Same same… but different. Milestones vs. Deadlines.

Today’s blog is about one of the most underrated function within Microsoft Project, the use of deadlines. But one after another: We all know know the difference between milestones and deadlines from a business perspective, right?!

You can find dozens of definitions of a milestone in the most common frameworks like the PMBOK Guide (PMI), the national competence baseline (IPMA) or PRINCE2. The common ground is among other things as follows:

  • It is a significant moment of time in a project
  • Duration = 0
  • Milestones can trigger events (e.g. a payment)
  • Very often they are optional, sometimes mandatory (e.g. by contract)
  • Can be at the end of a work package or phase
  • If predecessors change, Milestones also shift

If you look for a widespread definition of a deadline, you may risk the one or other new grey hair. However, these characteristics about deadlines are widely used:

  • It’s the final time that a task must be completed
  • A failure to comply with a deadline has negative consequences on the delivery items of a project
  • Often associated with legally binding agreements (e.g. contracts)
  • Normally, they are fixed and do not shift

Guess what! Project can offer both functionalities, but did you ever plan with deadlines? This functionality can help especially users who are fond of the automatic planning function of Microsoft Project, but also want to exclude some important events (deadlines) from being shifted.

In this simple project plan I created two milestones to indicate the end of a phase. As always, there are many ways to rome: You can use the ‘Task’ ribbon and insert a milestone with the help of the button ‘Milestone’, but you can also change the duration of a task to zero.

Creation of Milestones

The function to insert a deadline is hidden in the ‘Advanced’ tab within the task information. This dialog box can be opened by double clicking the task or via the ‘Information’ button in the ribbon.

Creation of DeadlinesThe beauty with deadlines is that the chosen date will never automatically shift and a graphical indicator is displayed whenever a task/milesone exceeds a deadline. If you insert the column ‘Deadline’, you have even more transparency in your project plan.

Benefit of DeadlinesOf course, this could also be performed by the use of constraint types, but I guess you don’t really like pop-up windows from Microsoft Project with hieroglyphs choices, how to deal with scheduling problems?

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