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Power Your Product Development with Phase Gate

To survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace, you need products and services that stand out from the crowd. How do you foster innovation and generate creative ideas that will meet your customers’ needs and secure your place in the market? The phase- gate approach gives you the tools to evaluate new ideas and measure their potential with a structured, data-driven development process.

Learn how the phase-gate process works and how you can successfully implement it in your organization. You’ll learn the benefits of phase gate and how to avoid the pitfalls, and also get checklists and templates to start using phase gate today in your product and project development.

 

What Is Phase Gate?

The phase-gate process provides a structured road map that guides projects from idea to product launch. Phase gate divides a project into smaller sections or phases, also known as stage-limited commitment or creeping commitment. At the end of each phase, the work is reviewed at a gate to see whether the project is ready to move to the next phase. Phase gate, also known as a tollgate, Stage-Gate®,or Waterfall methodology, is defined in the 5th edition of the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK®). This gated process, also known as big design up front or front-end loading, is often used in new product development (NPD) because it helps organizations identify the scope and costs of a project at the beginning and provides a systematic method to control and manage risk.

 

What Is the Phase-Gate Methodology?

Phase gate methodology takes a holistic, big-picture overview of product development. It breaks down the overall project into phases. (In Stage-Gate methodology, these phases are called stages).

Each stage is designed to collect specific information or meet specific goals, and cross-functional teams collaborate and various functional capabilities are integrated into the development process. Each phase ends with a review gate, where a person or team evaluates how well the phase meets its goals and decides whether and how the project should continue.

Phase Gate Process

As early as the 1940s, complex engineering and industrial projects used a phased approach to development. The method front-loaded much of the planning work and took a step-by-step approach to project development. In 1958, the American Association of Cost Engineers (now AACE International) developed a cost estimation classification to match the estimating process with phased development. During the space race in the 1960s, NASA used a phased review process, so each step could be reviewed in sequence.

Today, phase gate builds on the strength of this process. It’s used widely in new products, from hardware, software, and IT to processes and services. While phase gate is the basic system for new product development, the methodology is also used with process changes and improvements. Phase gate is not limited to a step-by-step development and review process. Engineering, design, marketing, and other work processes can work concurrently, rather than relying on a handoff from department to department.

 

How Can Phase Gate Improve Your Business?

The phase-gate process helps you identify successful products and projects quickly, giving your business an edge in an increasingly competitive environment. Because it relies on a road map with clear checkpoints, you can drive any project by controlling costs, minimizing risks, and ensuring quality. Here are some of the many ways that phase gate can improve your business:

  • Profitability: Phase gate is driven by the promise of increasing your time-to-market performance, which powers your profitability. The process helps you identify, refine, and develop big ideas — and new products — quickly. It’s a complete idea-to-launch process that gives you clear direction in achieving in-market success. When you get products to market faster, you can drive sales and profits. Since you use quantifiable data and benchmarks at each phase in order to vet ideas and review development, you can be more productive, creating predictable project cycles and performance. According to Stage-Gate International, 72 percent of businesses using Stage-Gate achieve their profitability objectives and are 12 times more productive.
  • Strategic Focus: Phase gate’s reliance on fact-based reviews ensures that you do the right projects and that you do the projects right. Companies don’t need to rely on instinct or emotion to build a portfolio of projects. Gates with “teeth” and reviews with clear criteria give you a way to evaluate the likelihood of any project’s success, which helps you prune away weak ideas. This evaluation and editing process optimizes your new product development pipeline by providing you with real-time analysis on what projects should be routed ahead and whether they are on target during the product lifecycle. A scorecard that tracks the project’s speed, scope, and budget offers a check and balance on any product and supplies a clear, consistent standard for all planned projects. Phase gate keeps a strong internal focus on the right projects and enables better portfolio governance and agile decision making, and gives management the key data to determine when projects need increased investment.
    Project Funnel
  • Error Reduction: The phase-gate process spells out deliverables and the criteria for the gate review at each stage of the product lifecycle. Products can’t move to the next phase until they clear the gate. As cross-functional team members work on the phase, they work toward those deliverables. Phase gate sets clear expectations, which keeps everyone on the same page and reduces production errors, risk, and the waste of raw materials or other resources.
  • Communication and Collaboration: The phase gate working environment fosters effective communication, collaboration, and cross-functional linkages as projects move through the process. In moving from idea to launch, a range of departments, functions, and areas will weigh in on a project’s feasibility, planning, design, implementation, marketing, and testing. Key stakeholders, customers, partners, and suppliers are essential in establishing a successful product lifecycle. (Learn more about communicating with stakeholders and creating a stakeholder communication management plan.) In each phase, teams are empowered to work across departments to meet the review criteria. Representatives of different departments and business leaders collaborate in the gate review, giving their voice and perspective as they evaluate the criteria. Collaboration on one project can provide the impetus for culture change throughout the organization.

