Curious about milestone charts and how to create them?
Milestones are crucial elements of every project as they offer you a clear view of what you’ve accomplished and where you’re headed.
Kind of how your first glass of wine is your first major step in becoming a world-renowned wine-connoisseur 😉
And while project milestones might not be as fun as wine, they’re definitely cause to celebrate, and that’s why it’s so important to visualize them using milestone charts.
But how do you create a milestone chart?
There are a few ways to create Milestone charts, such as:
- plotting milestones on Excel Gantt chart templates
- adding them to a project timeline template
- using a dedicated project management tool
- what kind of wine goes best with milestone charting
(okay, maybe not this last one)
However, before we go any further, we’ll explain what milestones and milestones charts are. We’ll also cover two common ways to use milestones and why Excel isn’t ideal for mapping them out. Finally, we’ll reveal our secret method to easily create effective milestone charts.
This Article Contains:
(Click on the links to jump to a specific section)
- What are milestones?
- What is a milestone chart?
- How do you create milestone charts with Excel chart templates?
- Why Excel isn’t the ideal solution for project management
- How do you create a milestone chart?
We’re ready to answer all your Milestone questions!
What Are Milestones?
Milestones are important achievements along your project’s lifecycle.
They are checkpoints that signify key events or tasks that have been completed.
For example, finishing up the first version of a software is a common milestone for most software development teams.
Why are milestones important?
Milestones are important because they:
- Highlight your project phases and reveal dependencies
- Keep your stakeholders aware of your project’s progress
- Give your team a sense of accomplishment
- Let you know how close you are to project completion, and more importantly, celebratory champagne!
How to choose milestones?
The first key step of milestone planning is choosing and assigning your project milestones.
Basically, the question you need to ask is:
‘Does this qualify as a project milestone?’
So how do you answer that?
Simple. A milestone is always an important project-related event.
This means that while it’s important, your dog’s birthday isn’t a milestone.
What are examples of milestones?
Here are some popular project milestone examples:
- The start date and end date of a major project phase like ‘design phase’ or ‘development phase’
- Major deliverables of the project like ‘Project plan’ and ‘Product prototypes’
- Key events like ‘design sanction’ or ‘project sponsor approval’
What Is A Milestone Chart?
A milestone chart is a chart that you can use for an organized overview of your project milestones. It charts out all your project milestones and highlights how close you are to achieving each of them.
When do you need a milestone chart?
If you’re working on a project with milestones, you’d need a milestone chart.
Visualization always makes things much easier. By having a clear visual map of the milestones, your team can visualize their progress and motivate themselves to the finish line effectively.
Also, improved work performance means better after-work parties!
How Do You Create Milestone Charts With Excel Chart Templates?
Now that you’re all clear about the basics of milestones, we’ll go over how to use them.
The most common way to implement milestones is by using an Excel milestone chart template or a Gantt chart template.
Let’s take a closer look at these templates:
(Note: We don’t recommend using either of these commonly used methods since there’s a way better alternative. Click here to find out what it is.)
1. Using Excel milestone chart or timeline template
An Excel project milestone chart template lets you create a visual map of the entire project timeline and plot key milestones.
Here’s how to read this line chart:
- Horizontal axis label: which is the timeline (day or month) of the entire project
- Vertical lines: represents the milestones/checkpoints along with the timeline chart
Click here to download this milestone chart template.
2. Adding milestones to a Gantt chart template
Another way for a project manager to track milestones is by using an Excel Gantt chart template.
Here’s how you do it:
- Plot the Gantt chart using the template
- Select your milestone task and phases
- Manually insert an icon to those important timeline points on the Gantt chart
Here’s a fully functional Gantt chart template for your project needs:
Click here to download this Gantt Chart Excel template.
Why Excel Isn’t the Ideal Solution for Project Management?
Using Excel for project management is kind of like drinking boxed wine:
It’s okay if you’re in a rut, and it does the job.
But you can’t compare to a fine wine like a Chardonnay.
