All about Stage-Gate Process for Product Development

All about Stage-Gate Process for Product Development

Many ideas might be explored during product development, product improvement, and process improvement to proceed with the most suitable option. Project managers need to carefully analyze the feasibility of the concepts and ideas before them and choose the ones that appear to be the most viable. The Stage-Gate Process provides project managers with the necessary tools to scrutinize ideas for viability before making it to the development stage.

What is the Stage Gate Process?

The Stage Gate Process, also known as the Phase Gate Process, is a technique used by project managers to assess the viability of developing a new product and improving a process or business change. It is a phased approach by which is divided by different gates or decision points to analyze the business case, resources, risks, and forecast to determine the best course of action. Different stages of each gate include decision makers such as managers, board members, or a steering committee.

What Steps are Involved in the Stage Gate Process?

The name Stage-Gate© or Phase-Gate explains the way the technique works. It is a combination of different steps, where the ideas have to go through various hoops for assessment, known as gates. Let’s take a closer look at the entire process the Stage Gate Process provides and how it benefits project managers and decision makers to find the best possible option to proceed forward.

Stage Gate Process: The Traditional Phase Gate Process

The traditional Stage-Gate Process or Phase Gate Process has five basic steps after the discovery or the ideation process is completed. These include scoping, building a business case, development, testing, and validation, followed by launch.

Example of Stage Gate process slide design for PowerPoint presentations
Stage-Gate Process Template for PowerPoint and Google Slides

Idea Generation — Discovery (Ideation)

The discovery or ideation process involves finding an idea to pursue. This step is also known as the Idea Generation phase. This can include various stages based on the methods a company might employ in search of new ideas and improved processes to implement. There might be inter-departmental brainstorming, market research, feedback from customers, suppliers, product teams, etc.

Scoping

Scoping is the first phase of the Stage-Gate Process, where the viability of the product is analyzed based on various factors. These might include demand for the product in the market, threats from competitors, market and economic conditions, the strengths and weaknesses of the product, etc. This might just be the right time for companies to resort to tools such as a SWOT or PESTEL analysis.

Build Business Case and Plan

Once the product passes through the first step, it’s time to build a business case, project plan, and feasibility review. This is the last phase for concept development, as the following stages include development, testing, and launch. This phase is further divided into four steps since this is a complex phase that requires carefully considering all aspects of the initiative to avoid any pitfalls later. These four phases include product definition and analysis, followed by the development of the business case and project plan, and finally, the feasibility review.

Development

The development phase of the Stage-Gate Process uses the plans from the preceding steps to execute the plan that has already been fleshed out. Since it has been determined till this phase that the product is viable, has been defined and analyzed, the business case and plan have been completed and deemed feasible for development.

The development stage might include some initial design and development, tests, and eventually a prototype. The marketing plans are also set to proceed and must align with the goals already defined for the initiative. The project timeline is reviewed during development to ensure the project is on track. Before the next phase, a prototype will already be prepared, which is now ready for extensive testing.

Testing and Validation

This phase of the Stage-Gate Process validates the product. The product itself is evaluated and the processes involved, customer acceptance, and financial aspects tied to the project. The testing phase requires near, field, and market testing. To emphasize the importance of this phase, we can take the example of Microsoft, which laid off its almost entire testing team for Windows, as was revealed by former employee Jerry Berg. The change in the testing process resulted in significant bugs in Windows 10 that have haunted Microsoft since the product’s launch. This can be a significant failure for the testing and validation process.

Launch

After passing through all the principal gates, the product is launched. The product developer must have a marketing strategy to garner customer interest and attract demand for the product. The launch also requires several other careful considerations, including the volume to be produced in anticipation of the demand of the product, modes of delivery, resolution of customer complaints, etc.

It’s pretty standard for software development companies to anticipate bugs and roll out fixes after receiving customer feedback and complaints regarding software issues. Many operating system developers often prioritize support for enterprise users compared to common users. In contrast, hotfixes are often quickly rolled out, particularly after significant bugs are identified for a product launch. A few years ago, this might not have been as critical as it is now, in the wake of various hardware and software variables to consider when launching a product as big as an operating system. All major OS developers such as Apple and Microsoft have been criticized in recent years for their inability to cope with bugs faced by users shortly after a product launch, from the harrowing ordeals Windows 10 customers had to face to the dysfunctional Apple maps.

Gates: Assessment of the Quality of an Idea

A closer look at gates during a Stage Gate Process includes various points, elements, and possible results. The assessment of the quality of an idea includes assessing different points.

Quality of execution

The quality of execution in a Phase Gate Process checks the quality of the execution of the previous step.

Business Rationale

The business rationale is the assessment of the viability of the project. To determine whether the project can be fruitful to achieve desired goals. This critical point of consideration is far more complex than it sounds. If a project isn’t deemed rational due to its lack of promise or excessive resource consumption, it might just find itself before a grinder.

