Gate Reviews: What Project Managers Should Know

Even though it isn’t the most exciting part, project governance is an important part in project management.
Your role as a project manager is to oversee the work throughout the project’s lifecycle. This means moving the project from idea to completion and keeping it on track. Governance is an important part of this, and gate reviews are part navigating through the project.
Gate reviews or stage reviews are part PRINCE2(r), and also part Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s Project Roadmap in Governance module. Decision gates are used to empower decision-making and ensure that the right people make the final call on whether a project is approved or rejected.
They are not mentioned in the PMBOK(r), but it is a good practice to use a structured way of moving between phases.
Are you ready to learn more about this useful governance technique? Let’s go!

What is a gate review?
Gate reviews have many benefits.
Risk management
Stakeholder engagement
Expectation management
Delivery confidence increases

The stage gate process explained
The project lifecycle and stages
Example stage gate processStep 1: Create documentation
Step 2: First document approval
Step 3: Second document approval
Step 4: Final decision
Step 5: Decision enacted

What should you cover in a gate meeting review?
How to implement the gate reviewing process
Next steps

What is a gate review?
A gate review acts as a control point and a decision point. It is a formal governance step that provides assurance that all necessary processes and tasks have been completed and that the project is worth continuing.
This is where all stakeholders renew their commitment to the project and approve the project being moved into the next stage.
The ‘gate’ is the border between two project stages. Because agile approaches have their own processes, norms, and ceremonies for moving work forward and securing approvals to proceed, stage gate processes are often found in predictive (waterfall) methodologies.
They are sometimes called toll gates or phase gates, decision gates, gate reviews, gates, or stage gates. Because the UK government uses the terminology for gate reviews, I am sticking with it in this article.
Gate reviews have many benefits
A stage gate helps to ensure that the right projects get worked on. It confirms that the in-flight projects are being worked on:
Still aligned with organizational strategy
We are on track to deliver the expected benefits
The business still requires it
Still to be completed with the allocated funding
Good governance requires proper oversight.

There are other benefits to the gate process for everyone:
Planning time is shorter
It is difficult to predict the future. You can plan in stages and only need to make detailed plans for each stage.
Risk management
Re-evaluating project risk can be useful for program or portfolio teams. The risk levels are used to decide whether the project should continue. Given that some teams may not be as vigilant about managing project risks, it serves as a reminder to pay attention to the risks.
Stakeholder engagement
It is a great way to reaffirm commitment, keep people involved in the project in the same ways they want and to keep communication lines open.
Expectation management
It serves to remind everyone of the project’s purpose. This is a great way for the project team to identify potential conflicts and ensure everyone is on the same page. You can highlight any additional work that is required, for example.
Delivery confidence increases
I believe that gate reviews are primarily beneficial because I was involved in the process.