Stage Gate Process

A project is split in phases to ensure better management control over the project work. At the end of each phase, a deliverable is created. This deliverable needs to be accepted and signed off by relevant stakeholders. This process of signing off at intermediate stages is called Stage gate or toll gate.

These stages are separated by so called gates, which are considered as decision points for deciding whether to move to next stage or not. The deliverables created at the end of each phase of the project are as follows:

Requirement Definition phase (concept phase) creates a Requirements Definition document which needs to be approved by the stakeholders, to ensure validity of requirements.

System Design phase creates a Design document or Architectural design document.

Coding and Testing phase creates the code which needs to be implemented.

Implementation phase implements the system which, once approved, is taken into operations.

Let's discuss these stages.

Stage O: Feasibility and Business Case Analysis - This is the pre-project stage where a accompany decides whether to go ahead with the project or not. If yes, which of the proposed projects should/can be started. For this, brainstorming can be done to generate ideas. Employees, suppliers and customers can participate in the brainstorming sessions. The shortlisted ideas are subjected to the following analysis:

A. Feasibility Analysis: It is done to check if it is possible to undertake the project. A technique called PESTLE Analysis is used for performing feasibility of the idea. It checks the political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental feasibility of the project.

B. Cost and Benefit Analysis: Here, the deliverable or product is assessed. The product strength and weaknesses are analyzed, and the values that can be added to it are considered. The threats from competitors are also assessed. If the threats are greater, the chances of closure of gate increase.

Stage 1: Concept — At this stage, the product features and functions are defined, and approval is sought from the relevant stakeholders. The stakeholders check if the right product is being built and if the product can be built within the reasonable amount of time and money. This stage needs the following:

Product Definition and Analysis: Here, the benefits offered by the product and the functions it must perform to provide value to customers are determined. To gain the information about customers' expectations, interviews and surveys can be conducted. Information needs to be gathered about the market environment and competitors also.

Requirements Documentation: In this document, the description of the product is provided including functional, non-functional, support, training, legal, health and safety requirements.

Stage 2: Design: Based on the requirements of the stakeholders, the detailed design is developed for each of the components of the product. This design needs to be approved by the relevant stakeholder, which in some cases includes statutory bodies, e.g. in case of a building, the design needs to be approved by the local authorities before construction can begin. In case the design does not get approved, the gate gets closed.

Stage 3: Execution (or Construction or Development): At this stage, the product defined in the aforementioned stages is operated, and simple tests are conducted. Multi-functional team is employed along with taking the expert advice of various departments. The product is developed for testing at a further stage. In case the appropriate product development does not take place, the gate gets closed.

Stage 4: Testing and Validation: At this stage, product testing and validation are conducted. The manufacturing process and the acceptance level of the product by customers and market are assessed. This stage includes the following sub-stages:

Near Testing: It is conducted by those who are closely associated with the organization to identify the probable production errors or other issues. These can be staff, loyal customers and suppliers.

Field Testing: At this stage, the product is tested in the field with the help of customers. This testing is done to ascertain if the target would accept the product and how the product would be used.

Market Testing: It is optional testing, wherein the product is offered in the market after passing it through various test stages. If there is no marketing plan for the launch of the product at this stage, the gate gets closed.

By using the stage gate process in the project management, the chances of building wrong product, production errors and occurrence of waste materials can be reduced. In addition, the communication between various departments is increased, so all the associated members gain clarity about the project.

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