Action Plan

The action plan must be assessed to determine if the resources required for the product can be provided and if the project’s implementation can be soundly managed. Are expectations too unrealistic or need to be addressed? Is there a need for budget cuts or an increase in available resources? The action plan’s viability is just as important as the development of the product.

Structure of Gates

The structure of the gates in a Phase gate Process is simple; inputs, criteria, and outputs.

Inputs

Inputs consist of the deliverables and documentation that need to be provided by the project manager and his team.

Criteria

These are the criteria to judge the metrics and quality of inputs and evaluate and validate key variables.

Outputs

Outputs provide the result for each gate. Whether a product is to be developed, killed off, or held for the time being are the type of outputs that can occur. The possible outputs can include go, kill, hold, recycle, and conditional go.

Possible Results Leading from a Gate

A project under evaluation can have multiple results. When products are going through various gates, they can result in five of the below-mentioned outcomes.

1. Go: The project is viable enough to be pursued.

2. Kill: The project is shut down as it’s not feasible to pursue it.

3. Hold: The project is halted for the time being due to some reason and might be continued further.

4. Recycle: The project can be developed further after a few adjustments.

5. Conditional go: The project is allowed to proceed provided it meets certain conditions, such as the result of a recycled product.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Stage Gate Product Development

Advantages

There are several advantages for project managers to use the Stage-Gate Process to find the most promising products and let go of those that don’t appear to be worth investing resources in.

Identification of Problems

The Stage-Gate Process can help identify problems using a structured approach. Each gate can help understand whether product development is on the right track. The process provides a roadmap for identifying and mitigating issues from the feasibility of a product to its development, testing, validation, and launch. Sometimes, the problem might be the product itself, which needs to be killed off, which the process accounts for.

Assessment of Progress

Even when a product is approved and deemed viable, development to launch is a complex process that requires constant assessment and possible course correction. The Stage-Gate Process provides a mechanism to do just that.

Identification of Poor Projects

The tight scrutiny of a project under the Stage-Gate Process can help identify projects that aren’t promising and to ensure they don’t make it to the development or launch phase.

Helps Reduce Complexity

While the various facets of the Stage gate Process require complex calculations, the structure itself reduces complexity to some extent. This can help gather the scattered pieces associated with ideation and streamline them using a structured model to assess the project’s feasibility.

Disadvantages

Project managers need to weigh both the advantages and disadvantages of an approach before employing it. Some models are suitable for certain organizations, whereas others might not be willing or benefit from them.

Might Limit Innovation and Creativity

Software development is one of the most common product examples where the Phase Gate Process might be employed. However, developing a product-like software can be complex and require a lot of creativity. While small and medium-size companies might not have enough funds to cater to the needs of ideas deemed resource-intensive, companies as big as Apple have thrived on investing in new and innovative ideas that brought us the iPod, iPad, and the revolutionary iPhone. The Stage-Gate Process can limit innovation and creativity at times, in favor of saving resources or miscalculated consumer expectations.

Overly Structured Process

The Stage-Gate Process might appear overly structured for companies running on a small budget. The process can be time-consuming, lead to resources diverted from essential tasks, and be challenging to implement. We can argue that it would have been perhaps challenging for Larry Page and Sergey Brin to use the process due to the uncertainty tied to the launch of the Google Search engine back in the day when it was housed in a garage.

Oversimplification of Projects

Not all products or projects might be suitable to be placed in neat little boxes, as the Stage-Gate Process does. The variables for some products can be far too complex to follow an approach like this, which might appear as an oversimplification of the process.

Some Projects Might be Incorrectly Labeled as Poor

Would the Stage-Gate process have resulted in Amazon’s retail store as a viable product? Investors were often concerned about Bezos’s approach, as Amazon consistently lost money as a public company for many years before it became the retail giant it is today.

How to Present a Stage Gate Process?

How to present a Stage-Gate Process?
Example of Stage-Gate Process template for presentations.

If you want to present the Stage Gate process in a PowerPoint presentation, you can use various design aspects and even ready-made templates in our Stage Gate Process Templates. By using our Stage Gate Process PowerPoint templates, you will generate a presentation that will allow you to inform, convince your audience, and develop action on the steps to follow to apply your Stage Gate Method effectively.

Create a Basic Introduction

To start off, you can begin with a basic overview of the project, and the idea that led to the product, before you discuss the process itself. This can help answer some basic questions regarding why the initiative is being or was pursued in the first place.

Show The Gates

What is essential when creating a presentation related to the use of the Phase Gate Process is to show the gates. Instead of focusing on one slide for each gate, you can present all gates before the audience in a single slide. This can be done using a table like format. The Phase Gate Process PowerPoint Template is one such example, where all gates are laid out in a single slide using a table, with a detailed explanation of each gate within the illustration.

