The numbers in the following steps refer to the numbers in the Detailed Milestone Planning Workflow (See Figure 9) above. They are numerated 2.x since this is a decomposition of Activity 2 in Figure 4.

Step 2.1: The team starts by defining the milestones the plan will be based on. Milestones are chosen for its relevance to the sponsor and the team, to signal, for example, the making of a major decision, the completion of a release, or the achievement of an important process step, or to mark a commitment made to the team, such as a customer makes proprietary technology or equipment required by the project available to it. The name of each identified milestone is written on a separate sticky note, using color or some other marker to distinguish between hard and soft milestones.                                                                                                                                                            

Notice that in the diagram there are arrows back and forth between the definition of milestones and the product backlog. This is so, because sometimes, the definition of a milestone might trigger the creation of a new WI that must be accounted for.

Correctly identifying the set of milestones to include in the plan is vital to its acceptance, as these milestones will become the vocabulary that will be utilized to explain the work logic to stakeholders as well as to gauge its progress. A good milestone set will include, as a minimum, the things the sponsors care about and things that mark a material reduction in the project risk. For example, if the project sponsor wanted to have the software released in increments rather than in one shot, it would make sense to include one milestone for each of the desired releases. As for the team, having an architecture defined would make an excelent milestone, in the sense that a great deal of uncertainty goes away, once the team has settled on the way forward.

Typical sources of milestones are the project contract, the team’s know how, the chosen process, risks, seasonal sales, trade shows, external commitments, and so on. Milestones tend to fall in one of three categories: the realization of an output, the attainment of a relevant project state, or the satisfaction of a commitment made to the project team by an external party. The first two types of milestones are achieved upon the completion of all work items included in the milestone’s work package. In the case of a commitment to the team, the milestone is achieved when the party responsible for it, fulfils its obligation. Milestones corresponding to external commitments tend not to have a work package associated with them and are an excellent tool to synchronize work across multiple teams, each working according to its own plan.

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