Milestones are the significant events that are vital for the entire project. Project managers use milestone chart templates to measure a project’s progress.
Milestones also show how you achieve project goals that have been set at the beginning of the project.
It might be a simple and basic way of defining a milestone. However, everyone in the project team may not comprehend project milestones the same way. Hence, you may face difficulties managing the project if the team members are not in sync.
Without wasting more time, let’s dig deeper into the topic of project milestones. Read the article to learn milestones, milestone charts, templates, benefits, and more in an easy-to-understand language.
What Is a Milestone Chart?📈
Before going into milestone charts, let’s understand milestones first. Milestones function as checkpoints to evaluate the project progress as the project rolls on to the final objective. You can use project milestones as the signal posts for important phases in the project timeline. For example:
The start date and completion date of a project.
A pre-planned review of the project by the client, a third party, or the stakeholders.
A point in the project where you need to discuss updating the budget with the investors.
Submitting a significant deliverable like sending the prototype mobile📱 app to the customer experience team for user feedback during the agile product development process.
Milestones are there, so you can clearly visualize significant elements involved in a project. They also easily showcase where you are at the product development or project lifecycle at any specific date and time.
Now, defining a milestone chart becomes easy. It is a project management tool to visualize the project or product development milestones. Usually, project management software uses Gantt charts or other project timeline structures and puts the milestones there.
The milestones on a project timeline often include vital milestone details like start date, due date, whom to report to, and so on. Similar to Gantt charts, milestone charts also utilize several basic symbols overlaid on a project timeline or calendar. Such a structure provides information on the actual and planned milestone completion dates.
Milestone chart symbols could be a vertical white arrow for scheduled completion and an upright black arrow indicating actual completion. Also, a white diamond shape denotes a previously scheduled completion that is still dated in the future, and a black colored diamond♦️ shape indicates a previously scheduled completion for which the date has already passed.
Why Milestone Charts Are Essential for Project Managers
If you are a project manager or in charge of a product development cycle, you will find milestone charts useful for the following reasons:
Splitting up a big project into portions of tasks and milestones helps you create many deadlines instead of one. Thus, the project team works appropriately to achieve those targets instead of waiting for the last deadline.
Keep Important Dates in the Spotlight
Milestone chart templates help you plan your project by factoring in upcoming long vacations, board meetings, team training, etc.
Recognize Project Bottlenecks
Product development tasks that involve task dependencies from external partners or vendors are likely to go into a bottleneck since your project management timeline does not account for those.
That’s why project managers use milestone charts to include external factors like a vendor supply is needed to forward a task to the next milestone. That is how smart project managers keep their projects out of gridlock.
Utilize Your Project Team
Project managers use milestone charts to split a big project into small chunks. Then they analyze those milestones to discover which skills are necessary. Accordingly, they can assign the milestones to the team based on their skills.
Transparency in Financing
Project milestones are an indispensable component when reporting project status to investors. It helps financing partners to visualize where the money is going and what is the projected return. Hence, you can convince the financers and keep the cash flowing.
Why Milestone Charts Are Better Than Spreadsheets
The followings are a few drawbacks of using spreadsheets for project milestones rather than a milestone chart tool:
#1. Spreadsheets lack the automation needed for tack updates. Hence, you have to go through dozens of worksheets to know the current status of projects and milestones. Then, you need to manually write emails and follow up with the resource responsible for the task.
#2. Spreadsheet-based milestone charts do not automatically notify the entire team when you achieve a milestone. You need to track all the worksheets and look for the completed milestones.
#3. Most spreadsheet apps do not offer integration with other project management, customer relationship management (CRM), time tracker, and video conferencing tools. Hence, to quickly present data or project statuses to stakeholders, you have to go through many preparations before the meeting.
#4. Most spreadsheet apps do not offer advanced reporting capabilities except numerical calculations, charts, graphs, and tables. On the contrary, a dedicated project management application with milestone charts offers specialized reporting features like burndown charts, velocity charts, cumulative flow charts, burnup charts, etc.
How to Create a Milestone Chart
#1. The first step towards milestone chart creation is defining the project goals. Hence, access any project management tool and create a project timeline. You will also need to write down project goals in task cards. Finally, give an estimated start date and end date for your project.
#2. The next task is creating a list of tasks for the project. Record the project tasks in chronological order. For example, for a website product development project, you need to register for a domain and hosting provider, and then you will start working on the actual website.
#3. You must link project tasks to date ranges or dates depending on the effort needed to complete those tasks.
#4. Now, you need to identify the milestones in your project. To find if a project component qualifies to be a milestone, you need to ask the following questions. If the answer is Yes to all the questions, the project element is a milestone:
Is the component a significant checkpoint that indicates project progression?
