Milestones – a key to your Horizon 2020 project success

Milestones are an efficient way to catch problems before they become disasters and keep your project on track. They are a cornerstone of a successful Horizon 2020 project. Check out our tips on proper planning, setting, and achieving milestones in your research project.

Written by EMDESK

Milestone planning is a vital part of project management in Horizon 2020 or any other collaborative EU-funded research project. They’re a bit like going in for a routine check-up at the doctor. Each milestone will determine the health of your project. They determine if the project is on track, off course, or needs changes and adjustments in order to move to the next stage.

What are project milestones?

Milestones mark key decision points in any collaborative research project. They allow you to chart progress and assess what problems might have arisen and what steps, if any, need to be taken for the next phase of work to begin. These points might be something like a key deliverable, a major project task, delivery or a product or service, etc.

They’re called zero point markers because they don’t need a report or any extra work. It’s a point in the project where all the work leading up to that point has already been done and the milestone is the point where you look back at the tasks completed enabling you to monitor deadlines, identify potential bottlenecks, and assess your team’s readiness to move on to the next phase of the project.

Aren’t project deliverables the same as project milestones? What’s the difference between milestones and deliverable?

Milestones are control points in the project, whereas deliverables are outputs like brochures, special report, etc. that need to be produced at a specific point in the action. While milestones might sometimes correspond to the completion of a key deliverable the two aren’t necessarily intertwined. Essentially, you don’t need a milestone for every deliverable, but the most important deliverables can be good indications of where you may wish to place milestones.

Planning Milestones

As a vital part of the planning and decision making process for EU funded projects, it’s important to identify the best places for milestones in the project plan. These points will allow consortium members and stakeholders to get an overall view of the project, confirm it’s still on track, and make important decisions or take corrective actions if it’s not.

Milestones are bookmarks in your project and serve as project health indicators. Some suggestions for placement are:

  • Key deliverables
  • Completion of significant project tasks
  • Testing completions
  • Significant or initial service and product deliveries
  • Unique tasks, points, decisions, etc. in the span of the project

Milestones are the foundations that hold a multilayer cake. In order to add the next layer, you need to make sure the base is finished and strong enough to hold the next tier. It’s a fine balance of having the necessary milestones to ensure success, without overplanning and creating so many that they become frivolous.

Plan for change and communicate

As the project lifecycle changes your milestones may also need to change to fit the flow of your Horizon 2020 (H2020) or EU collaborative research project. Be prepared to make adjustments as necessary. Since milestones help to measure the health of your project it’s important that they can be tracked and communicated in a clear manner to consortium members and stakeholders.

Use tools like EMDESK for effortless milestone planning and management

Cloud based project management software like EMDESK make communicating, tracking, and changing milestones effortless. Create, monitor, and view milestones for small to multi-level project schedules for your EU research project in EMDESK’s Workplan. The Gantt Chart allows you to visualise hierarchical schedules including milestones in real time for proper analysis.

EMDESK’s Kanban boards give teams a focused oversight and visibility into what is next. This feature of EMDESK’s project management tool uses columns and colour-coded cards to give teams a quick way to manage their activities, deliverables, and milestones at a glance.

EMDESK milestones planning

What about after the project is finished? Do milestones still matter?

When the project is finished it’s time for your post project analysis. Much like a football coach after a game, it’s important to review what happened in the project to improve your performance on future projects. A good part of this review should be milestones. Ask yourself:

  • Which milestones were effective?
  • How was the placement of the milestones? Should they be placed differently next time?
  • Were the milestones clearly communicated to stakeholders and members of the consortium?
  • What was successful and what needs improvement for milestone planning in your next project?

This article is written by Stefan Detschew, Chief Technology Officer at EMDESK.

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