Project Milestones: How to Plan Effectively
When you’re working on a project, milestones give you some perspective of where you are during each phase of your project. They can be set to a timeline so you can easily track your team’s progress through the stages of said project. However, these milestones can be difficult to decide and designate in a way both you and your team agree upon, as they’re based both on the time spent to complete and the effort expended to reach each goal. And it’s rare that all members of an organization will agree on something as debatable as time.
In order to create a list of potential milestones, you also have to know what traits these mini objectives should have – your workers will understand where you’re coming from with this criteria. (By extension, we have our fingers crossed that this’ll mean an end to any and all arguments that might have occurred.)
Here’s a short list of criteria you should, when it comes to deciding what constitutes a milestone:
- Specific – When you create a milestone, you should be able to instantly determine what happens in this phase, and what’s needed in order to complete said milestone.
- Measurable – In order to complete any milestone, you must be able to tell if it’s adequately completed. A tip here is to use a to-do list.
- Attainable – Each milestone must be realistic. Otherwise you’ll find your team stuck in one phase for a long time and feel unmotivated. You’ll be the best gauge of this.
- Relevant – Each milestone should bring you a step closer to the fruition of your project. If a milestone isn’t from the original objective of completing your project, then it shouldn’t be considered as a milestone. Instead, put it in the side projects box and focus on what’s necessary, first.
- Timely – Each milestone should have an expected timeframe of completion. Without specifying the date it should be finished, you and your team won’t feel the urgency to complete it – and the project will drag on.
- Open- Make sure that each milestone can be clearly understood by the members of the team and all those who are directly or indirectly involved in the project. Anything too technical may just alienate and confuse those who are not familiar with the jargon you use.
- Assignable – In creating a milestone, each member must know if they are involved in the project or not and what’s expected of them. This gets rid of lowered accountability or the potential for excuses – you’ll know who should’ve taken care of what aspect of your project.
- Progressive – As stated earlier, a set of milestones should move as a timeline. The completion of one can instantaneously move your team forward to the next task, and so forth.
- Significant – If your milestones are too small, it may feel like you’re just giving your team a list of tasks to do in chronological order. Worse, it could feel like stalling. Though some milestones might have that trait, make sure that the completion of each milestone means a completion of a considerable or significant amount of your project.
When it comes to medium to large-scale web projects, the division of the project into specific stages is important. This will give both the project members and the client a clear picture of how the whole project will come together in a way that is objective and observable. A project can then be further divided or looked at under these three headings:
- The Pre-Heavy Lifting Phase – Here the client gets to know how you work, while you in turn get to know what the client wants.
- The Heavy Lifting Phase – You will create your initial designs, codes and content management system. This can be considered the limited beta-testing of your site.
- The Post-Heavy Lifting Phase – Everything is finalized until you reach the completion of the entire project.
For each major milestone, you’ll have smaller, more specific milestones to complete. Here’s our list of the three main phases broken down into milestones:
The Pre-Heavy Lifting Phase Milestones
- Set up the project in the relevant project management systems such as Asana, Basecamp, RedMine, etc., so that you and your client have a place of discussion.
- Grant the client access to these systems so that they can give you the full details of what they want you to accomplish.
- Collect collateral material, such as marketing, creative and advertising pieces, for use within the project.
- Create an inventory of content that has been created along with a site map for the new site.
- Get wireframe approval from the client. This entails getting client approval from the homepage and some subpages in the site.
The Heavy Lifting Phase Milestones
- Develop the initial mockups for the homepage and some subpages, then show these to the client for feedback or approval.
- Create the final mockups based on the feedback and finalize everything.
- Integrate the site shells with the content management system and the content pages to create the initial prototype.
- Gather up all the content and insert them into your site.
- Finalize the working prototype, complete with the content. Get the client’s approval for the prototype.
The Post-Heavy Lifting Phase Milestones
- Review the final prototype with the client and get a list of modifications they want implemented.
- Implement the modifications and check with the client to see if there’s any more changes they want made.
- Test the site with all key browsers and operating systems, and fix any and all issues spotted.
- Go through a final test to see if there are any more errors, and get the client’s go signal for the launch.
- Complete the post-launch review, which includes fixing other errors and problems spotted.
- Conduct the client training, so as to ensure that the client knows how to properly update the site via their CMS.
Depending on the size and demands of your client, the timeline for these milestones may be open to adjustments. That said, before the project starts, it’s a good idea to already have planned out a tentative completion date for the site. With each milestone made, you’ll also need to provide more specific to-do lists and assign them to the responsible party.
But in the end, when you and your client have agreed that the project has been completed successfully, you’ll find that you can reuse these milestones with another client for an equally smooth run.
And that’s worth all the precision and effort you would have put into it in the first place, isn’t it?