Does the project component affect the deadline?
Do the project stakeholders need to review the components?
#5. It is time to create a project timeline in the project management application by assembling goals, tasks, deliverables, phases, and milestones into a logical order. During timeline creation, you will also identify task dependencies that could put the project in a gridlock.
#6. Finally, share the milestone chart with the project team and stakeholders. You may also want to turn on notifications and emails to receive project updates.
Determine Milestones in Product Management
Since most product development processes follow the agile framework, key dates are no longer logical milestones. Because your products are going out continuously and improvements are also real-time.
Therefore, in product management, milestones should be specific goals your team needs to achieve when a development cycle or sprint ends. Here are some milestone examples for product management:
Attending a conference or a tradeshow and promoting the product
Beginning or end of a fiscal quarter
Here are some of the best milestone chart templates for product managers.
Try these Smartsheet templates to experience milestone charts of different designs and types. The templates are available as project milestones, project timelines with milestones, business acquisition milestones, milestone roadmaps, etc.
If you plan to manage projects or product developments with these templates, you need to manually track the statuses. The reason is that these templates are based on Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint formats. Some are also available in PDF files for effortless emailing of project milestone reports.
You can start with the basic milestone template. It includes a static chart for milestones and a visual timeline. The static table contains headers like milestone assignee, comments, status, etc.
The Lucidspark milestone chart allows you to visualize key project goals and milestones readily. The chart is pretty simple, and you can organize your project milestones quickly by entering the details. You do not have to invest much time in editing the template.
By design, it is a 3 by 4 matrix of square-shaped cards. From the left to right, the columns represent Milestone 1, Milestone 2, Milestone 3, and the Final Goal. The top to bottom rows represent Deliverables, Steps, and Dates.
You can copy-paste the existing text boxes for Title and Description to accommodate the tasks or deliverables that represent project milestones. Furthermore, you can use the Dragline from the shape feature to connect the milestones with tasks, phases, dependencies, etc.
If you and your team collaborate on a big project with many tasks, deadlines, and deliverables, you can use the effortless milestone chart example from Miro.
The ready-made milestone chart is suitable for tracking multiple projects and tasks using static charts and visual timelines. The design makes it easier for you to plan important events scheduled to occur at specific time intervals during the project lifecycle.
The milestone chart example also lets you collaborate in real-time with your product development team through link sharing. Furthermore, you can convert the board to Presentation mode if you need to present milestone achievements to the project stakeholders.
Gantt Chart Maker
ProjectManager is a leading PM tool that lets you create Gantt charts with project milestones. These charts are available online so that you can set up automatic notifications, reporting, project progress evaluation, and many more.
The tool lets you visualize milestones easily on the list, board, and calendar view of a project. The milestones are designed in a manner to go well with the Gantt chart. All the milestones are designated via diamond symbols on the project timeline.
You can add and customize milestones from the Gantt chart ribbon menu. Once you go to the Gantt ribbon, you will see a diamond symbol. Click on that to add a new milestone or edit an existing one.
Creately is yet another popular platform for professional templates and diagrams. You can visit the website to access some cool milestone chart templates that product development teams and stakeholders easily understand.
If you design the milestone chart correctly using Gantt charts and project timelines, you can use the chart as a centralized place for project management. Creately lets you collaborate live with external and internal resources. Furthermore, you can set up smart notifications to know whenever someone makes changes to the milestone board.
Office Timeline is also a popular destination for add-ins that work online or offline with your favorite Microsoft Office applications like PowerPoint and Excel. Though most of these timeline tools are paid, you can download a free trial version to visualize your milestones. If you find the template beneficial, you can buy a commercial license from Office Timeline.
Its milestone chart contains a project timeline and basic symbols like diamonds, circles, and squares to denote the milestones. The project timeline is essentially a horizontal timescale on which milestones show up. You can add milestone data, like start date, description, resources, and end date.
Is the Gantt chart different from a milestone chart?
Gantt charts are different project management tools than milestone charts. Gantt charts will tell you which activities you need to complete to finish a project.
On the contrary, a milestone chart tells you the end dates by which you need to deliver particular project deliverables or present a report.
Milestones make a big difference for any project in a number of ways. If you are a project manager and have not set project milestones, it is the right time to do that. On the contrary, if you are a project team member and want to set milestones for an effortless navigation of the project or product development processes, talk to the project lead now.
So far, you have gone through the simple basics of milestones, milestone charts, and their advantages. You have also learned how to create one for any project or product development. Furthermore, we have introduced you to some best milestone chart templates that you can start using right now without wasting time creating one from scratch.