In a previous blog on quality gates, I discussed how I first came across quality gates as a project control and governance mechanism when working at M&S about a decade ago. At the time, these were quite novel but quality gates (also known as stage gates or toll gates) have now become mainstream and most clients insist on using them.Quality gates are a checkpoint (gate) after a project phase that checks whether the project is still viable and on track to deliver its benefits. In an earlier blog I lamented that too many projects keep on going when they should have been terminated. This is what we call the mastermind approach, i.e. ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’. But as a project progresses projected benefits may reduce or costs spiral making the project no longer worth doing. The quality gate process is designed to ensure that projects can only pass through a gate if they are still viable. They also provide a mechanism for checking that important deliverables have been produced before the project can proceed. Theoretically, projects are stopped if the deliverables due at the previous gate have not been produced or are of insufficient quality. This puts a big onus on the project team to focus on producing the quality deliverables that are needed to pass each gate.
The number of quality gates can vary by client. One automotive client of ours uses 18 toll gates to manage complex engineering programmes. IT projects tend to use fewer gates usually between 4 and 8.
Bestoutcome’s outcome-driven project management framework has 8 gates for complex projects. Look out for our next release of PM3 due next month which will include a quality gate process embedded in our governance process.
Due to the prevalence of gates in many organisations, we have produced a free iPhone and iPad project gateways assessor app that guides project teams through our gate process. You can download the app from the Apple App Store.
About the author
David Walton – I am David Walton, Programme, Project and Portfolio Management specialist and director of Bestoutcome here in the UK. We make the PMO tools PM3, PM3time and PM3NHS, the only PMO tools designed by practitioners for practitioners