Building a Project: Milestones and Deliverables
Written by Andrew Mitchell

When writing a proposal for funding support, one of the most important things to communicate is that your project represents a real benefit to society or that it breaks new ground as well as showing that you’ve considered just how the project itself will be performed.

The project plan forms one of the core pieces of the proposal puzzle and it is here that you will outline who will be performing what work and when, and what resources will be needed. Funding bodies will want assurance that your goals will be achieved in a pragmatic manner and so creating a project plan with clear targets is vital. This leads us to the importance of defining Milestones and Deliverables to act as guidance for your project and the difference between them.

Funding schemes may offer their own definitions of both Milestones and Deliverables and a good example can be found in the European Commission’s Model Grant Agreement for Horizon 2020. Using this, we can define a Milestone as a point in time or status that the project must reach in order to progress, while a Deliverable is an actual output of the project – a report, technical design, piece or software or similar.

The diagram below applies these definitions to an example project to build a house. In this case, the physical outputs of the process of house design and building are declared as Deliverables. The Milestones represent points in time used to guide the overall project and, while not always associated with the production of a particular piece of output, will still cause disruption if they are not achieved.

A key message here is that Deliverables are essentially products of the project and that Milestones are more conceptual achievements or represent points at which decisions must be made in order to guide future work. In fact, it’s useful to know that funding bodies will regularly assess Deliverables against the project plan to see whether the promised progress is being made, meaning that funding bodies may actually reject a Deliverable as being considered insufficient or otherwise requiring further work. On the other hand, Milestones are rarely reviewed in such a manner, but instead function as vital sub-goals within the larger programme of work; if a Milestone is not achieved, this may be the result of a significant problem with the management of the project and may require fundamental changes in order to bring things back on track.

If this all seems a little complex and abstract, don’t worry – identifying Deliverables and Milestones is often a process that is unique to each project and we often find that they are refined during the proposal writing process, resulting in them being added, redefined, having their scheduling moved or removed from the plan completely. If you feel you could benefit from a more specific analysis of your project plan and some expert input, Euram would be more than happy to offer assistance. Go ahead and contact us at support@euram.ltd.uk.