Determining Milestones - Project Management

If you're over the age of 15, you've experienced some milestones in your life: Reaching age 16 (driving!), then 18 (graduation from high school), then 21, and, well, you get the idea. Milestones in projects work the same way. Milestones are markers along the way that let you know that a significant accomplishment has been reached. Milestones are not tasks but they can consist of a grouping of tasks. You don't perform actions to complete a milestone; in other words, they aren't work. Instead, they signify that a grouping of work has been completed or a significant accomplishment has been reached.

Milestones might be based on deliverables, or a grouping of deliverables, or a grouping of tasks. For example, one milestone for our conference project might be, "Ballrooms prepped and PCs set up for training."

Some project managers like to use milestone charts as one way to report on project progress. A milestone chart should include a listing of the milestones with their expected completion dates and their actual completion dates. Table 5.2 shows a sample portion of a milestone chart for the annual conference project.

Table Milestone chart

Milestones are a way to help monitor the progress of the project. They are a great tool to use for reporting to executive management because they show at a glance where the project stands and what remains to be completed. Milestone charts work particularly well for smaller projects.

Another way to display milestone charts is in a Gantt chart format (we'll discuss Gantt charts in Chapter 8, "Developing the Project Plan"). You can display the start date of the milestone and its duration. Milestones should be listed in the order in which they'll be accomplished in the project.

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