What Are the Steps in the Phase-Gate Process?

The phase-gate process governs new product development as well as smaller project extensions and simple changes. It consists of a series of phases with gates that determine whether the project is ready to move forward. Each phase contains its own scope, objectives, and activities that lead to deliverables as well as staffing resources and functional responsibilities. Each gate contains the criteria and results that must be met for the project to move to the next phase. Clearing the gate is the entry point to the next phase.

You should set the number and placement of gates at the beginning of the product’s lifecycle. These gates mark the points in new product development when management and the project team assess the project’s status and risk against internal and external criteria. The timing of the gates is based on the size, complexity, and progress of the product. The steps in the phase-gate process are as follows:

Phase Gate Model

Phase 0 in the Phase-Gate Process: Ideation or Discovery

This kickoff phase gathers together a team to decide what products and projects your company might want to take on and whether you have the capacity to pursue them. Ideas typically start with identifying a market need and then determining if you can offer a potential solution. Here are a number of ways that you can generate ideas:

  • Brainstorming and mind mapping
  • Empathic design or research regarding the user’s experience in order to understand their underlying needs
  • Communication with customers and user feedback

The group conducts some preliminary analysis to explore opportunities and propose ideas. The gate for this phase is receiving approval from decision makers that the idea is worth the effort.

Phase 1 in the Phase-Gate Process: Scoping or Concept Development

In this phase, gather available data and conduct initial research about the idea. Perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis to help you narrow down the pool of projects and quantify the opportunities for your product. You want to know the following:

  • Strengths: How does your product add value for consumers? What resources will help you develop the product? What are the technical benefits?
  • Weaknesses: What are the limits of your resources to invest in the product? What capacity would you need to add? What other factors would limit development?
  • Opportunities: How does the product address current customers’ needs and market trends? What will it offer potential customers?
  • Threats: What do competitors offer? What economic conditions could limit your product’s development?

This basic SWOT matrix template can help you conduct your SWOT analysis. The template provides the basic 2x2 layout for an easy-to-read view of your analysis. It also includes a column for measuring the significance of each item in your SWOT categories.

Basic SWOT Matrix Template

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Excel | Smartsheet

In this phase, use information that’s readily available (and, therefore, inexpensive) to evaluate your product’s potential and assess threats to its success. The gate in this phase is management approval to move forward. But remember: The greater the threat, the greater the chance that the gate will close and you’ll have to go back to explore other ideas.