So what’s the Chardonnay of project management?
Simple. A powerful, dedicated project management software like ClickUp.
ClickUp is the world’s highest-rated project management software. Used by 100,000+ super productive teams in companies from startups to giants like Google, Airbnb, Ubisoft, and Nike, it’s the only tool you need to map your milestone or any other project management need.
But wait, Excel templates map out the milestones pretty well, right?
They are inconvenient and leave out a lot of important functions you need.
For example, a Gantt chart template would need you to manually input the milestones and readjust everything when anything is rescheduled.
Additionally, for smooth project management, simply mapping out every project milestone isn’t enough.
You’ll need a ton of other functionalities like:
- Integration with other productivity tools
- Workflow automation
- Advanced reporting
- Dedicated features for Agile project management
So, where does Excel fall behind?
Pretty much everywhere, to be honest.
Here are a few disadvantages of using Excel for milestone charts:
1. Task updates need manual follow-ups
Keeping track of your project tasks is crucial for any project manager.
However, you can’t incessantly call them for task updates.
That’s pretty out-dated. (And unlike wine, out-dated is bad news in project management.)
And speaking of out-dated, Excel tracking isn’t much ahead either.
There’s no automated project tracker in Excel, which can be super inefficient.
To manage your project tasks, you’ll have to:
- Find and check your task sheets manually
- Note down or copy the status data of dozens of tasks
- Re-check at regular intervals to keep things updated and track the deadlines
The time wasted on these processes is enough to age wine!
ClickUp solution: Custom Status updates
With ClickUp’s statuses, getting status updates becomes 1000% more convenient.
Each project task has a status bar that can be updated by any team member. This way, everyone is in the loop about the project status just with one click.
Additionally, with ClickUp’s custom statuses, you can use industry-specific terms for your statuses. For example: if you work in a brewery, you can use ‘awesome beer is brewing’ instead of a bland, generic status like ‘in development’ or ‘reached completion.’
2. Excel doesn’t offer useful integrations
What do business tools and a vodka martini have in common?
They should mix perfectly.
Similarly, for all your operations to run efficiently, your project management software should integrate with other commonly used business tools like:
- Time tracking tools
- Video conferencing tools
Unfortunately, Excel can’t offer you such useful integrations.
ClickUp solution: Integrations
ClickUp offers a ton of integrations with most of the major productivity tools for maximum productivity and convenience.
Some of ClickUp’s integrations are:
- Video conferencing tools: Zoom and Microsoft Teams
- Time tracking tools: Time Doctor and Clockify
- Cloud data storage: Google Drive and Dropbox
- Development tools: GitLab and GitHub
3. Excel lacks advanced reporting features
Reports are very valuable in project management.
No joke, project managers sometimes miss important life events, just by spending too much time on reports over their professional goals.
However, Excel offers no advanced reporting capabilities apart from basic calculations and a pie chart.
ClickUp’s solution: powerful team reporting
ClickUp’s Dashboard comes with high-level overviews of your project’s progress.
With customizable sprint widgets, you can integrate multiple graphs on your Dashboard, like:
- Velocity Charts: shows you the completion rate for any set of tasks
- Burndown Charts: predicts the amount of work remaining in the project
- Burnup Charts: reveals the amount of work already done in the project
- Cumulative Flow Charts: presents you the task progress of the project over time
How Do You Create a Milestone Chart?
Creating a milestone chart involves 3 easy steps:
- Step 1: Milestone planning and assigning
- Step 2: Creating a Gantt chart
- Step 3: Sharing with your team and stakeholders
But what tool should you use to implement this?
Hint: we won’t be using Excel.
Well, why would we?
Would you settle for an average wine when you can get a vintage Chardonnay for free?
Yes, you read it right, ClickUp is free.
Let’s take a look at why ClickUp blows the average milestone chart template out of the water:
Step 1: Milestone planning and assigning
First, you’ll need to plan your milestones.
