When managing a project, milestones are key in helping you identify important phases in the process, find opportunities to communicate, and maintain control.
- When you create the project schedule, you need to make sure you identify and highlight the key milestones. The important phases in the process. This will help you find opportunities to communicate and give you checkpoints to maintain control as much as possible. This is not called scheduling part two. These milestones are internal dates, vendor dates, and client presentation and approval dates. In other words, these are built-in for you as fail-safe to make sure you are on top of all the details. Here are some of the common milestones you should highlight and share with key parties.
First, the most simple way to think about a milestone is by starting with the biggest two, the start date and the end date. Second, break the schedule into milestones based on the type of project you are doing. A great way to think about a milestone is when a significant action is happening in the project. Let's say you're beginning to set up interviews for the brand research on a particular date. There will be some activities or steps in between that and the next milestone, which would be presenting brand research to the client on such-and-such a date. A vendor milestone might be something like sending files for a vendor to start quoting a website.
There would be some steps in between this and the next milestone, which might be the vendor presenting a working beta for us to review. A client milestone could be the client giving us all the current brand materials so we can start a brand audit. And just as before, there are probably some internal steps that have to happen before the next milestone, which might be presenting client brand recommendations after the audit is complete. The key to all these milestones is that they are often the biggest dates in the schedule. It's typically something that must be started, given to you with a sign off, ready for production, a presentation, or completed.
If any of those dates are in jeopardy, the dates right before and right after them are as well. And often, while a task in between might have some flexibility based on schedules, your milestones are the dates that must be hit to get things done, delivered on time, and for the project to be profitable. Some methodologies do not stress milestones as being key budgetary factors or checkpoints. I have found though, that for the creative process, they have worked brilliantly for us. But whatever your scheduling process is, there are key moments in any schedule that indicate to you if you're on time, on budget, and need to communicate to any key stakeholders.
When we are on any part of the creative phase, I know based on our presentation date or when we need to send something to coding, if we are on time or on budget. If we are lagging, I know the steps we need to take to get back on track. If I check in with a print vendor and find out the proofs are going to be late, or if a web vendor has not sent beta to us yet, I know the steps needed to find to why and whether or not this will affect our delivery and profitability. When a client misses a data collection milestone or an approval milestone, I know we need to adjust expectations, the schedule, and maybe even the budget.
I also know that this might have a negative domino effect on the rest of the project. Conversely, if we're ahead of milestones, we can decide to over deliver, take some more time with certain aspects of the project, or spend that energy elsewhere. Milestones are designed to give you a barometer of the status of the project with everyone involved. They help you to manage from a 10,000-foot view and identify when you need to dig in and tackle one of the most challenging parts of this process, dealing with problems.
- Determining your project management strengths and weaknesses
- Wrapping up a project
- Making project management a priority for your team
- Identifying challenges early on
- Dealing with client needs
- Reviewing outcomes and processes