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In our previous post we look at using NPV (net present value) to decide if a project was worth investing in or not. The advantage of using a scorecard is that they are easy to understand, quick to complete and can easily capture the multiple criteria used to select projects. So for example, questions may relate to project duration, customer service, level of risk, quality improvement etc.
A useful technique is to organise the scorecard so that separate risk and reward scores are calculated for each project then use an investment map to visually organise projects by risk and reward profile. Here we have constructed a project scoring and evaluation table showing NPV data in addition to risk and reward scores. One of the fundamental objectives of an effective Gate Review process is to reduce project risk as rapidly as possible as a basis for deciding whether to continue investing in the development project or not.
It is therefore necessary to define points in the project timeline where the management team engages with the project team to assess risk against both internal and external criteria and make a decision to a) proceed, b) cancel the project, c) place the project on hold, or d) request additional work in the current phase. Between each of the phases is a management assessment event where the project is evaluated against specific criteria to determine if the project should proceed. As the teams prepare for and execute gate reviews, there is a specific set of information or criteria that the management team must be able to assess as the basis for the gate decision.
The fundamental criteria for assessing a project at a gate review are the same at every gate (listed below). Table 3 suggests the level of information that would be expected at each gate, reflecting an evolving focus as project data is collected, analyzed and interpreted.
Preliminary market definition, market size and market growth estimates based on data that could be acquired without funded market research; preliminary assessment of competitive landscape and trends based on available literature, web sites etc.
Prototype test data indicates conformance to key specs with adequate manufacturing margins. Data from early production runs indicates that the product can be built at the projected volume, cost and quality levels. The gate review criteria shown in Table 3 imply a set of tasks that the team must execute in the preceding phase of the project.
As the team works their way through a project phase they may uncover some information that seriously threatens the project’s viability.
A project scoring methodology can be used to help the gatekeepers to assess projects against these criteria. The first part of the gate review process is to assess whether the project should continue based on it’s own merits. The review and approval team is comprised of the senior managers that have profit and loss responsibility for the affected product lines, have responsibility for defining the business plan and overall product development strategy and have the authority to commit resources to the projects. Excessive, selective focus on risk reduction in one of these areas relative to the others can undermine the gate review process and might actually increase overall project risk.
Every effort should be made by gatekeepers and project teams to avoid delaying gate reviews. RubricsA scoring rubric is a set of criteria and standards typically linked to learning objectives.
Scoring rubrics encourage fair and consistent evaluation by focusing the Instructor’s attention on the individual elements and the level of quality expected, making grading less subjective. Rubric Directory from Cal State Fullerton, Mihaylo College of Business and Economics - 100 downloadable rubrics for assessing communication skills, critical thinking, ethics, case studies, teamwork, peer evaluation and other topics.
We also looked at why NPV cannot be used to prioritise projects or choose between competing projects.
Clearly the projects that have the highest rewards and lowest risks are the favourites to approve.

