What Is the Stage Gate Process? (With Phases and Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 27, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A project manager uses methodologies that require them to commit varying degrees of complexity and time to undertake, develop, and complete a project. The stage gate is a methodology that managers use to visualize and monitor the project's information, as analyzing this data allows them to adjust the project's direction. Learning more about the stage gate process and how a project manager might benefit from it can help you improve your management skills and increase your productivity at work. In this article, we discuss the stage gate process in project management, list its different phases, and share the benefits it can provide.

What is the stage gate process in project management?

The stage gate process is a project management methodology that divides a project into six phases to make it more manageable. Project managers also refer to this methodology as the phase gate process. A manager can divide each step into sub-phases or tasks depending on the project's scope, available resources, and participants. Usually, project managers employ the phase gate process when working at a large company where projects typically involve many departments, teams, other managers, and stakeholders. This methodology can help to streamline a project, its tasks, phases, goals, and deliverables.

This process creates a gate at the end of each phase, allowing managers to assess whether the project is on track and plan any necessary changes or updates. Within large companies, the process helps managers better control their resources by not allocating money or time to a phase until its implementation. It also enables them to track milestones, measure performance, and assign roles and responsibilities according to the gates they activate. The phase gate process also prevents team members from starting new phases, which usually require management approval, before finishing the previous one.

Related: Tools of Project Management You Can Use as a Project Manager

What are the stages of the phase gate process?

These are the different stages a project manager can use to divide a project into more manageable parts:

Ideation

This stage comprises brainstorming meetings where team members share their perspectives on the project's topic, goals, purpose, deliverables, due dates, resources, and team roles. This stage includes collaborative sessions to research the topic, look for background information, and search for similar successful initiatives. During this stage, the project manager reviews each team member's credentials, education, skill set, and experience to determine whether they're a good fit for the project.

During this stage, participants can also present solutions to the problem the project aims to solve and make presentations on their proposals to help team members visualize them. This stage begins when a company's upper management approves a project and assigns a manager to work on it. Next, the manager gathers their preliminary choice of team members, informs them of the approved initiative and the company's expectations, and moderates the group discussions.

Related: What Is Ideation in Creativity? (With Importance and Tips)

Scope

Before initiating this stage, the project manager assesses the previous phase's results and provides approval to advance to the next stage. Before approving the new phase, they evaluate whether the project has a clear vision, plan, mission, and goals that give team members a sense of purpose and clarity. The scope phase allows the project's stakeholders to determine its viability by performing a SWOT analysis.

The SWOT method evaluates the project's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to help team members identify how to tackle any obstacles. During this stage, the project manager can begin to reduce or increase the number of team members depending on the project's requirements and each member's qualifications. In addition, the SWOT analysis allows the project manager to identify opportunities to reduce risks, save resources, cut the project duration, and increase team members' motivation.

Related: What Is the Scope of a Project and Why Is It Important?

Design

Before initiating this stage, the project manager discusses the project scope with the company's upper management and receives feedback. Depending on the scope of the project, the upper management approves its implementation or asks the manager to modify it. The design phase comprises the strategy for the entire project and includes the various proposals and perspectives that the team members provided during the ideation stage. Here, the project manager lists the tasks, deliverables, milestones, deadlines, benchmarks, standards, and goals to complete the project.

During this stage, the project manager also assigns responsibilities to team members according to their abilities and qualifications. For instance, they might ask team members to assume leadership roles or provide them with supervisory tasks as part of their duties. The design phase also considers potential costs, expenses, and feasible ways to save money and time to plan an accurate project budget. At this stage, the project manager can schedule group meetings to inform project teams about updates and progress and clarify formatting and submission guidelines for reports and deliverables.

Related: What Is Project Design? (Including the 8 Key Components)

Develop

The project manager passes another gate comprising reviews and approvals to initiate this phase. In this stage, the company's senior management reviews the project's budget, plan, and activities. The project manager then receives instructions to proceed or introduce amendments. The development phase aims to provide a preliminary prototype or solution that aligns with the project's objective. During this stage, the project teams, departments, stakeholders, and suppliers perform their tasks and share information about their progress with the project manager.

The manager monitors the project's progress, provides the teams with feedback about their performance, offers them help and resources to overcome obstacles, and receives the first deliverables. During this stage, the project manager might also create a communication platform to encourage teams and stakeholders to share information and assist each other in completing their activities.

Related: What Is a Project in Development and Why Is It Important?

Scale

The gate preceding this stage aims to help the company's upper management understand how the prototype product or service works and whether it's possible to produce it in quantity. The scaling phase comprises the tests and trials the project teams perform to prove the product or service is viable. Here, the project manager might ask for feedback from focus groups, potential customers, or users. This information can help them better understand how the product or service might perform in the market.

This stage also aims to fix any quality problems and modify certain features that might affect the future price of the product or service or its implementation. The project manager can also begin dissolving teams that have finished their work due to the project's advanced status. For instance, team members that worked in the early stages might wait for the manager's instructions or help others complete their tasks.

Launch

Before initiating the launch phase, the project manager delivers a comprehensive report to the company's senior management. This report highlights the results of the previous phase and the product or service features, benefits, issues, potential risks, and costs. During the launch stage, the company implements the solution, for example, launching the product or service in the market.

This phase might also involve monitoring the market environment, the demand for the product or service, its performance, and the company's marketing strategy. In addition, this stage typically also involves a full review of all the phases and a report on the project's results. This report helps the company's senior management evaluate the project manager's performance and provide feedback.

Related: 6 Project Management Phases for Productivity and Success

Benefits of the phase gate process

Below are the benefits of the phase gate process:

Increased flexibility

Dividing a complex project into stages allows project managers to implement changes throughout the project. This flexibility leads to a more adaptable project that can respond to a changing market or client requirements. It also allows team members to propose ideas or find new solutions to modify the final product or service while reducing costs and time.

Enhanced organization

Dividing the project into phases allows project managers to organize the project's teams better and enhance communication. This allows team members to understand their roles and responsibilities more clearly. In addition, they can perform their tasks according to the schedule and project phase that the team is completing.

Related: What Is a Project Organization Chart? With 4 Types of Groups

Reduced risks

Each stage gate prevents the company from advancing before analyzing the benefits and limitations of each decision. Each gate is an opportunity to review the previous phase and consider whether the project is still a viable option. This can help the company save resources by not pursuing unviable projects.

Related: What Is Risk in Project Management? (Types and Methods)

Decreased complexity

Dividing the project into phases makes it simpler to understand because team members can always identify the project's status. It also helps the project manager monitor progress more easily and communicates the project's position to senior management. This allows the company to coordinate various departments working on several projects simultaneously.

Explore more articles