Derived from the Latin word milia passuum, meaning "a thousand paces," the term dates back to Roman times. Milestones were, quite literally, stones that informed travellers how many miles they had left to reach their destination. Today, a milestone denotes the completion of a crucial event or the delivery of a significant work item that marks onward progress.

A milestone in project management serves as a checkpoint for any distinct changes or commencement of new activities within the project. Milestones also help promote a sense of transparency among respective stakeholders by helping them stay in sync with all the ongoing project activities, wherever and whenever they take place.

What is a project milestone?

A project could be as simple as baking a cake to as intricate as launching a software application. Regardless of the level of difficulty, all projects under the sun require proper planning, tracking, and execution for them to see the light of day. A project milestone helps teams keep a vigilant eye on all these phases, by acting as a key marker for these chain of events, notifying any developments that occur within the project.

Just like a signpost, a project milestone tells you where you've reached and how far you've got to go. But in the case of a software development project, the development is your journey, and phases like "Implementation," "User acceptance testing," and "Deployment" are your milestones.

What is a project milestone

Why should project teams use project management milestones?

Milestones help bring order to your project, no matter how big or small it may be. Here are some more reasons as to why project teams should use project management milestones:

Bird's-eye view

Project milestones allow you to monitor your project, phase by phase, so you know exactly where you are, how you got there, and how long you've got until the project deadline. This helps you adjust your project duration accordingly.

Equal work distribution

A happy workforce makes for a happy project, resulting in happy customers. Milestones make that happen by enabling equal distribution of time and tasks among team members, allowing for optimal resource utilization.

Keep stakeholders up to date

Project milestones help you paint a picture of the project's health, making room for more transparency and honest feedback, all while keeping your stakeholders' trust at the forefront.

Don't let hold-ups hold you down

Project milestones help identify any blockages posing threat to the project. This enables teams to re-examine progress and take stock of any deviations that need to be made.

Precision guaranteed

Project milestones help you schedule workflows so your teams can plan all their tasks around them, ensuring solid goals to work towards, with accurate estimation of start and end dates.

Celebrate victories

Completion of an important milestone calls for applauding your team for its efforts and rejoicing at your victory. To sum it up, a milestone list in project management serves purposefully and provides a sense of achievement for those involved in the project.

The importance of milestones in project management

With milestones like planning, initiation, execution, and closure, you can bring the blueprint of your project to life, illustrate ideas, and efficiently present the workflow to your team so each member is on the same page. When everyone knows what the big picture looks like, accountability and collaboration will take the front seat. Plus, your team won't miss any deadlines, since milestones help you spot critical dates, tasks, and events, as well as keep track of completed work and work still underway.

With every passing milestone, you can assure stakeholders that the project will get them their money's worth, and that they're on track. If crossing every milestone is not a reason to celebrate, then what is? You can measure your team's success with every completed milestone, giving team members a chance to reflect on their work, and the satisfaction of having crossed a pivotal phase in the project.

What is a milestone chart?

A milestone chart in project management is a visual representation of the significant project phases and overall progress. It ensures that stakeholders are informed of developments occurring within the project timeline.

Typically, a project milestone chart can be created using a Gantt chart, with project milestones represented as horizontal bars that can be moved up and resized as per user preference, mapped against a timeline.

Tasks vs. milestones

Often times, the term tasks and milestones are used interchangeably, but they refer to two different ideas. A task is a work item that needs to be completed within a specific period of time, whose completion has incremental outcomes contributing to the onward progress of the project (i.e., achieving a milestone).

A milestone is a marker of significant activities or tasks taking place within a project. Completing a bunch of tasks or a task list leads to the completion of a milestone.

Milestones vs. project deliverables

Milestones are checkpoints, marking important phases along the duration of a project; project deliverables are computable end products that are supposed to be completed in order to achieve a project milestone.

Project milestones examples

  • Approvals

    The commencement of a website revamp can only be approved once the designers have the blueprint of the entire website at the ready.

  • Resources and funding

    The shipping of construction material can happen only if there is adequate funding.

  • Objectives

    The launch of a new mobile application into the market marks the accomplishment of a significant milestone.

  • Phases

    The "Design" milestone can begin only when the "Planning" milestone is completed.

  • Training

    The recruitment and training of a group of newly joined software developers could mean that the business is venturing into newer arenas, warranting the expansion of workforce.

Project milestone template

A project milestone template helps you stay on top of everything—deadlines, duration, start and end dates of your milestones—all in one place. It helps keep your milestones in check.

How to manage project milestones with Zoho Projects

Project milestones are key indicators of important project stages, the completion of which denotes progress. For simple projects, you are better off creating a list of tasks to help manage your work items. But since complex projects come with a varied number of convoluted processes, you would require more than just task lists to track your work. With Zoho Projects, not only can you create a list of project milestones, but you can also track, manage, and reschedule them at any point in time. Here is a list of different ways you can manage your project milestones with Zoho Projects:

List your milestones, never miss

Gantt that extra mile

View your milestones project-wise and across all projects that you're a part of with the Gantt chart. It shows a hierarchy-based view of all the tasks that fall under a particular milestone, along with the start and end dates, overdue tasks, and other task details. Project milestones on the Gantt chart are represented by a bar, which can be resized or moved up at any time. You will also be able to view the percentage completion of the milestones, based on the number of tasks that have been completed. Plus, you can set up and compare baselines, determine slack, and stay up to date on critical tasks.

List your milestones, never miss

Have your project-wise milestones showcased all in one place as a list. With a range of predefined views like active, completed, and overdue to choose from, you have a simple yet resourceful way of looking at your milestones. Details like due dates, owner, completion percentage, status, and others are also listed out. What's more, you can export this project milestone list as a report in PDF or XLSX format to share with stakeholders or for future reference.

Widget, so you never forget

You can also view your project milestones in a widget format that can be reordered by dragging and dropping.