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Wichtige Zwischenergebnisse im Projekt

A milestone, also known as a schedule milestone, represents an important intermediate goal in a project and divides a project plan into several stages. If a milestone is defined by a date, it is often referred to as a schedule milestone. This ensures that project phases do not exceed a certain time frame and that, for example, delivery dates or deadlines are met. The term is mainly used in classic and hybrid project management. In agile project management, however, the term is not used.

Definition of milestone

According to DIN 69900:2009, a milestone is an "event of special significance".

The PMBOK® Guide, 4th Edition, defines a milestone as a "significant point or event in the project".

According to PRINCE:2009, a milestone is "a significant event in the time course of a plan, for example the completion of important work packages, the conclusion of a technical phase or a management phase".

Milestones are therefore significant in terms of both time and content and should therefore be clearly described. This means that a milestone

  • has a date;
  • contains a clear description, e.g. of target achievement.

Difference between milestone and activity

In short, a milestone, unlike an activity, has no duration. A milestone is understood as a point in time with a date that can act as a starting point or deadline.

An activity has a start and an end date and therefore a duration.

Purpose of milestones

Milestones are important checkpoints for evaluating the progress of a project and ensuring that the project remains on track in terms of time and content. Milestones are set when something is completed, something is started or a decision is made on the further course of the project.

Typical examples of milestones in a project are:

  • Project start: The official start of the project is often associated with an approval of the project plan, a kick-off meeting or a digital project release.
  • Completion of planning: This milestone is reached when the planning phase with the created schedule (Gantt chart) including resource planning, defined project scope and budget has been completed.
  • Completion of a project phase/sub-project: For example, the end of the test phase in a software implementation project or the completion of a prototype. This may involve approvals, certificates or simply the OK from the management level in order to obtain a successful evaluation of the milestone.
  • Achievement of interim goals: These milestones are often acceptances or approvals without which the subsequent processes or phases could not start. Such milestones can also represent so-called gates (Stage-Gate® process), which serve as a decision point for or against continuing with the project. They can also be deliveries that are required for building or construction.
  • Project completion: This final milestone in a project marks the end of the project in terms of time and content. It usually involves the preparation and submission of a final project report.

Milestones are also useful reference points for other project stakeholders such as customers or external service providers and should be communicated clearly and directly. Milestones can have a motivating effect, ensure quality and help to increase adherence to deadlines.

Formulation aid for milestones

In practice, it has proven to be a good idea to give milestones a title and a result to be achieved. You should also consider who is responsible for assessing the achievement of the milestone. As a rule, this task falls to the project management or the project planner. This is how milestones can be formulated:

  Milestone Result(s)
Project start Kick-off meeting Minutes are available and have been sent to all project participants
  Project application approved Approval is available, project status is "approved" and all project participants have been informed of this
Test phase Test phase completed Software test results recorded in checklist, evaluated and decided for/against software
  Test phase completed Test results documented and sent to Team B
Procurement process Offers obtained Offers are available in written/digital form and have been sent to decision-makers
  Procurement process comleted Order(s) have been triggered and order confirmations stored in the project folder
Project completion Project completed Project completion report has been created and sent to all project participants
  Project completed Product acceptance has been completed and documented by the customer

Monitoring milestones

For a milestone to be considered successfully reached and completed, it must be achieved on time and in full. This means that everyone who has to complete tasks to achieve the milestone must report back in good time. The project managers can then assess whether the submitted results are satisfactory and whether the milestone can be ticked off as completed.

In project controlling, the milestone trend analysis helps to visualize the effects of delays on the entire project. It examines the postponement of milestones in the project and thus provides information on whether sub-projects are on schedule or whether the entire project plan is jeopardized by their delay, for example.

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