What Is a Milestone? 8 Examples for Better Project Management
Project plans are maps that chart the course of your projects. As you plan your project, you’ll begin to map out the tasks, dependencies, deadlines, and assignments.
But don’t forget a very important component of any project plan: milestones.
In this article, we’ll explain the meaning of a milestone in project management and share practical examples of project milestones you might use when planning a project of your own.
What is a milestone in project management?
Project milestones are checkpoints in your plan that mark important events, dates, decisions, and deliverables so it’s easy for your team and stakeholders to map forward progress on the project.
Milestones indicate a change in stage or development and act as signposts throughout the course of your project, helping you ensure everything stays on track. Without milestone tracking, you’re just monitoring tasks and not necessarily following the right path in your project.
Defining milestones vs tasks: What’s the difference?
Determining what should be a task or milestone can be difficult on larger initiatives—or projects that are new-to-you. If you’ve ever been confused about what is (or isn't) a milestone in your gantt chart, ask yourself these questions:
- Is this a deliverable you’ll want to mark as complete?
- Will this event impact the final deadline?
- Is this an important moment in the project that will indicate forward progress?
- Will this work require stakeholder review?
- Is this an event that impacts the project?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re looking at a milestone.
Milestones are given additional significance over tasks in a plan so the team and stakeholders can focus on forward momentum while the project manager monitors the pace and progress of work.
Here’s how to tell the difference between milestones vs tasks when scheduling your timeline in TeamGantt:
- A project milestone is represented by a gold, diamond-shaped icon or symbol on your gantt chart with a zero-day duration.
- Tasks show up as horizontal bars on the gantt chart. They can be assigned different task colors, as well as multi-day durations. Progress is tracked by percent complete.
5 common project milestone examples
Milestones are powerful components in project management because they make it easier to keep work on track. Let’s look at 5 simple examples of milestones you might include in your project plan:
- Start and end dates for project phases: Using milestones to indicate when each project stage should begin and end makes it easy for everyone to know when major phases are officially a wrap or fall behind schedule.
- Key deliverables: Various deliverables lead up to the final product and mark progress along the way, whether it’s a research report, content document, or design mockup. Milestones can also help you track deliverables you need to produce—like weekly status reports or project scope documents—to keep stakeholders in the loop and on board.
- Client and stakeholder approvals: Approvals signal a clear movement from one project phase or deliverable to the next, making them a perfect use case for gantt chart milestones.
- Important meetings and presentations: Milestones are a great way to keep key meetings—such as project kickoffs, design reviews, or sprint retrospectives—on everyone’s radar.
- Key dates or outages that may impact your timeline: Is your team attending an all-day conference? Adding it as a milestone keeps it visible in your project so no one accidentally plans work on top of it.
3 practical examples of how to use milestones in project management
Project milestones do more than just show progress—they can help you communicate what’s happening with your project.
When creating a gantt chart, milestones provide an easy way to see major dates or deliverables at a glance. That means anyone who views your gantt chart can quickly tell where things are at any given moment.
Now that you understand what a milestone is and why it’s important, let’s dig a little deeper and explore 3 common ways you can use milestones to benefit your projects.
1. Monitor deadlines for deliverables more easily
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 project 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 symbol—in project plans.
While you should list the tasks and effort leading up to a project milestone, be sure to present the milestone at the end of those tasks to signify a delivery, or even a presentation of, the deliverable.
2. Spotlight 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 be out of the office for a mandatory training. Or perhaps there’s a board meeting 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 as project milestones so you can track them all in one place?
In this example, the team’s off-site strat-op meeting has been added to the project plan as a milestone so work can be scheduled around it.
3. Identify potential project bottlenecks
Many projects rely on the work produced by external teams or partners to make forward progress. If you’re not tracking those external factors somewhere, there’s a great chance you’ll forget to follow-up on it.
That’s why it’s important to list these deliverables as project milestones if you’re working on a project that depends on someone or something outside of your project. Here’s an example of how you might use a milestone to track a client approval.
How to manage gantt chart milestones in TeamGantt
Once you’ve mapped out your overall process and plan with your team, you can add tasks, identify gantt chart milestones, and determine task owners. Project milestones are easy to create and track because you’ve called out the most important points in your project.
Let’s take a quick look at how project milestones work in TeamGantt.
How to set and schedule milestones in your gantt chart
You can set a milestone for your project in just a couple of clicks in TeamGantt. This quick tutorial shows you how to add milestones to your project schedule once you’ve signed up for a TeamGantt account.
How to change a task to a milestone
Need to change a task to a milestone on your gantt chart? Simply follow these steps:
- Hover over the task you want to change on your gantt chart.
- Click the 3-dot menu that appears to the right of the taskbar.
- Select Convert to Milestone from the drop-down menu, and your taskbar should automatically switch to a milestone icon on your project timeline.
How to mark a milestone as complete
Nothing’s quite as satisfying as checking a major milestone off your list! To update the status of a milestone in TeamGantt, simply click the checkbox in the Progress column of your gantt chart to mark it as complete.
How to share project milestones with clients and stakeholders
Want to give clients and stakeholders a high-level view of the project? Follow these steps to share a PDF of key project milestones in your gantt chart.
1. Filter your project by milestones.
From Gantt view, click the All Dates menu at the top of your gantt chart, and select Only Milestones from the drop-down.
2. Export your filtered project to a PDF file.
Navigate to your project's Menu, and select Print/Export PDF from the drop-down.
Customize your PDF settings, then click View PDF to complete the export. From there, you can download and/or print your PDF to share with clients and stakeholders.
Who would have thought such a critical step could be so easy?
Hit every project milestone with ease
TeamGantt makes it easy to create, track, and collaborate on all your project milestones so nothing slips through the cracks.
You’ll have all the features you need to ensure projects finish on time and under budget—from drag and drop simplicity and team collaboration to customizable views and workload management.
Best of all, it’s all wrapped up in a simple and intuitive interface your whole team will love. 😍