Mon. Jan 23rd, 2023

Milestones and Deadlines

Once the budget suggests that a project is viable, you will begin planning when each part of the development process will take place.

Using project management software, you are able to record two types of date-related information: milestones, and deadlines.


A milestone:

  • Has a date by which it should be completed
  • Does not have a start date
  • Relates to a major event occurring in the development process. For example, any of the following are ideal candidates to be made milestones:
    • Project start date
    • Project end date
    • Need for external review
    • Completion of a phase of the development process

Notice how the events suggested as milestones are not simple tasks: it is not “John F completed the user interface design”. The milestone would be “Interface design completed”. Why the difference here?

You might have a large team working on the UI; the significant event occurring is that the interface has been completed – this signals either that it’s time to review things with the client, or that development can move on to a new phase. A single person in a team finishing their task doesn’t in itself indicate this. So, rather than saying “When John F, Alex T and Jane D complete their design work, we will be ready to move on to the next phase”, we create a milestone called “Interface design complete”. It’s far easier to refer to.

Additionally, our three designers could be busy working on something else. Maybe one of them is unwell and is late starting their job. Whether this matters or not to the timing is something we don’t necessarily know yet. However, while we might amend the start and end times for the tasks assigned to the designers as a result, our milestone shouldn’t change unless it really has to.


The deadlines in our project relate to the tasks scheduled on our project plan. Of course, tasks will include a large human-resources element – but be aware that you may encounter factors that are outside of your control.

Having equipment that is purchased for a project by a particular date is an example. What if you order it at the last minute, and due to stock issues, it is delivered later than expected?

The deadlines reflect not only the dates by which your staff need to have completed tasks, but also may extend to the service being provided to you by external agencies.

Clearly you can’t do much to change or eliminate a potential delay that is outside of your control – it is outside of your control, after all. However, you can provide as much leeway as possible by scheduling tasks as early as possible to allow for possible problems. You can also, when you review your project, look closely at the impact a company’s failure to meet expectations had, and renegotiate future contracts to either include discounts, or move to a different supplier entirely.

Useful links

Read the following articles:

Milestones in project management (NB This page is from a software supplier; do not waste time with the specifics of that software package. It is just the context of what milestones are that you need to understand)

Examples of project milestones in projects

Next step

Complete the task on milestones and deadlines on the Unit 3 summary page.