Phase 2 in the Phase-Gate Process: Building the Business Case and Plan

This is the last step of concept development. This phase focuses on conducting in-depth research, analyzing the product’s market and technical feasibility, and creating a detailed design and project plan. Elements of this phase include the following:

  • Product Definition and Analysis: This information needs to justify the development of a new product. What are the user needs and wants? What is the value to the customer? What benefits and features should the product offer? What is the market size and the rate of growth? Is the product technically feasible? What processes, resources, and operations do you need to produce the product? What is the cost analysis for those processes, resources, and operations? With the market and technical analyses in hand, identify how you will develop prototypes and gather feedback. The product definition needs to include the business, risk, and financial analyses of the new product.
  • Business Case: Build a document that includes the rationale or justification for developing the product. Use the business and financial analyses to explain why the project will be successful. Include any legal, health, and safety requirements.
  • Project Plan: List the tasks, milestones, resources, and timeline in a project plan (you should include the expected launch date). Using a Gantt chart for this step can help you with the schedule, resource allocation, and timeline.
  • Feasibility Review: Have various departments weigh in to review the rationale for the product and assess the plan’s chances of succeeding.

At the end of this phase, review the business case, justification, and plan. If the product has sufficient potential, the gate opens to the next phase and the organization starts product development.

Phase 3 in the Phase-Gate Process: Product Development

It’s time to execute the design plans and start the pilot production that turns your concept into reality. Cross-functional teamwork allows you to start manufacturing the product. During this phase, you should do the following activities:

  • Develop marketing plans.
  • Regularly review and update the timeline.
  • Develop large-scale production plans.
  • Gather customer feedback and conduct user testing.
  • Govern development by SMART goals (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound). Here’s a user-friendly SMART goals template to get you started. It includes space for initial goals and SMART goals and will help you to determine if what you want to achieve is realistic and if so, to set a deadline.  
SMART Goals Worksheet Template

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Excel | Word | PDF

The deliverable at the end of this phase is a working prototype that has been alpha or lab-tested. Based on these tests, the gate will stay closed if the product has not been sufficiently developed.

Phase 4 in the Phase-Gate Process: Testing and Validation

Tests at this phase validate or fine-tune the product and manufacturing or service process. Look for any problems or issues concerning the product, customer acceptance, and financial assumptions. Consider these three types of testing:

  • Near Testing: Ask people who are familiar with and knowledgeable about the product to find bugs or issues.
  • Field Testing or Beta Testing: Gather feedback from customers, partners, or internal staff who are not familiar with the product in order to find out how interested they are in your product, how they use the product, and how durable it is. Use this feedback to make any improvements and shape your sales and marketing efforts.
  • Market Testing: How well does your product meet customers’ needs? Get an early forecast of expected sales, and adjust your marketing plan as needed.

At the end of this phase, the product is no longer a prototype. In its final form, it has most of the features and functionality it will have when you actually sell it. The gate review approves the product and the sales and marketing plan.

Phase 5 in the Phase-Gate Process: Product Launch and Marketing

The product goes into production, full operation, and the marketplace. Establish the product price, starting product volume, distribution channels, and policies for production, inventory, and customer support. The launch also includes implementing your marketing strategy to generate customer demand, anticipate market needs, and establish sales staff training.

  • Post-Launch Review: Phase gate typically ends with a post-launch review. Look at the numbers to see if you reached the revenue you expected, sold the number of products you expected, and reached the number of customers you expected. Gather user stories to see whether customers encountered issues or bugs that your planning and testing didn’t find, and evaluate customer satisfaction. Above all, ask what you learned from the project and what you can improve next time. This process enables your organization to engage in continuous learning, provide process improvement, and ensure accountability.
  • How Many Phases Do You Need? The traditional phase-gate process, typically used in new product development, has five phases with four gates. Ideation and post-launch review are informal phases at the beginning and end of any process. With moderate-risk projects (such as product enhancements or extensions), you can use a three-phase version that combines scoping with the business case phase and development with the testing phase. Simple changes, such as handling a marketing request, use two phases  (development and testing are combined with the launch phase).

How Phase Gate Drives Innovation and Product Development

New product development is the engine of sustainable success for every company. Phase gate drives a creative process that clarifies ideas quickly and easily, sorting out the best concepts and creating innovative products. It focuses on innovation one idea, one phase, and one gate at a time, with the ultimate goal of fostering a continuous flow of ideas and sustained results. The phase-gate process, with its cohesive, straightforward, rule-based approach to evaluating new product development, focuses on innovation as a strategic business activity, rather than on ad hoc approaches or random ideas.

