factors somewhere, there is a great chance you’ll forget to follow-up on it. So, if you’re working on a project that is dependent on someone or something outside of your project, list these deliverables as milestones.

How to Create a Milestone

Creating milestones for your project plan can be simple, especially with TeamGantt. Once you’ve mapped out your overall process and plan with your team, you can easily add tasks, identify gantt chart milestones and determine task owners. Adding a milestone (or converting a task to a milestone) is very easy in TeamGantt. Once you’ve made a TeamGantt account, here’s a quick guide on how to create milestones:

1. Hover over the task view on the left and you’ll see a popup:

Hover over the task list and select milestone

2. Select “Milestone” and key in your text:

Enter the name of your new milestone

3. Check out that sweet diamond that shows up in your gantt chart to signify a milestone:

Schedule your milestone in the gantt chart

It’s that easy. And it’s even easier to track, because you’ve called out the most important points in your project. So, if for some reason, someone needed a high-level view of the project, you could list your key milestones, or just point to them in your gantt chart. Who would have thought that such a critical step could be so easy? For more information on project planning, download  our free Project Planning Guide.

Learn how to use all of TeamGantt's online gantt chart software features for free when you sign-up for your project today.

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