This should be done with the minimum possible expense and with the lowest possible administrative effort. These points occur where there are decision points about major commitment of resources: proceeding with detailed development, investing in tooling, investing in launching a new product, etc. The names that are given to the phases are somewhat arbitrary but the defining tasks must be performed in the correct sequence in order to consistently achieve the minimum development time (there are many more tasks than listed – these are the defining tasks). Recheck for alignment with strategic objectives and relative priority against other projects. The screening and approval to move into the Investigation phase is generally managed by a subset of the gate review team and is therefore defined as a separate event. However, the degree of scrutiny and rigor that is applied to those criteria must be consistent with the information that can be reasonably captured in the phase preceding the current gate. Likelihood of achieving projected sales volumes re-assessed for this channel strategy, based on channel input.
Financial return (return factor, NPV and breakeven time, etc) updated based on bottoms-up cost estimate and latest sales forecast. It is helpful to define the development process to include the tasks that should be performed in each phase of the project as shown in the task plans. If so, they should immediately call a management update meeting where they would make recommendations to either change the project charter or cancel the project. One approach is to consolidate gate reviews for several projects and hold them periodically, say once per month. This has the advantage of minimizing project delays but can make scheduling managers more challenging. The second step is to assess whether the project has high enough priority relative to other projects to justify continuing.
In the case of the latter, the decision should be made within one business day to avoid potential waste. The titles of the gatekeepers will vary from organization to organization but could be vice president level in a smaller company or director level in business units of a larger company. If they have not satisfied all of the gate criteria, they must still present an assessment of where they are, declare the gaps and recommend a repeat of the gate review when they expect to be ready.
They should be informed immediately and preferably face-to-face so that they can take the designated action without delay.
The gate facilitator (process expert) identifies the gate and reminds the team of a) the focus and expectations of that gate within the process, b) attendees roles and the decision making process including possible outcomes, c) review agenda and time allocated for the review. The project manager and key team members present a summary of project data as needed to demonstrate that the criteria outlined in Table 2 have been met, including justification for items not addressed or incomplete. The project manager states the team’s recommendation for the gate outcome (kill the project, proceed to the next phase, perform additional work in current phase and repeat the gate). The recorder restates action items that arose during the review and checks for ownership and completion dates.
Gatekeepers ask any remaining questions, discuss key issues and make the decision (kill, proceed, on-hold, redirect). When students are given access to the scoring rubric before performing the related task, they have a much better understanding of the required elements and how their work will be judged. The book will show you in easy to follow step by step stages how to accomplish many folding tecniques, along with projects to make and giving you plenty of inspirational ideas.
Questions are ultimately tied back to the underlying strategy of the organisation relate to the key themes the organisation is looking to pursue. This paper presents the Gate Review process as a systematic tool for managing project risk and provides practical guidelines for holding effective gate review meetings.

This process definition will provide consistent guidance to the teams on these key in each phase that are the foundation to fulfilling the gate criteria.
This action is more likely to occur in the early stages of the project, but could occur later under some circumstances. The advantage of this approach is that the managers only have to plan to be available on one day per month to support the gate review process.
If there are multiple projects to review then an appropriate agenda is established, but ideally no more than 3 reviews per meeting.
If a high level of financial detail is demanded at the Feasibility Start gate in an effort to reduce financial risk, the team will respond by pushing detailed design upstream from the Development Phase to the Feasibility Phase so that they can provide a detailed bottoms-up estimate of product cost. Teams should not spend excessive time preparing for gate reviews beyond their normal development activities.
If the recommendation is to proceed, the PM presents a high level plan to complete the project.
If additional consideration is required on step 2 of the 2-step gate review process described above, the announcement of the decision may be postponed for up to one business day. If the management team gets too involved in managing project specific risk, the rate of progress will be slower (micro-management). What is the risk of our competitive advantage being undermined by the time the product is launched?
This results in a longer Feasibility Phase which delays the subsequent gate – this gate may have resulted in the project being cancelled or redirected if held earlier, but with the delay and additional resources necessary to perform the detailed design, the project expense is now substantially higher making the decision to redirect or cancel much more difficult and less likely.
A decision is only deferred if deliverables are not there or the project phase is not complete. In either case, the gatekeepers explain the reasoning for their decision and provide feedback to the team on a) their effectiveness in managing the project and b) the information presented within the gate review. Care must be taken not to impose unnecessary reviews since they take time and will slow down other project activity). Assuming this is not the case, when the team approaches the end of a given phase, they will need to assess the project against the gate criteria.
In such cases, the risk reduction that could have been achieved by holding an earlier gate review could vastly outweigh the benefits of a more detailed financial justification which is dependant on many areas of inherent uncertainty (market size, market growth, market share, cost of goods, etc). As part of the gate review, the team should provide their recommendations on the outcome of the gate review. Second, this approach causes delays by forcing a gate review to occur at the next available gate review date.
Avoiding these pitfalls can be difficult for many management teams since this approach may require them to think differently. With monthly reviews, this delay could be up to 4 weeks and can add up over several gates through the project lifecycle. For this reason, it is recommended that a process expert play the role of facilitator to help guide the managers to manage risk effectively under the structure of the process, until the organization has mastered the process. It is likely that project work will continue through this delay period, but in the event that the project is cancelled or redirected, the work may be wasted.

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