A milestone trend analysis, or MTA, is a method of tracking progress in project planning. Milestone trend analysis charts can help project managers assess the health of a project and provide valuable insights about scheduling or scope for future initiatives. 

In this article, we’ll answer some common questions about trend analysis in project management. We’ll also provide some tips on how to determine how many milestones you actually need and what you can do to maximize the impact of your own milestone analysis for every project.  

What is a project milestone?

A project milestone is a checkpoint used to mark project progress. This can be a specific date, time, task, or event chosen to represent a turning point in the initiative. Project milestones can also be points in the project lifecycle when a team is expected to make a key decision or hand over deliverables preceding the final product

For example, if the “project” in question is publishing a book, a first milestone may be submitting the manuscript. After this, the book can then be edited to prepare it for publishing and distribution.

After a certain event or set of milestone events occur, you can formally evaluate the project’s progress. You can also compare your original projections to your current situation, reflect on goals achieved so far, and look for new areas of improvement as you continue onward.  

Why is a milestone trend analysis important?

A milestone trend analysis is important because it gives you and your team the ability to visualize what is and is not working. Instead of blindly moving forward no matter what, teams are able to see if their milestone deadlines are on track, too ambitious, or not ambitious enough. 

Milestone trend analysis also helps to identify bottlenecks and other constraints that signal issues with the project scope or other planning aspects.

Milestone analysis charts can also help take things from the micro to the macro. If milestone deadlines are continually missed, you can infer that your project may be at risk of overall delay. 

Reflection is vital for the success of a project because your findings can determine whether your team is behind or ahead of schedule. 

How many milestones should I have in my project?

Every project is different. Even within a project, certain phases may be longer or more intensive than others. There is no “right” or “wrong” number of milestones to have in your project. However, they should represent significant checkpoints in your initiative. 

Those markers will be unique to your individual project but you as the project manager will be able to tell right away what those points should be. Some milestones will be more important than others so you’ll have to decide which ones you’ll go over as a team and which ones you will evaluate yourself. 

How does milestone trend analysis work?

Each milestone should have a deadline. A milestone trend analysis works by using a visual line graph to assess project progress according to those milestone deadlines. 

For example, you may be able to forecast that milestone 1 is due this Friday, milestone 2, is due next Friday, and milestone 3 is due in two weeks. The line on this chart should connect these milestones.

As ionos explains, “The reporting periods are entered on the X-axis and the milestone dates on the Y-axis. If the corresponding points are connected to each other, the result is a line, which shows the progress.”

If that line is horizontal, that means the project is on schedule. If the line is trending upwards, that means the project is experiencing delays. If the line is trending downwards, that means the project is ahead of schedule. 

What is a Milestone Trend Analysis 2
Milestone trend analysis trending upward and signaling project delays

Maximize the impact of your milestone trend analysis with a tool like Wrike. In Wrike, users can organize goals and milestones so that they are interconnected with tasks, immediately connecting progress back to purpose. There are many different ways to create milestones in Wrike, so choose the option that best suits your desired representation of the data and chosen KPIs

And if you plan to use a Gantt chart for your project planning, Wrike can help you plot your milestones right next to your project timelines, making it easy for team members and stakeholders to see their goalposts along the way. 

Top advantages of a milestone trend analysis

The top advantages of a milestone trend analysis include the ability to visualize progress made plus the opportunity to mitigate risks and prevent roadblocks from ever happening. Conducting a milestone trend analysis will also help you deal with bottlenecks as you redesign your plan around unexpected obstacles. 

If you use a project management solution like Wrike, you can easily be proactive about redistributing the workload and forecasting accurate timelines based on real-time data. 

Does my project need a milestone trend analysis?

Your project may benefit from a milestone trend analysis if it is a complex, long term project.  

Short term projects (that last less than a week or so) with simple phases may choose not to evaluate progress until after it’s complete. However, short term projects will still benefit from having visual goals and progress data at a glance through a tool such as Wrike Analyze.  

Master the art of milestone trend analysis to improve projects

By now you’ve learned that milestones are critical points throughout a project that allow teams to reflect on progress and improve processes throughout the project’s lifetime. They are fairly intuitive and offer advantages such as improved risk management. Take advantage of our two-week free trial to discover all the ways in which Wrike Analyze will help you visualize progress, translate findings, and directly apply results right within your existing project.