By Caroline Smith and the Mind Tools Team
Print

Project Milestone Reporting

Keeping Projects on Track by Monitoring Significant Check Points

Project Milestone Reports

© iStockphoto
KentWeakley

A significant point along the way…

Many managers will have been in situations in which they're told that work is "80% done" at a certain stage of a project, only to find that that project then massively and embarrassingly over-runs by weeks or even months. This is because the last 20% of the work takes longer than planned.

If you've ever been in this situation and suffered the painful consequences, you'll know why experienced managers carefully monitor how actual completion dates compare against planned completion dates at certain "milestones" within projects. This allows them to take corrective action, or manage people's expectations appropriately, and this is where Project Milestone Reporting becomes important.

A real life milestone is a marker that tells you how far you are from a certain point – so you know how far you have come, or how far you have to travel.

Project Milestones perform exactly this role in a project plan. They mark significant events, deliverables or interdependencies that needs to be monitored to keep the project on track. Project Milestone Reports show you what has been achieved and what else needs to be done to complete your project successfully and on time.

Project Milestone Reporting is just one of many ways to monitor and present the status of a project. It's a useful approach in large or complex projects (with many interdependencies) because it helps present information in a meaningful yet concise way, showing what has actually been achieved, rather than the gory detail of how it's been achieved. This article helps you think about how you want milestones to be reported to you.

Tip 1:

Many organizations have specific approaches and methodologies for managing projects, and for reporting their progress and status. Before you specify a completely new approach, see if any of the existing approaches meet your needs.

Tip 2:

Remember that it takes time to prepare these reports. If you ask for too much detailed information, or ask for information you don't actually need, you'll diminish the effectiveness of the manager or team member preparing the report. After all, time spent reporting is time not spent working on the project!

Project milestone reports come in many different forms. Some are narrative reports. Others are quantitative or graphical, using spreadsheets or project management software to manage the milestone data and track progress and completion. If your team uses project management software, the chances are the software will help them prepare milestone reports in a particular way, and it's best to make the most of these in-built features if you can.

If you need to design your own milestone report, our template is a good place to start. Together with the report description below, it will help you understand the principles of project milestone reporting in more detail, and so help you use this reporting tool in the best way for your project.

Creating a Milestone Report

Start by downloading our free project milestone report template. This contains all of the elements typically found on a milestone report.

The first part of a milestone report ("Milestones Completed") describes...

Access the Full Article

This article is is only available in full within the Mind Tools Club.

Learn More and Join Today

Already a Club member? Log in to finish this article.