Not all milestones are equal!
When setting up some form of planning within Portfolio, Programme and Project Management, different approaches should be made on the varying levels of plan.
We like to call this ‘top down, bottom up planning’.
Basically, the business or Portfolio Level state they would like ‘X’ delivered by ‘Y’. This is the ‘top down’
The Programme or Project go away and define the project or change, and gather some detailed requirements, and eventually come up with a detailed plan; yes you guessed it, this is ‘bottom up’.
If the two do not meet, this is perfectly fine, as long as the Project can explain why it takes longer (or shorter) than the expectation set at the Portfolio level.
When reporting on the progress to plan, the Portfolio level should only be interested on major items of delivery or decision points. The Programme should look at ‘medium’ (Level 2) organisation level plans, and the projects focus on detailed level plans.
This gives everyone an opportunity to get the right decisions and information under the right persons nose.
Breaking out the milestones into Level 1, 2 and 3, helps report the varying levels of milestones at the appropriate level in the organisation.
The matrix at the top gives an example.
A good to great PMO operating at the Portfolio or Organisation level or change and reporting, should be able to design and communicate a generic lifecycle standard which suits all Projects and Programmes in that organisation or department.
There are several examples of Project or Programme life cycles e.g. ‘Design, Build, Test’ or ‘Define, Plan, Implement, Close’; the PMO should be able to state what is required in each phase, track each phase with a milestone, and accept the milestone once there is evidence the phase has been carried out and completed. If these dates are agreed at the start of the project, the PMO can independently baseline these dates, and then the project manager can report progress against these dates. As a suggestion, the PMO could facilitate the ‘re-baseline’ of the milestones at the end of each project phase as part of a review to help the Project Manager.
See Project Planning for a detailed guide on how to plan a project