Animated Stage-Gate Process PowerPoint template design for presentations.
Example of animated template for Stage-Gate process presentations

Explain Milestone and Key Decisions

It is also essential to explain the key milestones and decisions. You can also present them right along with the gates by using a layout provided in this template that provides a Phase Gate Process Template Slide Table.

Elaborate the Result of the Gates

Stage-Gate Process Phases Funnel Slide Template

You can elaborate upon the results associated with each gate before discussing the outcome. This can include the initial assessment, and if the product was approved, the later stages, such as the development, testing, validation, and product launch.

Deliberate on the Outcomes

It is also essential to deliberate on the outcome of the Stage-Gate Process. Was the product successfully launched? If so, what was the reaction of customers? Did the product fulfill desired goals? You can also present the entire process in the form of a funnel, using a design like the Stage-Gate Process Phases Funnel Slide Template. This might be particularly suitable for e-commerce or m-commerce products.

If a project was rejected, you could discuss the reasons why it wasn’t feasible to proceed with the product.

Lessons Learned

Regardless of whether the product development proceeded after approval or the product was rejected, there are always lessons to be learned and mistakes that can help mitigate issues in the future. You can conclude your presentation with lessons learned and the way forward.

Final Conclusions

Many companies are delaying the launch of products due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent market conditions. This might mean that many products might need to be put on hold for a time when the market is more suitable for their launch. Similarly, the pandemic has also given rise to the need for various products to identify infections, protect consumers, and cater to their work-from-home needs. The Stage-Gate Process can provide a roadmap for passing the product through multiple hoops to ensure that it is worth developing or if the time is right for working on it.

The Stage-Gate Model provides a phased approach towards identifying promising products and ones that might not be feasible to proceed with. If we analyze the number of products launched annually in a market, the number of products that fail might likely be greater than the ones that succeed. Consumer demand, changing market conditions and making the customer pay for a product depend on several factors, including the quality of the product, its distribution, marketing, customer journey, customer experience, etc. While some of these are addressed, the Phase Gate Process cannot account for all variables, especially after the launch of a product. Therefore, it is necessary to deliberate and constantly analyze the changing environment to adjust to market conditions, consumer needs, economic conditions, social change, technology, and other essential variables.

1. Stage-gate Process Timeline Template

When developing a product, using a development methodology will allow you to organize the work and rely on a theoretical framework to manage each stage of the project. In this case, the Stage-Gate Process Timeline Template is a PowerPoint presentation that will allow you to show each stage of the product and its different Gates. At the same time, in a simple Slide it allows you to present the most important information about the project in order to inform your audience about each stage that will be carried out.

Use This Template

2. Phase Gate Framework PowerPoint Template

The Phase Gate Framework PowerPoint Template contains two slides with its white and dark variant. This variant of the Stage Gate Process allows you to establish each stage at a more detailed level, allowing you to present the criteria of each Gate with their respective KPI’s and deliverables. This will allow you to present your Stage Gate Process in a detailed way and add the relevant information in an aesthetic presentation.

Use This Template

3. Phase Gate Process Template Slide Table

In turn, the Phase Gate Process Template Slide Table is a table format presentation where you can establish each stage of your Stage-Gate Process accompanied by the different Milestones, Key Decisions and Gates. This One Pager Phase Gate Process Template allows the user to establish each key component of the process and how they plan to move forward with the project in the future.

Use This Template

4. Phase Gate Process PowerPoint Template

The Phase Gate Process PowerPoint Template is a classic model of the Stage-Gate Process, which through its two variants, white and dark, allows to stipulate each of the five phases of the project accompanied by its Gates. This One Pager Template is widely used by Managers in each of its two variants, as it provides a clear vision and scope of the project.

Use This Template

5. Stage-Gate Process Phases Funnel Slide Template

The Stage-Gate Process Phases Funnel Slide Template is another way to present this product development methodology. Through this Stage-Gate Process you will be able to generate a funnel presentation, where each stage contains placeholders to explain which tasks are performed and each of its Gates in order to evaluate its performance.

Use This Template

6. Stage-gate Process Phases Funnel Design for PowerPoint

If you are looking for another PowerPoint Template with a Funnel design to present each of your stages and gates, we recommend the Stage-gate Process Phases Funnel Design for PowerPoint. Through this template you will be able to present your Stage-Gate Process with a 100% editable design and available for PowerPoint and Google Slides.

Use This Template

7. Stage-gate Process PowerPoint Template

The Stage-gate Process PowerPoint Template is a horizontal funnel diagram that includes the five stages of this methodology. This PowerPoint Template is very useful to improve business processes, controlling the workflow in each of the stages. In turn, this slide is widely used to present cost control and minimize risks in a project.

Use This Template

8. Stage-gate Process Diagram PowerPoint Template

On the other hand, the Stage-gate Process Diagram PowerPoint Template enables you to present your work plan through 6 well-defined stages in a timeline format. This PowerPoint Template is very useful to present in a clear and aesthetic way your product launch strategy to your stakeholders and work team.

Use This Template

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