Here’s Why the Stage-Gate Process is the Hidden Secret of Successful Projects

Here’s Why the Stage-Gate Process is the Hidden Secret of Successful Projects | Strategy and Innovation | Emeritus

Every organization undertakes multiple projects simultaneously in today’s fast-paced world. The success of these projects hinges on efficiency and risk mitigation. The situation calls for a thorough evaluation before resources are allocated to a project. The stage-gate process, a structured approach to project management, is quite popular for this reason. In fact, more than 80% of companies across the US use some form of the stage-gate process. But what exactly is it? The approach calls for dividing the project into stages, separated by decision points known as gates. A project manager reviews the progress, evaluates the risks, and decides whether to continue or terminate the project after each stage. It is crucial in project management because it produces successful project outcomes. So, let’s dive deep into the stage-gate process, its key benefits, and its significance.

strip banner

Stages of the Stage-Gate Process

The stage-gate project management approach involves five stages punctuated by decision points called “gates”. Here’s a breakdown:

1. Discovery

The initial stage is all about brainstorming ideas, identifying needs, and conducting preliminary research. For example, most activities like market research, competitor analysis, and initial product development fall under this phase. The key question at this gate is to ascertain whether the idea has potential or not.

2. Scoping

The relevant ideas uncovered during discovery are refined into a clear project scope. The project team defines project deliverables, timelines, and costs here. The idea is to check if the scope is well-defined and the allocated resources are sufficient.

3. Business Case

A project manager builds a compelling case for the project to justify the investment. They rely on financial projections, marketing plans, and competitor analysis to create a watertight business case. The decision depends on a strong return on investment and alignment with overall business goals.

4. Development

This is the stage where the project comes to life with activities such as the development of product prototypes, features, and marketing materials as per the scope. A manager decides by assessing progress and readiness for launch.

5. Testing/Validation

A project must be tested rigorously to meet all functional and user requirements. The team can conduct internal testing, beta testing with target users, and final quality assurance checks before launch. This is the final green light that addresses potential risks.

ALSO READ: Blue Ocean and Red Ocean: The Ultimate Business Strategy Guide

Benefits of the Stage-Gate Process

Many benefits arising out of the stage-gate process improve project outcomes tremendously. Let’s check them out:

1. Risk Mitigation

Risk mitigation is only possible if a project team identifies potential risks well in advance. Establishing clear gates at various stages facilitates early identification of roadblocks, saving the team time, money, and effort.

2. Higher Project Success Rate

The phase gate project management approach emphasizes thorough evaluation at each gate to ensure projects have a strong chance of success. The focus on viability reduces the risk of project failure subsequently.

3. Optimum Allocation of Resources

The resources are invested in a phased manner under stage-gate project management. It minimizes the overall financial risk compared to a “big bang” approach where all resources are committed upfront.

4. Enhanced Decision-Making

The stage-gate process relies on data and rigorous evaluation at each gate. It enables the decisions to be based on objective information rather than intuition or guesswork. A clear roadmap not only promotes transparency but also fosters accountability among the team.

5. Project Governance

The presence of clearly defined roles in phase gate project management creates a robust project governance structure. This approach can, therefore, align projects with business goals and effectively use resources.

ALSO WATCH: Online Course Preview | Strategies That Build Winning Brands at Northwestern Kellogg

Implementing the Stage-Gate Process

The stage-gate process can be applied across various industries to enhance project management. Here’s how it’s done:

Application in Various Industries

A. Manufacturing

The key stages include product development, testing, production, and market launch. Moreover, the idea is to emphasize rigorous testing and quality control at each gate to ensure consistency.

B. Healthcare

The stage-gate process begins with discovery, preclinical testing, clinical trials, regulatory review, and production. Prioritize regulatory compliance to support approvals at each gate.

C. Software Development

The industry needs to evaluate projects at stages such as design, coding, testing, and deployment. Agile methodologies should be incorporated to allow for iterative development and regular feedback.

D. Consumer Goods

The stage-gate process covers idea generation, market testing, production, and launch. Leverage market research and consumer feedback to validate concepts and align with market needs.

