Milestone Trend Analysis

Published: 2009-03-30
Last updated: 2022-03-16

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.

How does milestone trend analysis work?

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:

  • M4: System complete
  • M3: Software complete
  • M2: Hardware complete
  • M1: System Design (complete)
  • M0: (Project) Start

which we present as MTA chart on our project management dashboard.

MTA: Project StartMTA: Project Start

The vertical axis we call the "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:

MTA: End of first monthMTA: End of first month

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:

MTA: End of second monthMTA: End of second month

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.

Periodical input into MTA

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.

MTA: End of third monthMTA: End of third month


MTA: Last monthMTA: Last month

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.

MTA Demo and Practice

On this site, I provide an inter-active combination of MTA table and MTA diagram that illustrates how we apply this tool. You can practice to work with it by entering your own project milestones and the relevant dates.

If you click on the following image or link the MTA demo will open in a new  tab or window of your browser.

MTA Demo (opens in anew tab or window)
MTA practice

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