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Apr 30

Markers vs. Milestones in Jira

While Jira knows milestones, there is a related and oftentimes better thing, called marker, available in some project management apps from Atlassian Marketplace. Markers and Milestones serve slightly different purposes, but show their best sides with graphical tools, such as the Gantt chart. Here are a few examples of how a project manager could utilize markers and milestones in Jira BigPicture/BigGantt.

Further down I also show several ways to create milestones in regular Jira, with no extra PPM app installed.

Jira Milestone vs. Marker in short

Let’s begin with a somewhat biased statement: I find markers better and more useful than milestones in many real-life project management situations. The most important reason: it’s truly hard to overlook a marker. A marker would typically appear as a red vertical line across the screen, indicating some crucial point in time. No matter how far down you scroll the page, the marker is continuously visible. A milestone, on the other hand, is just a special task located somewhere on the Gantt matrix, and it’s common to lose sight of it when you scroll up or down.

Markers are project-independent, so you are unlikely to lose sight of a marker just because you switched from one project to another. While milestones are just very special tasks, a marker is not at all related to a task.

Milestones, Markers in BigPicture/BigGantt

Markers are not available in regular Jira and milestones are. Milestones, however, can be truly appreciated with a graphical project management tool, such as the Gantt chart in Jira BigPicture/BigGantt. I compare a marker and a milestone on the picture and in the table below.


Jira Milestone marker Gantt chart

The “PN-3 Campaigns” milestone compared to the “Final release” marker on the Gantt Chart in Jira BigPicture/BigGantt. It’s pretty evident that the marker attracts more attention than the milestone. What’s more, the milestone could easily be overlooked by scrolling the screen down, while the marker couldn’t.


Table 1: A milestone vs. a marker. Based on how they appear in BigPicture/BigGantt.

Milestone Marker
Visible in one or many projects/programs project/program related. Visible only in the given project/program. project independent; one marker can be visible in many projects.
Appearance on Gantt chart: a diamond-shaped task (various colours available) on Gantt chart: a vertical line across the screen (various colours available)

on Roadmap in BigPicture Cloud: a circle on a timeline (various colours available)

Duration 0

in real terms a milestone looks like a one-day long task centered in the midnight.

Which is better A Marker is nearly impossible to overlook, while a Milestone can be overlooked by scrolling the screen down and losing sight of it.
Sample use version release; for setting goals that can be easily moved along timeline without harming the project, sales or market commitments Final release, trade fair, company event; often an external constraint


How to convert a task to a milestone?
Convert task to milestone Gantt chart

Trigger the context menu of a task to convert it to a milestone. The Gantt chart in BigPicture/BigGantt.


How to create a marker?
Create marker in Jira BigPicture

Click some day on the timeline to start creating a marker on the Gantt chart in BigPicture/BigGantt.


Milestones in Jira (no extra PPM app installed)

There are a couple of ways to have milestones with no project management plugin added to Jira:

  • Create a special task type, namely “Milestone”, as shown on the picture below. Then you could create a task of the “milestone” type and link multiple subtasks to it.
Milestone issue type Jira

Create the “Milestone” issue type and link subtasks to the parent milestone task. I added a custom “rock” icon.

  • You could create a Kanban board with milestone-like columns, such as “Analysis”, “Design”, “Final release”. Contrary to what you would normally expect to see on the Kanban board, this time you won’t be dragging tasks from left to right between the columns. Instead, a completed task will remain in its original position, labeled “Completed”.
  • Atlassians’s official advice is to use JIRA versions as milestones: you might try creating an overall version, and a separate version for each “milestone”.  “Version 1.0” would use the overall start and end dates.  “Version 0.1” would include the first set of milestone dates, “Version 0.2” the second set of milestone dates, etc. 


About The Author

With his automotive background Marcin goes beyond the 'Jira + software development' standard. He likes simple, up-to-five-sentence answers to complex questions.