Within the framework of project management
Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, securing, and managing resources to achieve specific goals. A project is a temporary endeavor with a defined beginning and end , undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value...
, a milestone
is the end of a stage that marks the completion of a work package or phase, typically marked by a high level event such as completion, endorsement or signing of a deliverable
Deliverable is a term used in project management to describe a tangible or intangible object produced as a result of the project that is intended to be delivered to a customer . A deliverable could be a report, a document, a server upgrade or any other building block of an overall project.A...
, document or a high level review meeting.
In addition to signaling the completion of a key deliverable, a milestone may also signify an important decision or the derivation of a critical piece of information, which outlines or affects the future of a project. In this sense, a milestone not only signifies distance traveled
(key stages in a project) but also indicates direction of travel
since key decisions made at milestones may alter the route through the project plan
A project plan, according to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, isPRINCE2 defines:In some industries, particularly information technology, the term "project plan" can refer to a Gantt chart or other document that shows project activities along a timeline. While common, this use is inaccurate...
Using Milestones in Scheduling
Milestones can add significant value to project scheduling. When combined with a sophisticated scheduling methodology such as Program Evaluation and Review Technique
The Program ' Evaluation and Review Technique, commonly abbreviated PERT, is a statistical tool, used in project management, that is designed to analyze and represent the tasks involved in completing a given project...
(PERT) or the Critical Path Method
The critical path method is an algorithm for scheduling a set of project activities. It is an important tool for effective project management.-History:...
(CPM), milestones allow project management to much more accurately determine whether or not the project is on schedule. By constraining the dates associated with milestones, the critical path can be determined for major schedule intervals in addition to the entire project. Slack/float
In project management, float or slack is the amount of time that a task in a project network can be delayed without causing a delay to:* subsequent tasks * project completion date...
can also be calculated on each schedule interval. This segmentation of the project schedule into intervals allows earlier indication of schedule problems and a better view into the activities whose completion is critical.
Milestones are frequently used to monitor progress, but there are limitations to their effectiveness. They usually show progress only on the critical path, and ignore non-critical activities. It is not uncommon for resources to be moved from non-critical activities to critical activities to ensure that milestones are met. This gives the impression that the project is on schedule when actually some activities are being neglected.