A project plan maps out a project and monitors its status after work begins. The project plan begins as a set of deliverables that represent the work a project team will complete in support of one or more objectives. The team supplements this information with the tasks and sub-tasks required to produce each deliverable. After this project outline is completed, the project manager identifies the tasks that mark critical junctures in the project's life cycle and serve as milestones, and she creates a project time schedule based on the duration of each milestone.
A deliverable is a measurable and verifiable outcome or object that a project team must create and deliver according to the terms of an agreement. An intangible deliverable is a particular outcome that the team achieves, such as an increase in a company's accounts receivable turnover ratio. A tangible deliverable is a concrete or material object created by the team, such as a report, a custom software component or a computer. A deliverable can be an interim result that contributes to the completion of the entire project, such as the creation of help desk tickets for a help desk implementation project. The deliverable can also be the final result of the project, such as an operational help desk.
Kim Heldman writes in “Project Management Jumpstart” that a deliverable is one or more items or services that contribute to the fulfillment of the project's objective and are created by project processes. These measurable results confirm the realization of day-to-day project work objectives. The deliverables also prove the adherence of the team's work to project requirements. The sign-off of the deliverables by the internal or external customer confirms that the deliverable complies with the customer's standards.
A milestone describes the status of the project as represented by an event or moment at which one or more project activities are complete. Milestones can represent the completion of key project tasks or conclusions reached or questions answered that affect the project schedule in a major way. For example, “document current processes” and “document requirements” are milestones that support the creation of the deliverable “high-level requirements” for a help desk implementation project. The milestone represents the completion of a major step in the project that requires the commitment of a certain amount of time, resources and effort. A milestone suggests the progress made toward the completion of one or more deliverables.
The project team defines the milestones during project planning as a means to identify key project activities and activity dependencies and to provide a way to compare project performance to planned targets. Upon completion of a milestone, a project manager receives customer sign-off. A project manager relies on the milestone listing as a quick reference of project milestones, the target completion dates and the particular team member who is responsible for the completion of each milestone.