The Stage Gate process divides your project into stages and gates, which serve as progress checkpoints. You can use this methodology to prevent project risk and streamline communication. Plus, learn how to use the Stage Gate process to clarify project tasks and improve project outcomes.
The Stage Gate process prevents project risks by establishing areas for review at every stage of the project lifecycle. It is most commonly used in product development to ensure products are at their best before launch. You’ll create gates between project phases, and each gate defines criteria the project must meet to move forward. This methodology helps you avoid errors throughout the project lifecycle in order to increase your chances of project success.
The Stage Gate process—also called the phase gate process—is a methodology that improves project outcomes and prevents risk by adding gates, or areas for review, throughout your project plan. This framework is most commonly used for product development projects, but it is useful for any complex project.
The process breaks up projects into stages, and the gates between each stage serve as checkpoints. When using this framework, you will divide your project tasks into stages based on important milestones. Then, determine the prerequisites for each stage. Make sure your project meets these prerequisites before moving to the next stage.
The goal of the Stage Gate process is to improve decision making and project outcomes. If you don’t notice mistakes in your project early on, they can build on each other and become harder to fix. But when you frequently refer to your project plan as you progress through it, you will see errors more clearly and can address them right away. Having multiple checkpoints also provides clarity as team members work together on project tasks.Create a risk management plan template
The Stage Gate process is most commonly used to improve the product development process. Product development projects are often large projects involving cross-functional teams. The Stage Gate process simplifies the project by providing checkpoints to keep everyone on the same page. You can use this process when developing products or when working on other complex initiatives, such as a website overhaul or a marketing campaign.
Use the Stage Gate process:
With a cross-functional team
With a large remote team
When working on a complex project
Types of projects that benefit from the Stage Gate process:
New product developments
Company-wide initiatives, like a marketing campaign or a process overhaul.
If you’re working with a cross-functional team, the Stage Gate process can improve collaboration. The gates help team members trust one another and feel confident in their work because they know other teams have addressed project issues. If you’re working remotely, this process can also streamline team communication and reduce the number of questions and concerns you receive.
There are six different stages in the Stage Gate process, starting with zero. Each stage represents an area of development. Divide your project timeline and corresponding tasks into these stages so your project plan has a logical progression.
The discovery stage is for project ideation. Gather research and set up a brainstorming session to identify what you’re trying to accomplish.
Once you have a solid idea, you’ll move into the next phase of scoping. Define your project requirements, identify your stakeholders, and set project goals.
The development stage is where your ideas come to life. This is when your project team creates any project deliverables, like a product, a report, or a campaign.
For product development, test your product to make sure it meets both project goals and industry standards. For projects that don’t include a product, use this stage to polish your deliverables. Look for areas you can improve before wrapping up.
The last stage involves launching your product or sending deliverables to key stakeholders.
Between these stages, you’ll have gates. Gates help you progress through each project phase by confirming the feasibility and accuracy of the previous stage.Create a risk management plan template
The gates in the Stage Gate process depend on what you’ve accomplished in the previous stage. For example, stage zero is discovery, so your first gate will review the quality of your project idea. That way, you don’t move forward with an idea that isn’t viable.
Review the quality and viability of your project idea.
Make sure your project goals and requirements are realistic for the idea you have in mind.
Assess whether your business case is logical and check the efficiency of your corresponding action plan.
Determine whether you’ve completed everything in your action plan correctly.
Review your deliverables for quality and accuracy before beginning the launch process.
For each gate, you’ll have three tasks:
Set your requirements for what the project needs to move forward.
Set the criteria for how you’ll measure project success.
Wrap up each gate by creating possible outcomes.
Use the following questions to guide the process:
What requirements does the project need to move forward?
What criteria can we use to measure project success?
Product and competitive advantage
Financial risk and reward
What are the possible gate outcomes?
Go:The project is viable enough to pursue.
Kill: The project is not feasible to pursue.
Hold:The project is on pause, but can proceed under certain conditions.
Recycle: The project needs further adjustments to move forward.
While these are the standard gates and criteria for the Stage Gate process, you can customize them according to your project plan. For example, if you’re building a product launch campaign, then your criteria may shift toward digital criteria instead of product-focused measurements.Read: 5 project management phases to improve your team’s workflow
Below is an example of the Stage Gate process, with each stage and gate labeled. The project must go through each gate before moving to the next project phase.
Use the template below to fill in the process for your next product innovation or marketing strategy.
The Stage Gate process can drive project or product launch efficiency by ensuring your end results meet expectations.
Other benefits of the Stage Gate process include:
Reduced risk: Checking your project at each gate reduces project risk because you can identify issues quickly and address them as they arise.
Increased team performance: Team members can do their best work when they know their project is error free and on track to succeed.
Improved project outcomes: You’ll deliver top-notch results when you thoroughly review your project.
Streamlined team collaboration: Team members can work together with ease when they have clarity on project progress.