Summary Tasks Vs. Milestones in a Project

By Julie Davoren

Summary tasks and milestones both must be documented in business projects.
i Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images

Small business owners often have a difficult time managing projects. They have access to fewer resources, and therefore, often perform most of the operational, planning and coordination activities themselves. To manage projects effectively, business owners can use Microsoft’s Project Professional. It has features such as summary task and milestones, which are helpful in keeping projects organized and on track.

Summarizing Project Activities

In Microsoft Project software, you can break down the phases of your project in distinct tasks, or summary tasks. You can further break down summary tasks into subtasks. With these summary tasks and subtasks you can assign various details such as duration and start or finish date. This enables you to maintain a stronger control of your project’s timeline. For example, if your project is to develop a smartphone application, you can ascribe “planning” as summary task and “scope identification of smartphone application” as a subtask for the planning summary task.

Setting Up Summary Tasks

Indenting and flushing tasks defines hierarchy in Microsoft Project. In the “Task Name” column of the Gantt chart where your processes display, click on a process you want to indent or flush. When you next click on “Task” and then on “Indent” the task will become a subtask or flush to the left to make the task a “summary task.” You can see a consolidated view of the project by hiding all subtasks. Make it a habit to assign resources at the subtask level, rather than at the summary task level. This, way you avoid over- or under-allocating resources.

Celebration Points

Projects have significant points of achievement or significant moments, typically called milestones. Generally, milestones occur at the date of completion of a phase or a date on which a report or deliverable is due or completed. In Microsoft Project, you can set a particular task or tasks as milestones. This way, you know how far you are from the most recent milestone, how fast you need to work towards achieving it, or how to manage resources to achieve the milestone.

Selecting Milestones

You can set any task in Microsoft Project as a milestone by entering “Yes” in the milestone field, but note that Microsoft Project automatically sets the field to “Yes” if you enter a task with a duration value of zero. If you want to assign duration to your task, you’ll need to click “task view” (Gantt Chart or Task Sheet) on the “View” tab. You can now select a task you wish to highlight as a milestone. To do this, you’ll need to check “Mark Task as Milestone” box, which you’ll find on the “Information” section on the “Task Tab” of the “Properties Section.”