2. Practical Tips for Successful Implementation

A. Define Specific Criteria

Ascertain measurable criteria for progressing through each gate. It makes evaluations reliable and reduces the risk of bias accordingly.

B. Engage Stakeholders

From the outset, keep key stakeholders in the loop and maintain regular communication. Seek their input for informed decision-making.

D. Customize Processes

Ensure that the stage-gate process is aligned with your firm’s needs and industry standards. Always be flexible in adapting the framework according to the requirements.

E. Invest in Training

Undertake training of all team members in the stage-gate process and secure access to necessary resources and tools. This will support a smooth implementation consequently.

F. Foster Accountability

Promote a culture where team members are accountable for their deliverables at each stage. This will bring diligence and quality to the work being done.

ALSO READ: Best Idea Generation Methods to Boost Creativity in the Workplace

The stage-gate process is a dynamic methodology that evolves constantly. Let’s examine its key trends:

1. Embracing Hybrid Approaches

There will be a rise in hybrid approaches because the traditional stage-gate process can be rigid in fast-paced environments. They combine the strengths of stage-gate with agile methodologies.

2. Agile Phase Gate

An organization integrates Agile practices like iterative development and sprint cycles within the stage-gate framework. It, thus, enables greater flexibility to adapt to changing market dynamics.

3. Innovations in Stage-Gate Process

A. Streamlined Gates

There are efforts to streamline the stage-gate process without compromising rigor. It could either involve fewer gates or a combination of certain stages for specific projects.

B. Explosion of Data

It will be critical to leverage data analytics at each gate. The insights from data tools can enhance decision-making subsequently.

C. Digitization

To enhance transparency, an increase in the use of project management software to facilitate the stage-gate is in the cards.

4. What’s Next After Stage-Gate?

It is important to note the emergence of alternative project management frameworks like Lean Startup and Design Thinking, especially in innovation-driven environments. In short, the future of project management lies in a flexible approach. As a result, organizations will embrace hybrid approaches and leverage new technologies to streamline the process.

Case Studies

1. Procter & Gamble (P&G)

Procter & Gamble is one of the pioneers in adopting the stage-gate process in the form of Synchronized Innovation for Managing Products and Launches (SIMPL). The move helped streamline their product development process, reduce time to market, and improve the efficiency of new products. For example, it used this process for the successful launch of Swiffer cleaning products.

2. 3M

3M is known for its focus on innovation and diverse product range. It uses a robust stage-gate process to develop new products. The company has implemented this process across various divisions to evaluate every new product idea thoroughly and refine it accordingly. The successful launch of numerous products like the Post-it Notes is due to this process.

3. ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil implemented a customized phase gate process for capital project development. In other words, the company conducted rigorous gate reviews, focusing on technical feasibility, economic viability, and safety considerations. Hence, it not only optimized the allocation of resources but also minimized costs for major projects. 


LEGO develops new product lines and themes with the help of the process. It has resulted in a high level of innovation while ensuring that new products address market needs and internal quality standards. For instance, product lines like LEGO Friends and LEGO Ninjago, conceived using the process, were popular among their target audiences.

ALSO READ: Here’s How to Boost Your Marketing Campaigns With PESTEL Analysis

It is no secret that organizations tend to improve their project outcomes with the stage-gate process. There is a need to evolve the existing process to keep up with the changing times. However, the stage-gate process offers a structure that can be adapted to incorporate elements of new approaches. Professionals must hone their project management skills to look after this transition. Emeritus offers strategy and innovation courses designed for professionals seeking to develop a skill set relevant to the industry. Join one of these courses and future-proof your career!

Write to us at

About the Author

Content Writer, Emeritus Blog
Mitaksh has an extensive background in journalism, focusing on various beats, including technology, education, and the environment, spanning over six years. He has previously actively monitored telecom, crypto, and online streaming developments for a notable news website. In his leisure time, you can often find Mitaksh at his local theatre, indulging in a multitude of movies.
Read More About the Author

Courses on Strategy and Innovation Category

US +1-606-268-4575
US +1-606-268-4575