Phase Gate Project Management

If you have never heard the term “phase gate” in project management, you may wonder what this term means. If you are familiar with “stage gates” in project management, then all you need to understand is that “phase gate” is simply another term for a “stage gate.”

However, if you are also unfamiliar with stage gates, you may wonder what all of these terms mean. Simply put, a phase gate (or a stage gate) is a project management technique that relies on breaking larger projects up into smaller parts and conducting regular reviews during the project to help all members stay on task and reduce the risk of failure. Technically, a phase gate refers to the actual checkpoint or review meeting, but it is typically used to refer to the technique as a whole.

Phase gates can bring several benefits to your projects’ overall workflow and success. Typically, businesses focus on the top five benefits when determining whether or not implementing this type of project management technique is right for them. The top five benefits of phase gates are:

  • improved resource management,
  • risk mitigation,
  • flexibility,
  • project success, and 
  • improved collaboration between teams and departments.

Now, you may be wondering, how exactly does introducing regular reviews improve all of these aspects of a project? When you think about it, one of the most challenging parts of a large project is ensuring that resources are being used effectively and addressing issues as soon as they come up — rather than allowing them to snowball and cause catastrophic problems later on. Because the phase gate technique of project management relies on regular checkpoints, it is much easier to manage these challenges that come with your large projects.

What Is Phase Gate In Project Management?

If you have never heard of the phase gate technique, you may be wondering what is “phase gate” in project management? Similarly, you may be wondering how this technique works and whether or not this type of project management technique would be useful in your business. Put simply, the phase gate or stage gate process is a technique of project management that is typically very effective for large organizations that are working on large-scale projects. This means projects that are being worked on by multiple teams or departments and involving multiple stakeholders. This process is effective because it helps your teams break larger projects into smaller chunks, making reporting and assessing whether or not your teams are ready to proceed with the next step much easier.

One of the largest draws of the stage gate process for new product development is the fact that it can be used on large-scale projects that are otherwise challenging to manage. You can think of this process as a puzzle game where you cannot move on to the next challenge until you have passed the current puzzle you are on. In other words, stage gates are essentially checkpoints where your teams can review their progress and determine whether or not they are ready to move on to the next step of the project. At each of these checkpoints, the involved members of the project can decide whether they should continue on to the next stage, postpone moving forward with the project to continue making modifications in the current stage, or end a project entirely.

These checkpoints pose an invaluable source of reflection and help ensure that a project stays on task and reduces the risk of something going wrong later on in the project because of an earlier mistake. However, it is important to note that if you are going to implement the phase gate technique in your project management strategies, you need to determine how to break your projects into smaller, more achievable pieces to work on one at a time. Luckily, most projects follow a rather linear timeline, and splitting the big picture of a project into sections is typically not very challenging.

Phase Gate Process

Now that you know what the phase gate technique is, you likely want to know more about the phase gate process. After all, you are not going to decide whether or not a new technique will work for your projects without knowing how that technique works. Before looking online for stage gate vs. phase gate processes, remember that these two terms really refer to the same process. Some people use the term phase gate while others use stage gate, but the process as a whole is typically the same for both terms.

So, how exactly does the phase gate model work? The exact number of phases included in this model will depend on the company using it, but there are five distinct phases in this model. These phases are:

  • idea
  • scoping
  • business case
  • development, and finally
  • launch

In between each of these phases, everyone involved in the project will meet and review the progress made in the previous phase. During this meeting, your teams will decide whether or not to move on to the next phase, continue working in the current phase, or pause work until something of higher priority is completed. With these five phases, you would have four phase gate meetings.

As mentioned above, you may require more than these five phases to effectively manage some of your more complicated projects. This does not alter the phase gate technique; you will have more phase gate meetings per project. One of the largest benefits of the phase gate model is that its fundamental principles do not change even if the phases you are including change.

Governance Gate In Project Management

If you are familiar with stage or phase gates, but you’ve also heard the term “governance gate” thrown around, you may be wondering what is a governance gate and is it different from a stage gate? Unfortunately, the term governance gate is typically used as a variation of a stage gate or a phase gate. This is to say that a governance gate is a checkpoint where the teams, departments, and others involved in a project hold a meeting to assess whether or not to move on with a project. This may sound quite similar to a phase gate, and this is because they are essentially the same thing.

So, before you spend your time looking for “phase gate vs. governance gate” online, remember that while they are two separate terms, they refer to the same basic process. No matter which term you use — whether it is phase gate, stage gate, or even governance gate — these checkpoints create a valuable practice of ensuring that resources are being allocated effectively to different projects and that specific projects are moving along as planned. One of the most significant benefits of this project management strategy is its reliance on regular reviews. This means you will be much more likely to catch errors and address issues before they can worsen. 

If you are trying to implement governance gates into your project management system, it can be beneficial to enlist the help of an internal or external project management professional (PMP). When it comes to integrating a new technique or system into your current process, like governance gates, PMPs can help ensure that the new method is being used effectively. This can help reduce the amount of miscommunication and ensure that you get the most out of this technique. While phase or governance gates are, at their core, relatively simple, they can be hard to implement on a large scale if you do not have the proper setup or implementation strategy. This is especially true for larger businesses that may have trouble communicating between departments or teams.

Project Gate Review Template

The review process is the highlight of the phase gate technique of project management. But, if you do not have much practice in conducting this type of review or checkpoint meeting, it can also be the most intimidating part of the technique.

Luckily, there are several stage gate process examples and meeting templates that you can utilize to inform your meetings, especially when starting out. Essentially, a phase gate review meeting is a way to include a simple, structured, and adaptable checkpoint into each phase of your project. This allows you to more effectively assess any challenges, issues, or potential risks before they can cause further problems and ensure that the project is still on the right track before going ahead with the next steps. 

But, finding the right template or example to base your meetings on can be quite challenging if you do not know what you should be looking for. Generally, you will want your phase gate reviews to focus on the following points.

  • Gathering input from stakeholders involves in the project.
  • Promoting a collaborative environment, especially if multiple teams and departments are involved in the project.
  • Conducting a thorough review of the project’s progress in the previous stage.
  • Gathering information quickly and efficiently.
  • Keeping the end user or customer in mind and ensuring that the project is helping them, not hurting them.

Using this list, you can either find a template online to use as your meeting “script,” or you can write your own. The benefit of having a structured meeting or using a “script” is that it ensures you do not accidentally forget any vital information you need to address in the discussion. However, leaving space for any other comments or questions is also a good idea, as these can be essential to ensuring everyone is on the same page in the project before it moves into the next stage.

See Cloud Coach In Action

We’d be happy to provide a bespoke 1:1 demo on how Cloud Coach can benefit for your business.

Schedule a tailored demo with one of our project specialists.

  • Fill out the form below
  • Our team will reach out within 24 hours to discuss your unique requirements
  • We’ll schedule a 1:1 demo with one of our product specialists  
medal 2 1
reCAPTCHA logo@2x

protected by reCAPTCHA

medal 2 1

Thank you

A Cloud Coach advisor will be in contact by email within one working day to arrange your demo.