Avoid delays with milestone trend analysis

Milestone trend analysis is one of the PM tools that are still widely used today. It is a method that helps to stop and avoid delays in the project. Since nobody can afford delays, many project managers are constantly looking for ways and means to keep to the schedule. So why not include milestone trend analysis in your own project management?
Man looking at a diagram.

Milestones in the project

There are milestones in every project planning. These are important milestones or sticking points in the project schedule. Milestones mark the start or completion of certain sub-projects, important decisions or points of interaction with other actors. Milestones are not tasks, but selective events. Milestones can be used to subdivide projects in such a way that they are easier to manage and overview. Milestones are indicators of delays and should be perceived as such. A milestone is best suited to identify and measure delays, as it is either met or not. Depending on the type of project, each milestone can be associated with a decision on how and in which direction the project should proceed. Especially in agile projects, milestones play a particularly important role as points of reference and decision points.

Importance of milestones

Milestones are so important in the project schedule because they help to structure the project. They indicate when which decisions has to be made and are great indicators for delays. The milestones help you maneuver through your project and reach your goal in the end. You can use the milestones to guide quality assurance and also keep motivation high in the team. Now it is easy to see whether the project is delayed by a milestone. However, the trick that every project manager must perform is to avoid these delays from the outset. Anticipation is the magic word. Look ahead and avoid delays in the first place. So how can you use the milestones for this?

How does the milestone trend analysis work?

Milestone trend analysis is therefore a proven but nevertheless modern way of using milestones to avoid delays. This type of analysis allows you to always have an overview of all important project stages. At the same time, it allows you to plan important deadlines and to forecast the further course of the project at any time. If anything does not go according to plan, you can react early. The milestone trend analysis process is always the same, regardless of the industry your project is in. First you create a diagram. It consists of two axes and shows the report dates on one axis and the milestones on the other. In the second step, you define the milestones together with your team. The milestone trend analysis is therefore best done at the very beginning of a project, together with the entire project schedule. It is always most effective and best suited to the project if it is created at the same time as the individual project phases and goals.

Select milestones for your project phases, for sub-projects and for important decisions. Then enter them on the axis. In the third step you define the reporting dates. These should have regular intervals between them, for example weekly, once or twice a month for short projects or trimestriell for really gigantic projects. The report dates appear on the second axis so that they can be compared to the milestones. In the fourth step of the milestone trend analysis, you check on each report date how far you have come in reaching each individual milestone. Check whether you can meet the milestone according to the current status of the project, what percentage of the tasks leading to the milestone have progressed and whether there are any delays. You will discover that various events, findings and measures have a considerable influence on the achievement or non-achievement of milestones and can react early. At each reporting date, it must be realistically considered which milestones can still be met and which are at risk. You can then derive measures from this. Always enter the forecasts of your milestones in the diagram: Which milestone can be met at the time of a certain reporting date, and which one will shift in which direction according to the current state of knowledge? Step five of the milestone trend analysis consists of deriving the so-called milestone trends from the observations and the diagram. To do this, connect your forecasted milestones on the different report dates to compare the line with the line of the original milestones. The lines show trends and delays from which you can derive not only measures for the current project but also trends and insights for future projects.

Benefits of the milestone trend analysis

The benefit of a milestone trend analysis is, on the one hand, to recognize early on when delays occur in the project. This allows appropriate measures to be taken. On the other hand, the analysis also serves to keep an overview of the overall progress of a project and to search for the causes of delays. In this way, a check can be made at regular intervals and problems can be anticipated.
Author: IAPM intern

Keywords: Project Management, Milestones, Project Planning, Tip

The IAPM certification

The certification can be taken via a reputable online examination procedure. The costs are based on the gross domestic product of your country of origin.

From the IAPM Blog

Become a Network Official

Do you want to get involved in project management in your environment and contribute to the further development of project management? Then become active as an IAPM Network Official or as a Network Official of the IAPM Network University. 

For better readability, we usually only use the generic masculine form in our texts. Nevertheless, the expressions refer to members of all genders.