Project Management 101: Using Project Milestones to Plan for Success
If you travel by road, you’ll see signboards after every few miles that indicate the distance you need to further cover to reach your destination. The signs are not integral and you can reach your destinations without them as well. However, their existence reassures you that you are on the right path and keeps your spirits high.
Project milestones serve the same purpose in project management. The signboards are your milestones while your project is to reach your destination. These milestones will keep you informed of your progress and keep your team motivated by allowing them to envision success and giving them a sense of achievement.
Let’s try to understand what project milestones are and how they can help you in managing your projects.
What are project milestones?
Project milestones are certain points in your schedule that show an important achievement or the completion of a major phase in the project. Project milestones are extremely important for ensuring effective management and keeping the team on track.
They are very easy to add in your project roadmap and do not require any extra resources or time. You can even add them to a project that’s already in progress.
Here are some common examples of milestones in project management:
- Starting and ending dates of the project and any specific project management phase
- Major deliveries sent to the client for approval
- Approval from the project stakeholders
- Completion of a complicated and critical task your project depends on
- Delivering an important presentation or deciding certain features in a stakeholder meeting
Setting up milestones in the project schedule is not a necessary requirement. You can finish your project without ever setting up any milestones but it is highly recommended to do so. In the next section, we’ll see why.
Benefits of having milestones in a project
Everyone involved in the project benefits from milestones. Team members work with better productivity and clients find it easier to understand the progress. Similarly, project managers themselves find milestones helpful and use them to keep in line with the original project plan.
Now, let’s take a detailed look at how project milestones help the team, clients, other stakeholders, and project managers.
The team gets a sense of achievement and finds it easier to operate while focusing on short term goals. Celebrating important milestones makes the employees feel appreciated and valued. Additionally, breaking the monotonous work cycle can have a significant impact on the productivity of your team.
Especially in the case of complex long-term projects, milestones are a tried and tested method of keeping the project team members engaged and motivated throughout the project lifecycle.
Clients and other Stakeholders:
They find it easier to track the project progress and remain updated on where the project stands at a particular moment. The stakeholders also get an understanding of the responsible parties for a particular stage in the execution phase which increases the accountability and transparency within your projects.
Project managers everywhere agree that milestones significantly help them in implementing effective management principles in their projects. Even when handling multiple projects at the same time, assigning project milestones will help managers perform better.
Another fact about project milestones is that they don’t affect the overall timings of your project as milestones are simply checkpoints you need to cross. You can set up automatic updates in the beginning as well to make sure that everyone gets a simple notification as soon as a single milestone is achieved.
Milestone vs other terms
Many terms in project management might look very similar to each other but it’s very important to understand their distinction to avoid any ambiguity. Some of the terms that are often confused with project milestones are deliverables, goals, and tasks.
|Milestone vs Deliverable||Milestone vs Goal||Milestone vs Task|
|-> Project deliverables are the actual products or results you get after achieving a milestone.||-> Goals are the results you want to achieve in the future while milestones indicate what you have done in the past to reach your goals.||-> All projects are divided into a series of different tasks.|
|-> For example, if a writer has a project of writing an eBook, and completing the initial draft is the first milestone.||-> For example, if you are a sports team whose goal is to win a certain competition.||-> These tasks take time and resources to complete and are often interdependent.|
|-> Your deliverable will be the actual ebook while the milestone will be achieved as soon as you finish the draft.||-> Your milestones will be winning the group stages, quarter-final, semifinal, and the final game.||-> Milestones, on the other hand, require no time or resources. They are just indicators that tell how much progress your project has made.|
How to set up project milestones effectively
After completing the planning steps and coming up with the work breakdown structure and the project timeline. It’s time for you to create milestones in your project. There are certain parameters you should be careful about when selecting milestones for your project. Some of the important are the following:
1. Frequency and timing
Too much of anything becomes bad eventually. Project milestones are a great motivation tool but you should be careful not to overuse them. Celebrating every small thing as a milestone will distract your team and reduce their productivity. Also, your client will not appreciate receiving milestone updates for every small progress.
While placing milestones too close is not beneficial, placing them too far apart is also useless. The main point of having milestones for your team is to keep them motivated and use the momentum boost to keep the ball rolling. If the milestones are too far apart, your team will naturally lose their drive.
Project milestones indicate the key deliverables and should be readily available to everyone involved in the project. It’s the project manager’s responsibility to incorporate the key milestones in all the documentation and timelines so everyone has a clear idea.
Having milestones and not following their timeline is counter-intuitive. As a manager, your job is to reiterate the importance of meeting all milestones on time. You can keep account of the timelines with the help of the project management dashboard.
Project managers are responsible for ensuring the growth of their team as well. The best way to do that is by challenging them to exceed their current capacity by assigning them difficult tasks. Even if your team fails to achieve that particular milestone on time, make sure they use that failure to learn and perform better in the future.
Setting milestones in Kissflow Project for Success
Project milestones can be a great motivator for your team and help you out in managing the projects by improving their execution and reporting. They seamlessly integrate into any project irrespective of the methodology or the industry. You can even add project milestones in an already existing project easily.
Are you ready to start using project milestones to improve the efficiency and performance of your team? We can help with that. Kissflow Project is an intuitive project management tool that makes your job simple for you. Sign up for free now and experience project management like never before.
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