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What Is a Stage-Gate Model?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2014
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The stage-gate model breaks product development into stages, with a check-in at each to determine whether development should continue. It can increase efficiency, reduce the risk of redundancy, and ensure that projects do not creep off track during the course of their development. Firms can employ the stage-gate model as part of their approach to development in a wide variety of industries, from software to cars. Consultants are often available for companies who want specialized training before implementing this approach.

Companies that use this model start with the discovery phase, where ideas for new products are put forward by personnel. Gatekeepers can review the ideas and determine which ones appear to have merit. These are moved forward, through the first gate, while others are left behind. At the next stage, a quick scope assessment occurs to determine what kinds of resources a project might need. Another set of gatekeepers reviews this information to decide if a project would be beneficial to a company.

Projects that make it through this gate move into a phase where employees build a business case for them. Staff members explain what a project will do, what kinds of results it might bring in for the company, and how they plan to accomplish goals. This part of the stage-gate model culminates with another pause to check in, where personnel decide if the case is persuasive. Projects may appear to have merit but could be too expensive or resource-intensive to develop.

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In the development stage, staff members actively work on the creation of a product so it is ready to send through another gate to get to the test point. Product testers rigorously examine the project and provide a full report for the next gate, where the company decides if it wants to launch. If the launch is approved, the final gate is a review of the entire process. This review provides important information for future product development, and offers a chance to refine the launch and improve the product.

Under the stage-gate model, product development is less likely to creep over time because of the checks and balances at every stage. Reviewers can determine that a project has departed far from the original idea and rein it in or stop production altogether. Using the stage-gate model can quickly help contain cost overruns or stop production when a product becomes unnecessary. This can increase company efficiency by ensuring that personnel are only working on viable projects at any given point in time, and no dead ends are being pursued by teams without adequate supervision.

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