Why Stage-Gate is One of the Fastest Growing Project Management Methodologies

Developing a new product, launching a website, or getting ready to blow the world’s mind with your new software? You need Stage-Gate for that! The Stage-Gate framework helps project leaders plan, optimize and implement various project stages with more efficiency—and ultimately deliver their project, product, software (or anything else!) as planned.

In this Stage-Gate guide, we’ll unpack the stages and procedures that make up this methodology. Plus, we’ll highlight the benefits of implementing this approach into your next project so it’s non-chaotic, non-risky, and non-expensive—all the things you want your project to be!

What is the Stage-Gate Process?

Also called the Phase-gate process, Stage-Gate is a project management methodology designed to guide a project from ideation to completion. This widely implemented process, divides projects into phases, rather than completing them in cycles or all at once. More on this below.

Each phase contains a “gate” that prevents you from moving to the next one until you complete the previous phase. At the end of each phase, stakeholders review the progress of the project and decide whether it is still viable. If yes, the gates are opened, and the next stage unlocks.

Organizations can integrate the Stage-Gate methodology into their project management software to simplify a project by breaking it down into more manageable chunks.

How Does a Stage-Gate Process Work?

The Stage-Gate process is based on the premise that product innovation begins with ideas and ends once a product is successfully launched into the market. The idea is to break down the project into miniature stages and one stage flows onto the next.

Before moving on to the next stage, you have to decide whether you have completed all the steps in that stage. At each stage, you must make one of these four decisions:

  1. Go: The project is ready to move to the next phase.
  2. Kill: There is no reason to invest more time, so let’s shut it down.
  3. Hold: The project is viable but not ready to move to the next stage.
  4. Recycle: We can develop this project further if we make some changes in scope.

The phases of the Stage-Gate process

Projects following the Stage-Gate approach are typically divided into five stages.

Stage 0: Ideation

This initial preparatory stage involves brainstorming ideas. You may seek input from teams, customers, and clients in this phase. The end goal is to select an idea to move ahead with. Stakeholders investigate the market and flesh out the idea and if it’s not worth the effort, the gate closes here.

Stage 1: Scoping

Once the team has settled on a project idea, the next step is to delve a little deeper into a project’s viability. In the scoping stage, you may perform a SWOT analysis, competitive analysis, and marketplace analysis to help you evaluate the product or service’s potential and perceived value.

Stage 2: Designing

The designing stage builds upon the scoping stage by conducting further research to make a business case for the project. This is the last stage of concept development and is crucial before you start developing the actual product. The business case will include a detailed project definition, analysis, and development plan.

Stage 3: Development

Now that you’ve completed building a robust business case, it’s time for the development phase. This stage aims to arrive at a working model or prototype of the product. This is the phase where the product’s actual design and development begins. Create timelines and milestones that teams must achieve to make this stage manageable.

Stage 4: Scale Up

Once you have a working model, test and trial it in the marketplace to verify and validate your innovation. This stage is very crucial to the success of the project. Here, you can collect feedback from small control groups, iron out bugs, make edits and apply final touches. This stage concludes with a viable product that’s ready to be launched.

Stage 5: Launch

Finally, you’re ready to set the product free. In this stage, your focus is to generate a fair amount of hype for your product. It’s essential to craft a marketing strategy to increase product awareness and ramp up consumer demand. Between each of these stages, remember to review and decide whether to go ahead, end the project, place the project on the backburner or do some further work before moving forward.

5 Benefits of Stage Gating

Now that you understand the Stage-Gate methodology and how to use it, let’s answer the next big question. What is so great about Stage-Gate, and why should you use this process to develop and launch new products for your organization?

1. It’s goal-oriented

The beauty of the Stage-Gate methodology is that until you clear the gate—by completing the goals at each stage—you can’t progress. This keeps teams focused on meeting all the deliverables, enabling the entire team to achieve the project goals.

2. It’s structured

Stage-Gate offers a clear, well-defined project path to product development, taking away the chaos. The multiple decision points placed throughout the project make it easier to assess its viability. If you realize your product is no longer viable at any stage, you can kill the project or shelve it for later. This prevents wasting time on projects that are not panning out.

3. Forces discipline

The structured nature of the Stage-Gate approach introduces discipline in what can otherwise be a chaotic development process. Teams are fully aware of what they need to do and when to move projects forward.

4. More efficient project management

Since you get to review the project’s viability at every gate, this project management approach ensures a project only continues if it remains viable. With this limit in place, you’re able to manage your resources effectively and allocate them elsewhere if necessary. The step-by-step approach also ensures that you don’t miss critical steps in the process.

5. Risk-averse

Developing a new product can be a risky undertaking for an organization. However, the gated nature of Stage-Gate makes projects more risk-averse. By reviewing every stage to ensure you complete all necessary adjustments before moving on to the next phase, you’re able to mitigate the risk of developing a poor-quality product.

In Summary

Migrating new ideas from ideation through the feasibility, development, and scale-up stages and, finally, into commercialization is undeniably one of the more complicated initiatives an organization can undertake.

The Stage-Gate approach is a time-tested and proven methodology to guide an organization through this process. Stage gating is increasingly gaining popularity, especially when managing new product development or when launching the software, websites, and apps. This popularity is mainly due to the gated stages that ensure you have a rigid process to test, validate, and launch great products into the market.

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