At the completion of a major project phase, or after the completion of a major deliverable, the team should take a short pause to ensure that the prior work was completed successfully and that the project team and the client are ready to proceed to the next major phase or deliverable. These events are called "milestones." Milestones are activities of zero duration, cost, and effort. They are actually markers or flags in your schedule that signify that something major has just been completed. Sometimes these criteria are called exit and entry criteria, or "gates."
There are two major areas to discuss and validate at a milestone.
- Make sure that all of the work done so far is complete, correct, and approved. This review process should be a formality since the deliverable completed so far should have been approved already in the appropriate manner.
- You should gain permission to proceed to the next phase or deliverable. Obtaining formal approval to proceed is important for a couple of reasons.
- The team needs to make sure that it does not get ahead of itself. For instance if you begin the Design Phase without having the requirements finalized, you may end up with a design that does not fully meet the client needs or you may have to spend effort and money on rework.
- You need to ensure that you still have sponsorship, budget, and resources. Taking a checkpoint and obtaining formal approval to proceed will ensure that the project is still valid and that you expect that you will have the resources you need to complete the remainder of the work. If you proceed without formal approval, you may end up wasting resources on work that no longer has a high-enough priority to proceed.
The approval to proceed usually takes place in a Milestone Review Meeting with the project manager, sponsor, and other senior stakeholders. The agenda of the meeting would be something like the following:
- Validate the purpose of the meeting
- Review Exit Criteria for the phase
- Formally sign off on any of the major deliverables not yet approved
- Review budget
- Review any outstanding work from this phase
- Review entry criteria for the next phase
- Validate estimates for the remainder of the work
- Validate that the business case for the project is still valid
- Validate resource availability for the remainder of the project
- Validate that sponsorship is still in place
- Validate the high-level plan for the next phase
- Obtain official approval to proceed
The official approval to proceed basically means that all work done up to this point is okay and the team can concentrate now on the work associated with the next phase or next milestone.