The phase-gate approach enables optimal innovation management by reducing project uncertainty and ensuring an integrated, cohesive approach to new product development that is fully supported as a strategic initiative. It provides guidance for new product development as well as help in upgrading existing products.

An innovation scorecard can help you evaluate projects by showing you which new ones will help you stay competitive as well as rejecting poor projects via the phase-gate process. Imagine the phase-gate process as a visual model of the opportunity management funnel: Weak ideas are eliminated, and strong, viable alternatives are highlighted. Each project’s executive sponsors, and all senior leadership, have the opportunity to validate the business case and the innovative culture.

Rather than starting each project from scratch, phase gate builds in organizational learning in order to improve new product development with each project lifecycle. With it, you can achieve rapid, profitable new product development and launch a steady stream of successful products. What’s more, you develop a business process that creates value across the organization and optimizes its business impact.

 

How Is the Phase-Gate Model Used in Project Management?

Phase gate gives project managers the flexibility to customize the process for each project rather than a one-size-fits-all methodology. By breaking down chaotic idea generation into manageable steps, phase gate fosters a project management process and discipline that can become the organization's project culture. It works in harmony with business processes and the human factors of project management.

Because this project management technique reviews the end of the phase with a gate, project managers have great influence over — and great responsibility for — a project. In a conference paper presented at PMI® EMEA Global Congress 2003 (The Hague, South Holland, The Netherlands), Ray W. Stratton called project gates "Chutes and Ladders®" for project managers. As they guide a project, project managers have a significant influence on whether they will encounter a “ladder” (allowing the project to move ahead) or a “chute” (or hazard sending the project back for reworking or review).

To effectively manage the phase gate process, especially gate reviews, project managers must provide clear communication, commitment, effective cross-departmental management, and strong decision-making skills. At each gate, the project manager should review their plans in each of the relevant knowledge and application areas from the PMBOK. Project managers can use gate reviews to do the following:

  • Manage risk in each phase
  • Update management about the project and demonstrate the progress made in the phase
  • Explain any changes in scope or timeline since the last gate review
  • Describe plans for the next phase

Over the years, companies have relied on a range of management tools and techniques (such as benchmarking, knowledge management, and strategic planning) to support phase gate. Many of these tools are used in combination with phase-gate management. For example, quality function deployment (QFD) can be used with phase-gate criteria to develop cross-functional collaboration.

 

What Is a Gate Review Process?

Every phase in the NPD is separated by a gate that candidly assesses the quality of the idea and compares the work and performance with the objectives established at the beginning of the project. Unlike other processes that force the project manager and senior leadership to wait until the project’s completion in order to evaluate it, the gate review process provides them with the opportunity to identify the project’s problems and assess its progress at these gated benchmark points.

In effect, the gate is the green light for projects that have merit and the (permanent) red light for projects that don’t.

The pace of the reviews is established by the rate of the project’s progress and the complexity of the project. Depending on the size of the project, reviews can be conducted anytime during the activity cycle of the phase. In addition, reviews can occur as needed for each project, or the review committee can consolidate reviews for several projects and conduct them at regularly scheduled meetings. To keep everyone on the same page, each gate should have a unique name or number so that everyone knows the gates as well as the order of the phases and gates.

Gate reviews offer a formal means of reviewing and controlling project risk, monitoring any changes in project scope (either formal or informal), and engaging stakeholders to ensure their interest. The reviews also give the project’s executive sponsor the chance to validate the business case of the project.

The success of the gate review depends on the ability of the project manager to establish gate criteria. Project or task leaders guide the activities in the phase toward the results evaluated in the gate review. Decisions in the gate review are based on the available information, including the business case and risk analyses. The decision is based on the deliverables and the criteria for the phase. In essence, this is an external review by the executive sponsor, stakeholders, and others who did not complete the work. It relies on a QFD framework that understands the internal customers, sponsors, and transfer points of the project.

