What Is a Milestone in Project Management? Tips and Examples

Milestones in a project are important events that can affect the project’s duration.

Milestone is defined as an activity or event that has no duration (zero) and has significance because it signifies the start or end date of a project or event that can affect the project’s overall duration because it is usually on a critical path (but not always).

Milestone-Project

An example of a milestone is a Contract Award. The project will not be able to start if the contract has not been signed and submitted by the client to the contractor.

In the schedule, milestones are marked with the form “Diamond” and only display one date of occurrence.

Milestone Criteria

An effective milestone must meet the following criteria:

  • Specific, in the sense that the scope is clear.
  • Measurable, in the sense of being measurable, to determine whether the stage can be declared completed or not completed.
  • Attainable, in the sense that it can be completed within the time available.
  • Relevant, in a sense related to the scope of work.
  • Timely, in the sense that the start date and end date of completion are determined.
  • Open, in the sense of being open, easy to understand by various parties.
  • Small, in the sense that it is not too complicated.
  • Assignable, in the sense that the party or division responsible for achieving milestones can be easily determined.
  • Progressive, in the sense that the achievement of a milestone is the beginning of the implementation of the next milestone.
  • Significant, in the sense that the scope of milestones is not too small, so there are not too many milestones that must be made.

From the several definitions above, milestones can be interpreted as intermediate stages before discovering the overall output of a contract.

In other words, milestones are terms or steps of achieving the output.

Milestone Example

A milestone is a specific point in time in the project implementation cycle used to measure project progress towards the project completion stage.

In project management, milestones are used as signal/warning posts for early or late stages of a project, need for review, budget review, and much more.

Milestones have a fixed date but no duration. So what are some examples of milestones in a project? Below are examples of typical milestones in project implementation:

  • Contract awards.
  • Site Surveys.
  • P&ID (Piping and Instrumentation Diagram) approved.
  • Discipline acceptance.
  • Mechanical completion.
  • Ready to start up.
  • Initial facility handover.
  • Final acceptance, etc.

The distance between milestones and other milestones should be considered carefully. It must be carefully considered whether the next work point is worthy of being used as a milestone stage.

By understanding the milestones in the project, the relevant team will be helped in terms of communication between teams in reporting.

Milestones must be included in the weekly/monthly project term report as a benchmark for project progress.

If there is a possibility of changing the milestone date while the project is still running, it must be adjusted to the control change procedure, which is then used to change the agreed schedule.

What’s the difference between tasks and milestones?

Distinguishing between tasks and milestones can be difficult on larger projects, or if the project you’re managing isn’t within the realm of your expertise (yet).

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 or a task?

A task is an action or series of actions to be completed in order. The term may also refer to a specific job, as in project management.

A deliverable refers to the product that has been created during the process and delivered by its completion time for agreed-upon purposes such as marketing and sales purposes.

Example:

Task: The task is to write an essay about yourself.

Deliverable: A written piece of work that meets the requirements set out in the given instructions.

Is this going to affect the overall deadline?

The deadline is a factor in the milestone. Whether it’s the specific day or some other variable, you should know what will happen if I miss my goal and how likely that outcome is.

That way, there won’t be any nasty surprises at the end of an arduous task!

Is this a critical point in the project that indicates progress?

It should show that there’s been some progress since this milestone was set up, and it can be seen as an indicator of how things are going to work out.

Is it necessary for stakeholders to review this?

The stakeholders are the allied and significant individuals who this process will impact.

The review would include their opinions, feedback on where they feel improvements should be made, changes in policy or procedure that need to occur for a smoother operation, etc.

This step is important because it ensures that tasks can run smoothly before any other milestones or processes occur within the target program or project.

Is this an occurrence that affects the project?

If so, it will be a milestone. If not, it is a task to get done.

Essentially, you want to set the most important events of your project as milestones so they can be easily seen and mapped by the project team.

Milestones are given additional significance over tasks in a plan so the project manager can track the tasks while the team and stakeholders focus on forwarding progress.

Here’s how to tell the difference between milestones vs. tasks when looking at your plan in Primavera:

  • A diamond-shaped icon or symbol represents a milestone on your Gantt chart with a single-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.

How to use Essential Project Milestones

Project milestones might assist you in conveying what’s going on with your project.

In a Gantt chart, milestones help quickly identify important dates or deliverables. That way, anyone looking at your Gantt chart may see where things stand at any time.

Now that you know what a milestone is and why it’s important, let’s look at three ways it might help your projects:

Easily Track Deliverable Deadlines

No plan is complete without a timeline! Using project management milestones and deliverables is the best strategy to highlight them. So, what? Make project milestones!

Why?

It’s no secret that some people don’t want to read through a program detailing your project plan to find important dates.

Everybody wants a high-level perspective of important dates and events. Project plans highlight milestones distinctively, usually with a diamond symbol.

In your project plan, you should list the tasks and efforts that lead up to a project milestone.

However, present the milestone at the end of those tasks; this will signify delivery of or even presentation for the deliverable.

Here’s how the project team uses milestones to track a project deadline.

Milestone-in-Project-Schedule

Highlight Key Dates

Are there any days left till the finish of your project that could affect it? Maybe your team has obligatory training. Perhaps you have a board meeting to attend.

When planning a project, bear in mind all of these critical dates because they may affect the project timetable. So why do you not make them be project milestones and keep track of them all?

In this example, the completion of foundation work has been included as a milestone to the project plan to allow for scheduling around it:

Foundation-Milestone

Finding Project Constraints

Many projects rely on the work of outside teams or partners to progress. If you don’t keep track of external influences, you’re likely to overlook them.

Because these deliverables are dependent on someone or something outside your project, you should identify them as project milestones.

Here’s an example of tracking client approval using a milestone.

Design-Approval-Milestone
Image Source: Ganttpro

Quick tips for using Primavera P6 project milestones

You can easily create and track project milestones once you have laid out your process with your team.

Once you’ve mapped out your overall process and plan, you’ll be able to create tasks that are easy to identify. Grouping tasks by milestones makes it easier for the team members involved.

Project milestones will track the progress easier by highlighting the most significant aspects of a project.

Let’s take a brief look at how Primavera handles project milestones.

In Primavera, you may create a milestone for your project with a few clicks.

To turn your activity into a milestone: select the activity -> click the General tab in the activity Details section. In the Activity Type section, select Start Milestone or Finish Milestone.

Milestone-Primavera

To make it easier for you to track milestones, you can create a WBS to place milestone-type activities, as in the example below:

Milestone-Primavera-2

Another way to track milestones is by filtering activity type milestones:

Milestone-Primavera-3

As a result, all milestone type activities will be displayed:

Milestone-Primavera-4
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