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Project quality gates

How to make sure your projects are on track every step of the way

‘Every project has a beginning, a muddle and no end’ … Anon

I first came across quality gates a number of years ago while running a number of change programmes for Marks & Spencer. These were new at the time, at least for me, but I saw their value immediately. What I find interesting is that more and more of our clients are actively using quality gates to control their projects.

Quality gates can take a number of forms but in simplest terms they are a number of points in a project’s life cycle when a steering committee or change board can decide whether to continue with the project or not. Relevant documentation is checked but the essential question that is asked is,

"With what we know about this project now, shall we continue with the project?" 


"Does the business case still stack up?"

There may have been changes over time that mean the project is no longer delivering the value that is needed. Or it could be that further along the project’s timeline, the original costs and/or were too optimistic.

In some organisation that I have worked with, projects are only funded to the next quality gate and the onus is on the project team to demonstrate – in an objective way – that money and resources should be allocated to move the project to the next quality gate.

In less rigorous regimes that I have come across, projects are funded at the beginning (quality gate zero) and then it is up to the change board to stop them or actively withdraw funding. The more rigorous regime of funding a project only to the next quality gate is, I think, better as it puts more emphasis on ‘shall we continue’ rather than – ‘we have started so we must finish.’

Our PMO tool PM3 comes with built in quality gates functionality

In my view one of the reasons why there are too many project failures at delivery is that a proportion of these should be terminated before too much work is expended, i.e. at a quality gate. Projects are expensive undertakings so that any mechanism that stops money being wasted at the earliest opportunity is clearly a good thing.

If you do not currently use quality gates then I would urge you to use them. They are uncomplicated but powerful mechanisms to ensure your projects still deliver the value required.

At Bestoutcome, where we have developed our project/programme delivery framework called Outcome-driven Project Management, quality gates are an inherent part of this process.

Below is an example of one of the quality gates in our framework.

Project quality gates

Project quality gates2

For more information on quality gates or our Outcome-driven project management framework, please contact us.

About the author

The author - David Walton

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.

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