At the review, the project is customized based on the progress, context, scope, and risk. The review team makes the decision to implement changes, continue to the next phase, or end the project. Each gate review includes the following components:

  • Inputs: These are the deliverables and documentation from the project manager and team. These deliverables and acceptance criteria are decided as the output of the previous gate, and they are based on the activities of the phase.
  • Criteria: These are the metrics, criteria, or questions by which the project is judged. The quality of the inputs is evaluated, and the approach is validated.
  • Review Process: This assessment is geared toward deciding whether the project should go forward. It includes reviewing the project’s deliverables, documentation, business rationale (i.e., whether the project is still viable from an economic and business perspective), and purpose. Other factors in the review include evaluating whether the project has the right priority in the project pipeline, whether the right number of resources are committed to the project, and whether the project is valid. It offers a recap of the project’s history as well as a look into the near-term plans for the next gate.

The outputs of the gate review are the results and next steps. The review team makes a decision to do one of the following:

  • Go: The project is ready to move to the next phase.
  • Kill: The project is not worth any more effort.
  • Hold: The project is halted temporarily. It has merit, but other projects need to take priority.
  • Recycle: Changes need to be made before the project can proceed. This is a conditional go.

If the project gets the green light or a conditional go, then the project manager creates an action plan for the next phase, requests resources to move forward, and defines activities, tasks, and deliverables.

Who Is Included in a Gate Review?

Depending on the size of the organization and the scope of the project or product, the project manager or steering committee decides the output at every gate. Each review includes a gatekeeper who is responsible for making sure the product moves forward with the organization’s commitment to scope, resources, risk, and other priorities. In larger organizations, the gatekeeper can be a project manager, a supervisor, or the head of the project or program management office. It’s best if the gatekeeper is not the project manager or project sponsor, because they have a vested interest in the project succeeding. The rest of the committee includes senior managers, sponsors, and other project managers. The goal is to conduct a cross-functional or multifunctional review to ensure the product meets the necessary conditions for success.


What Is a Gating Item?

Gate reviews must have clear and visible criteria to be effective. Gating items spell out the metrics and conditions of performance. They ensure that various departments evaluate the product objectively, individually, and cross-functionally — with operational, realistic, and discriminating data points. Criteria fall into two buckets:

  • Must Meet: These are the objectives that the product must include or meet at a specific gate. If the product fails to meet these criteria, it is knocked out of the pipeline and the review team kills it. Typically, these criteria appear on a checklist that simply requires a “yes” or “no” response.
  • Should Meet: These are the desired characteristics for the product. These are rated by the review team, and the points are added together. The passing score for each of these is determined at the beginning of the phase. If the score falls below that mark, the product needs additional work at this phase. These scores can also be compared with the scores from other projects to set development priorities.

At each gate, you can assemble criteria into scorecards for the review team. These scorecards list the goals and minimum levels of acceptance. While different types of projects have different kinds of criteria, this scorecard covers the basics for many projects.

Phase Gate Review Template

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Excel | Word | PDF | Smartsheet

 

Related Phase-Gate Processes

The phase review process has been used for decades. The basic principles of phase review are found in the other methodologies discussed below.

  • Six Sigma: Six Sigma projects address both organizational and operational issues, using five phases with gate reviews at the end of each phase:
     

    • Define: Define the problem, project goals, and customer deliverables.
    • Measure: Measure the current performance of the process or product to quantify the problem.
    • Analyze: Determine and analyze the cause of the problem.
    • Improve or Implement: Implement the solution that improves the process.
    • Control: Maintain the solution, controlling future performance.

At the end of each phase, a gate review determines whether the project can proceed. Reviews are typically conducted by the coach, the project champion, or the sponsor, along with a Green Belt/Black Belt/Master Black Belt, a quality council, and a steering committee or upper management. Some of the tools at each gate review are check sheets, a project deliverables document, and the list of milestones.

