What is the stage-gate model?

The stage-gate model, also known as the phase-gate process, is a project management strategy used to drive a project from idea to launch in a structured manner. The project is divided into several stages in this model, separated by figurative “gates.” These gates are the decision points where product managers make decisions regarding the course of the project before proceeding to the next stage.

This model can develop new products, process changes, quality control, or product improvements.

The Stage-gate Process

The stage-gate model comprises stages and gates linearly, where a gate follows each step. The stages represent the actual work to be completed in a project, while the gates are points when a decision has to be made about the project’s future. In that regard, new product development requires teams to progress through five phases, i.e., discovery, scoping, business plan concept, development, testing and validation, launch, and implementation.

A project that focuses on significant product innovation will go through all five phases. Each phase plays a crucial role in the product management process, so taking shortcuts only results in unnecessary risks and uncertainty.

Every Stage Explained

Depending on the size of the project, two, three, or all five stages are completed. However, as stated earlier, a project that focuses on new product development will go through all five stages. That said, here is the significance of every phase;

●     Discovery: This is the initial preparatory stage where a team determines which project they want to undertake. Once an idea is proposed and agreed upon, the gate opens to the next phase.

●     Scoping: The team evaluates the product idea and associated markets. Furthermore, this stage considers all the possible risks: the greater the risk, the more likely the closing gate to the next phase.

●     Business Plan Concept: This is the last stage of concept development and includes sub-stages, e.g., product definition, project plan, and feasibility review.

●     Development: The development team creates a timeline with specific milestones to be achieved. This timeline can be revised and updated regularly. The gate opens to the next stage when the product is fully developed.

●     Testing and Validation: This stage covers product testing to determine how customers and the market accept the product.

●     Launch and Implementation: The product is ready to be launched, and the sales team is responsible for setting up policies regarding production, inventory, and distribution.

Stage Gates

At each gate, teams have to decide whether to continue the process or not. The product manager makes this decision based on the prognosis and information available at the end of the phase. For instance, it should be worth the effort when an idea is proposed in the discovery stage. If there is no data to support the concept, it is not worth it, and the gate to the next step closes.

After each stage of product development, one of the following decisions has to be made:

●     Go – The project is a success, and you can move to the next phase.

●     Kill – The project is not a success, and it should be terminated.

●     Hold – This means that the project should pause until a better time when every necessary resource is available.

●     Recycle – The project is good enough to develop further, provided it changes shape.

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