It’s pretty straightforward: look at the project task list and figure out the answer to these questions:
- Which tasks end or begin a major project phase?
- Which tasks need stakeholder approval?
- What are the critical tasks?
Now simply add milestones to these tasks.
So what’s the best way to implement it?
Spoiler: it’s not Excel sheets.
It’s using ClickUp’s Milestones.
ClickUp’s Milestone feature lets you add a key milestone to any Task with just two clicks!
That’s a time-saver, right?
Don’t thank us; just use that time wisely and make super-delicious cocktails.
Step 2: Creating a Gantt chart
To do this, you’d need to have a clear visualization of the entire project.
However, using calendars to map out the project schedule isn’t enough.
Additionally, for a larger project, it becomes a nightmare.
So, what do you do?
Use a powerful Gantt chart.
A Gantt chart is a visual map showing the scheduling of tasks along with the project timeline.
Gantt charts let a project manager visualize a range of project parameters like:
- Task time and task progress
- Assigned team members
- The sequence and dependencies of tasks
Want to know more about Gantt charts? Read our detailed guide here.
Gantt charts are powerful on their own, but when used with milestones, they become the perfect pair, just like Rum and coke.
But wait, aren’t Gantt charts complicated?
That’s usually the case, especially when you’re using Excel templates.
But, with ClickUp’s Gantt chart view, it’s a whole different ball game.
ClickUp’s Gantt charts are not just powerful; they’re also comprehensive, interactive, and super-fun to use.
With ClickUp’s Gantt chart view, you can also:
- Automatically readjust task dependencies after changing the schedule of related tasks
- Automatically calculate the project completion percentage
- Automatically calculate the critical path you need to follow when you are falling behind a tight schedule
But how do you connect the milestones to this?
ClickUp does that automatically for you.
You just need to switch to the Gantt chart view, that’s all!
You’ll then get milestones as yellow diamond icons representing all the important items in a project’s timeline.
Here’s a screenshot:
Step 3: Sharing with your team and stakeholders
What does a six-pack of beer and your projects have in common?
They should always be shared.
Here’s what you can commonly expect:
- The project milestone chart should always be accessible to your team members for effective collaboration
- Stakeholders might occasionally need to view the Gannt chart (with milestones) to stay in the loop
But how do you ensure that no-one accidentally deletes or edits an important data label from your charts?
It’s easy, just use ClickUp’s Custom Access Rights.
This feature lets you selectively share a folder, object, project file, and task list with anyone inside or outside your team.
What do we mean by ‘selectively?’
You’ll have complete control over what they can or can’t do inside ClickUp.
How does it work exactly?
ClickUp’s Permissions lets you set different access rights for anyone.
Here are the permissions you can set:
- Can view: can view project details but can’t interact
- Can comment: can add their comments on the tasks
- Can edit: can edit tasks but can’t create new tasks
- Create and edit: can create new tasks and subtasks
- Can delete: can delete any task that they did not create
But we’re still not at the bottom of the barrel.
ClickUp’s feature keg has still a lot in store for you.
Here’s another round of features:
- Dependencies: to attempt your tasks in the right order
- Docs: create project documents and share them with your team
- Priorities: prioritize tasks based on their urgency
- Pulse: view activity reports and identify where your team is most active
- Multiple views: view your project workspace as it suits you, choose from List view, Kanban-style Board view, Calendar view, Box view, and Me Mode
So, are you going to go for some boxed wine or some fine Chardonnay?
Pretty, easy answer.
On a more serious note, milestone charts are very important to your projects, and it might be okay to use templates to handle the job.
But why settle for ‘okay’ when you have the option to get ‘awesome’ for free?!
Instead of using dozens of templates for a timeline chart, resource management planner, and a project schedule, why not use one tool to replace them all?
Sign up for ClickUp today and keep your team’s spirits up and productivity high.
Erica is ClickUp’s Senior Content Manager and professional beach bum. She spends her days creating emails, blogs, landing pages, and more to help people increase their productivity so they can save one day every week to do more of what they love.