What are Project Milestones?

Project managers often set milestones to help their team work at peak productivity. Project Milestones help the team recognize and work toward specific goals.

Project Milestones are tools used in project management to mark specific points along a project timeline. These points may signal anchors such as a project start and end date, a need for external review or input and budget checks, among others.
Milestones are a way of knowing how the project is advancing if you are not familiar with the tasks being executed.

Some important milestones are

  • Key Dates
    Parties, board meetings, product rollouts and other key dates mark significant pieces of your project.

  • Key Deadlines
    For example – You are building a house for your family and all you can think off are milestones: “The floors will be finished on Wednesday”, “The roof will be completed on Dec 15th”, “The gas installation will be connected at the end of the year”. We intuitively talk about milestones, not tasks, because we do not know how to build a house, and our friends ask us about the construction in terms of milestones: “When are you going to finish the roof?”, “When are you going to move in?”, etc.

  • External Dates and Deliveries – For example, a due date for a deliverable you are expecting from a client,  the date when your product has to be delivered, or the day that raw material is scheduled to arrive.  These key events can affect when other tasks in your project are allowed to start.

We usually talk about project milestones and not tasks, because this is how we understand the process. When creating milestones, think of the end goal as the main deliverable. As a best practice in planning a project, plan key milestones in the schedule to better manage stakeholder expectations. 

Milestones are used in every phase of a project and allow the team to understand what tasks will lead them in the right direction to achieve these standards.
Milestones should represent a clear sequence of events that incrementally build up in your project.The best way to display milestones is to use a Gantt Chart.

Example - The red markers are milestones in the above timeline picture

Here are ten project milestone examples you will likely find in any industry you work in as a project manager.

  1. Obtaining Funding
  2. Hiring Key Positions
  3. Design Approval
  4. Vendor & Client Contracts
  5. Reaching Key Performance Indicators
  6. Product Sample Dates
  7. Key Testing Phases
  8. Fixing Defects
  9. Setting up Production Machinery
  10. Project Approval/ Completion

You can also create a Milestone chart to show only high level milestones in Gantt Charts

Do you know that you can quickly create Gantt Charts with Milestones within Excel and highlight all Project Milestones?

Download Gantt Excel

Gantt Chart Excel