Milestone trend analysis (MTA) is one of the most used "tools" in controlling the project schedule. It enables the project team to visualize if the work corresponding to certain project milestones is ahead of, on, or behind schedule. This means that we need a project schedule including its related milestone plan first. Here you find how to plan the project schedule.
At the beginning of implementation phase, we ask the team members responsible for the milestones for their planning status. In the following example, we get this result:
which we present as MTA chart on our project management dashboard.
The vertical axis we call "planning line". If we start the project on time we can tic off the first milestone M0, Project Start.
By the end of the first month into implementation phase, February, we ask the team members responsible for the milestones M1 to M4 for their best guesses when these milestones could be reached. This could be their answers:
By the end of the second month, March, we ask the team members responsible for the milestones M1 to M4 again for their best guesses when these milestones could be reached. In our example, this could be their answers now:
Our expert for the System Design tells us that he needs one month more, our experts for Hardware and Software, both tell us they need 2 weeks more. This indicates the trend that work gets delayed, which needs our close attention. For that reason, we call this tool "milestone trend analysis" which is misleading because, so far, we do not analyze anything; the term "milestone trend indicator" would fit better. In case the trend for one particular milestone points upward (in our example three milestones: "Sys. Design", "Hw complete", "Sw complete") we shall analyze the situation together with the experts of the work packages which contribute to that milestone, and decide on actions in order to achieve a horizontal trend, or maybe even one that points downwards. Only if we enter that analysis we turn our milestone trend indicator into a real "milestone trend analysis" tool.
One month later, by the end of April, we ask the expert for System Design if he reached the milestone (in our example: yes), and the others for their best guesses again, and so on. We follow that routine, and thus, obtain a monthly status of the trend of our project milestones.
By drawing up the milestones by the end of each reporting period and integrating the resulting MTA chart into our project management dashboard (in our case, monthly), we follow the reporting line, and obtain a trend for each one of the milestones. Under section Free Downloads, in sub-section Demos, you find a small inter-active, animated MTA demonstrator.
In case you would like to use practical and useful packages of tools, templates and checklists, here you can get them. They save you a lot of time, are easy to use and easy to change:
All four PM Phases in one Set