What are project management milestones?

A project management milestone at a construction site can be the point at which materials are delivered.

Project management milestones occur when crucial stages are reached, such as completing an important report or delivering goods to the customer. While the outcome of the project stage usually requires a lot of work to happen, the milestone itself has no given effort. Rather, a project management milestone is a measurement point in the work process. Often planned in the early stages as checkpoints, milestones not only mark the timeline, or stage, of a project, but also its direction.

For example, in the above examples of a milestone being a completed report or a deliverable to the customer, the project manager may have scheduled a change in the direction of the next step based on these results. If the report was missing something important, a decision on which employee would be responsible for correcting the error quickly would have to be made. If the customer was not satisfied with the item delivered, it would be necessary to arrange for a sales representative to discuss and correct the problem. These project management milestones will then cause a change in the direction of the process to accommodate new decisions made to achieve the necessary objectives.

If a project management milestone is only used as a checkpoint rather than also scheduled as a possible necessary change in direction, a small problem along the way can affect the end goal. If only project management milestones are checked, minor details can go unnoticed at first and make everything look like it’s still on schedule when it really isn’t. For example, on a construction project, the point at which materials are delivered can be considered one of the key milestones in project management. If left like that, though, checked off the list without making sure everything is there to complete the build on time, these details can cause a big problem.

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In the original project plan, if this type of milestone also has a scheduled checkpoint, missing issues are much less likely. This makes project management milestones much more crucial than just a measurement, but also a valuable planning tool. Identifying issues quickly and then changing direction to deal with them promptly can keep a project on track without disrupting the entire plan or schedule.

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