What Are Sections and Milestones in Project Management?
At first glance, all projects seem overwhelming.
There are so many moving parts, so many tasks to complete, and don’t get us started on all the team members you’re supposed to be managing.
So how does anyone move from the project planning phase to actual project completion?
Easy! We break down the entire project into manageable project sections, with a little help from project milestones.
Today, we’re going to explain what project milestones and sections are, and how you can use them to ace your next project.
Let’s dive in!
What Are Project Sections?
Depending on your project type and your project management style, you might think of project sections as parts of the project work that need to be completed.
For example, if you’re developing an app, you might think of your project sections in terms of features (e.g. dashboards) or parts of the work that need to be completed (e.g. back-end, front-end).
Another example would be working on a content marketing project.
Your client gets in touch with you to boost their sales.
In order to actually do it and create a great campaign, you’re going to have to structure your work.
- First, you’ll have to perform target audience research
- From there, you’ll have to create a strategy
- Finally, you’ll have to create content.
These are all project sections, and they give structure to your work.
Instead of working with a bunch of haphazardly strewn tasks, you know everything that needs to be taken care of in order to successfully complete the project.
Taking a list of tasks that are required to complete your project, you can group relevant ones together so you can organize them in your project, creating categories, workflow stages, phases, priorities and more.
What Is a Milestone in Project Management?
Let’s say you were running a marathon.
If you were constantly running, with no idea how far you’d come, it’d be hard to get to the finish line.
But racers often take note of milestones like when they pass the next 5-miles, 10-miles, and so on.
(It’s why they’re called milestones.)
In project management, project milestones are tools that mark specific points on your project timeline.
Milestones are normally specific points that have to be reached in order to move forward on the project.
If we go back to our content marketing project example, getting target audience information would be a major milestone.
An example of significant project milestones in a software development project,
Source: Expert Program Management
In addition to using project milestones internally, you can also use project milestones to coordinate with your clients.
Instead of checking in every week, you can agree to check in once a significant milestone has been reached.
This way, both you and the client know that the project is progressing as planned.
Finally, the key with project milestones is to produce deliverables.
Deliverables are little parts of project that are necessary to complete it.
Normally, they’re something tangible – for example, a project plan, a report, a feature, a campaign, and so on.
What Should Project Milestones Look Like?
The best project milestones are both specific and time-bound.
For example, “audience research report will be completed by October 10.”
This way, project milestones help you stay accountable, while making sure that you’re adhering to your project timeline.
Finally, project milestones have to be frequent.
They should come in sequence and build up towards the main milestone, i.e. the main deliverable: the entire project.
This way, it’s just like playing a game.
You keep collecting points until you level up.
Is Every Task a Project Milestone?
No, not every task is a project milestone.
Project milestones should be important events. Without reaching them, it’ll be impossible to finish the project. They should also produce deliverables.
In practice, project milestones are those major events that you need to report on to project stakeholders (top management, clients, the rest of the team). They show that you’re moving forward.
Tasks are all the little steps, but project milestones illustrate leaps and bounds.
Finally, project milestones don’t normally have duration.
They have a fixed due date by which they have to be completed.
Free Project Plan Template in Excel
What Is the Difference Between Project Milestones and Sections?
Normally, we think of milestones as events that mark a project section as ‘completed.’
Let’s go back to our content marketing project example.
Compiling an audience research document would be a major milestone for completing the audience research section of the project.
Milestones are specific events that show your project’s progress.
On the other hand, sections are bigger parts of project work.
How to Use Project Milestones and Sections (and Wrap up that Project!)
When you make project milestones and sections work together, you can really boost your project productivity, progress, and success rate.
But there’s nothing like project milestones to kill two birds with one stone: keep the stakeholders happy, and wrap up the project as planned.
The first step: start using project milestones across project sections and/or to mark the completion of specific project sections.
A supercharged project schedule!
You can also completely integrate your project milestones and sections into your project schedule.
In the image above, you can see how the project management has it all neatly organized:
You can see:
- Duration of every section
- Tasks within every project section.
This way, you have everything you need to manage and organize a project in a single file.
If you want to assess project progress, you can check milestones.
If you want to double-down on tasks, you’ll easily see them.
Project Milestones and Stakeholder Management
One of the main reasons why we’re all go-go for project milestones is that they allow us to check in with all the stakeholders at project points that actually matter.
(Yes, you can say goodbye to that email thread with a client who wants to micromanage.)
You can use project milestones to get in touch with stakeholders (from top management and clients, to your team) and see how everyone is doing, and if the milestones’ deliverables are meeting initial expectations.
This way, you’re keeping everyone on the same page and making sure that everyone feels good and optimistic about the project.
In the long term, that’s going to improve your client satisfaction and send many more awesome projects your way.
Use Project Milestones to Improve Performance
Finally, project milestones are incredible for gauging project performance.
If you’re meeting milestones without any problems, that’s great.
Make sure you meet up with your team and celebrate to keep them motivated.
But if you’re spotting some problems, not meeting milestones, or barely hanging by the skin of your teeth, it’s worth taking a second glance at what’s going on.
There’s always time to stop and check in on your team.
And if you’re using project sections and milestones, optimizing your performance will be a piece of cake.