  • Waterfall: The Waterfall methodology, drawn from the work of Winston Royce, Director of Lockheed’s Software Technology Center during the 1980s, breaks a project into seven stages with specific deliverables and a review process:
     

    • Conception: Define what needs to be designed, including the product’s function and purpose.
    • Initiation: Assemble the project team and define the objectives, scope, and deliverables.
    • Requirement Gathering and Analysis: Conduct a feasibility analysis and create a requirements document that lists the specifications for the final product.
    • Design: Create a system design based on the requirements. For software development, this includes hardware and system requirements as well as the system architecture.
    • Implementation/Coding: Develop the system or product.
    • Testing: Examine whether the product or system has flaws or errors, and make sure it works as expected and customers won’t face problems.
    • Maintenance: Once the software or product is released, customers provide feedback on performance. Make any adjustments or modifications to keep things running smoothly.

A traditional Waterfall approach may not be able to iterate if a project fails at any of the review gates. Waterfall relies on a static project list for product development, while phase gate’s focus on new product development ensures your organization always has a robust portfolio of choices.

  • Stage-Gate Process: A variation of phase gate’s idea-to-launch approach is Stage-Gate®, developed by Robert Cooper. Like phase gate, the goal is to make new product development more effective. In this approach, phases are called stages, with the latter possessing many of the same characteristics as the former. Gate reviews are used for quality control. Reviews serve as checkpoints to decide whether the project should proceed, should be revised, or should be killed. Action plans for the next stage are developed at the gate review.

  • Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP): A framework developed in the late 1980s by Ford, GM, and Chrysler, APQP became a standard way to guide development as well as share information between the Big Three automotive companies and their suppliers. APQP is a structured process that covers development, industrialization, and product launch. The goal is to develop a product quality plan that is finalized up front, before any production starts. The process covers design robustness, design testing, and specification compliance. It can be applied to any industry. Here are the steps in the APQP process:
     

    • Plan and Define Program: Identify the customer expectations, wants, needs, and desires in order to develop the product requirements.
    • Design Product and Develop Verification: Complete the design features, tolerances, materials specifications, and plans for the product prototype creation.
    • Design Process and Develop: Define the manufacturing techniques and production process, while maintaining the product details and production costs.
    • Validate Product and Process: Initiate the test phase for validating the manufacturing process, quality, and capacity.
    • Launch, Assess, Use Feedback, and Improve: Launch full-scale production and hear from customers. Plus, evaluate processes, and take any corrective actions and focus on continuous improvement.

Through these phases, 23 topics (or elements) document the sequence of processes that leads to advanced product quality planning. Map out these topics — ranging from customer and design specifications to production capacity, product packing, and technical tests on production items — before production starts.

Each phase must pass a gated review for the project to proceed. For example, the go/no-go decision in phase two is called a design review.

  • Next Generation Idea-to-Launch System: Robert Cooper, the author of the Stage-Gate method, has suggested an updated version of this methodology that organizations can use to make phase gate more flexible. Here are some variations for the next generation of phase-gate approaches:
     

    • Adaptive and Flexible: This is a spiral process that includes customer feedback at each phase. The development team can then make iterative product changes more quickly.
    • Agile: This involves integrating Agile and Scrum approaches, including sprints, to produce deliverables (rather than documents) that the team can show stakeholders.
    • Accelerated: These are shorter or overlapping phases that can speed the development process.

Best Practices in Phase-Gate Process

The phase-gate process can transform your business, helping you identify new ideas and build them into valuable new products. The effective use of phase gate means you have the data to separate strong products from lesser ideas in your project pipeline, which enables you to focus on your portfolio. You can hold teams accountable for product development and use metrics and profit and loss reports for continuous learning and process improvement. The phase-gate process should be lean, scalable, and adaptable to your organization. Here are some best practices for implementing phase gate at your organization.

