In an increasingly dynamic field like project management, keeping up with jargon, project-specific terms and new concepts is always challenging. Especially, if you are new to project management, you might find it challenging to understand new terms or processes. ‘Stage gate’ is a process that is widely used in project management, especially for its usefulness in ensuring that a project has a solid foundation.
What is a Stage gate?
The stage gate methodology is built to prevent/minimise/eliminate risks in a project/program. It allows a project manager in an organisation to split the overall project into separate stages and determine viable and rewarding opportunities by connecting one stage to the other. In the stage-gate method, big tasks/goals are broken down into individual phases called ‘stages’. The process is reviewed at the end of each stage, and the project manager needs to decide whether the project can continue to the next stage. This helps to confirm one stage’s links to the other by building cohesive logic. The biggest advantage of the stage gate method is bringing simplicity to how the project/program is managed.
Typically, stage gates are typically used by large organizations dealing with big projects. The stage gate process, built to handle numerous moving parts, is particularly useful for project teams working across different departments and locations. For this reason, stage gates are often used for new product developments, software launches and business-wide changes.
The stage gate process involves several stages connected by gates, each stage designed to collect specific information. In most cases, there are four to five distinct phases in the stage gate process (as can be seen in the image), eg. Ideation, Development, Launch and Post-launch.
Advantages of using the stage gate process:
There are five key advantages of using the stage gate process. These are –
- Effective allocation of resources
- Risk minimisation
- Improved clarity
- Better project governance
- Better collaboration
Effective resource allocation
Given the stage gate process has a thorough review cycle, this allows a project manager to effectively allocate and deploy resources. This helps to ensure that an organisation can optimise its resources by better allocating the right people/resource into the right place. This also significantly helps to reduce wastage.
The biggest advantage of the stage gate process is that it helps to minimise risks significantly by avoiding any surprises. The step-by-step process comprising a specific set of checklists helps to easily eliminate any unnecessary work by decluttering the overall project management process. A risk-tracker which is also associated with the stage gating process helps to escalate the risks well in advance before they occur.
In project management one of the most important aspects is to ensure clarity so that everyone is aware of their functions. Undertaking the stage gate process helps to revisit the roles and responsibilities of all the stakeholders involved in the project/program which eventually helps to improve clarity in the overall process.
Better project governance
Having a clear governance structure is one of the most important aspects of a project management process. A clearly laid org chart usually helps to provide a clear understanding of the governance structure in a project. In the stage gate process, typically there will be a mention of roles and responsibilities as to who does what, when etc. This certainly helps to improve the governance of a project.
The stage gate process is useful for guiding employees to work on the right task at the right time. Often, organisations undertake new projects without an appropriate business case or justification, leading to common problems like overspending and vastly increased project scopes. With stage gates, projects are closely monitored at all stages, ensuring the project meets its critical goals with limited change. Regular checkpoint assessments mean that any issues and risks are flagged at the earliest opportunity and allow to react accordingly.