Milestones are indicator points that receive special attention and form the basis of central control and communication activities. Quite often, a milestone is a point indicating the completion of a specific work package or stage in the project. At other times, a milestone indicates the completion of necessary tasks external to the project. As such, a milestone does not document work in and of itself. Rather, a milestone is a marker point used before, during or after a task is handled. Therefore, milestones do not take any time; they have zero duration.
Milestone control deals with focused tracking of the major indicator points. Its purpose is to document the progress at an intermediate resolution (somewhere between project stages and tasks) and to warn of any impending or actual deviations from the baseline plan. Tracking the project milestones can provide a general sense of the progress and influence the path going forward.
The project manager and the rest of the project team should pay particularly close attention to milestones that are yet to be completed but are scheduled imminently, in order to make certain that all tasks connected with those milestones are progressing according to plan. In this way, if any problems arise, they can be detected as soon as possible and resolved quickly and professionally.
Milestone control acts as a central indicator board, allowing the overall picture to be viewed and the progress of the project to be gauged effectively.
Milestone control will also track any trends affecting the task as their anticipated completion dates approach. Tasks that progress according to plan will appear on the trend graph as a straight, horizontal line, whereas tasks that are behind schedule will appear as a line trending up and tasks that are ahead of schedule will appear as a line trending down.