  • Customer Focused: The end user is at the heart of all the phases of development. Leaders should define the overall product solution for customers. At each phase, they should also establish the gate criteria that allow the project to move forward. Spiral development loops with users for feedback throughout the process.
  • Full Front-End Homework: Before any development begins, fully identify the goals of the project and the appropriate gate criteria. Assign gate reviewers early and assure that you have proper representation from all functional support teams.
  • Cross-Functional Integration: Throughout product development, avoid siloing teams by integrating employees with varying functional expertise to emphasize collaboration and a holistic approach. The workgroup may include people from operations, marketing, finance, systems, and human resources.
  • Collaborative Work Culture: Foster an environment of mutual cooperation and trust by anticipating conflict or anxiety. Empower the members of the team to challenge assumptions, so you develop the strongest product. Detect problems early and encourage an atmosphere of conflict resolution rather than finger-pointing and blaming. If your phase-gate process is consistent with all work processes, you should be involving the team, so everyone understands organizational interfaces. Follow good meeting and review practices that are consistent with your organization’s culture.
  • Effective Gate Reviews: Gate meetings should be strong quality-control checkpoints, where the team makes tough decisions about whether to go ahead with or kill the project and whether to prioritize the product in the pipeline. Stick to project schedules, and make decisions promptly. At the review, involve the team and make sure everyone is prepared to present how they have fulfilled the phase criteria. If you are implementing a new gate review procedure, be sure to pre-test it to ensure it is effective.
  • Senior Management Support: No project can succeed without proper leadership and direction.

Challenges of Using the Phase-Gate Model

While phase gate should drive innovation and decision making, strict adherence to process over product can stifle creativity. Many organizations struggle to achieve the full benefits of phase gate. Use the process to encourage iteration rather than allowing the structure of your organization to weigh down development with structural compartmentalization. Here are some other challenges and ways to address them before you face longer, more costly, and less innovative product development.

  • Higher Administrative Costs: Costs can balloon if the project is ill-defined and too many executives are involved in championing or steering the project. Keep costs down by establishing clear business objectives and responsibility for the project.
  • Stifled Decision Making: Lack of direction and accountability bog down projects. Management and a steering committee should provide direction for the project, but they should identify and give appropriate authority to a project manager to avoid micromanagement. Accountability should rest with the project manager and team to avoid second-guessing by leadership. If gate criteria are clear, decision making can move quickly and smoothly.
  • Selective Focus on Risk Reduction: While managing risk is an element of phase gate, if it becomes the sole focus, product development lacks the creativity and innovation that the process can provide. Any project faces risk (technical risk, financial risk, business risk, and marketing risk). But, focusing on just one aspect of risk can stall the timely and balanced project development. If you focus too much on financial risk, for example, you limit creative problem-solving and meeting customer needs.
  • Confusion and Conflict: The seeds of confusion and conflict are sown when business goals are ill-defined and roles are not clearly articulated. Strong front-end planning with clear roles and responsibilities helps you avoid conflict and role confusion.
  • Unengaged or Uninformed Management: A project can go off the rails if senior leadership doesn’t provide sufficient oversight and doesn’t receive relevant project updates. The project sponsor and manager need to understand the information needs of leadership and address problems quickly. Sufficient leadership oversight ensures that the project is aligned with business goals, gets the resources it needs, and offers timely course correction if the team is inexperienced and needs more direction.

Improve Your Phase-Gate Process with Smartsheet for Project Management

Project managers know that the phase-gate approach gives you the ability to evaluate new ideas and measure their potential with a structured, data-driven development process. But in order to effectively implement a phase gate into your processes, you’ll need the right tools.

One such tool is Smartsheet, a work execution platform that enables enterprises and teams to get from idea to impact fast. Top project management leaders rely on Smartsheet to help align the right people, resources, and schedules to get work done.

Use Smartsheet to create consistent project elements, increase speed, and improve collaboration with scalable options that fit individual work preferences. Hold yourself and your team accountable, improve visibility into team priorities, and ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

Discover how Smartsheet can help maximize your project management efforts today.

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