HomeProduct DesignMethodologiesThe Phase-Gate project model

The Phase-Gate project model

or design project management in a nutshell in organized or regulated industries

Based on the Product Development process, usually call the “phase process”, “gate model” or “phase-gate model”, is a practical implementation of the V model.

Usually, driven by the Project Manager, the main concept is that each phase ends with a formal review (the “gate”) by a steering committee before the project is authorized to continue to the next phase. The typical parameters reviewed by the steering committee are

  • initial & updated planning
  • initial & updated project budget, so as current status & updated ROI
  • initial & updated product factory cost
  • projects risks & market changes.

Industries with more legal requirements will include a strict review of some of the mandatory project documents listed below and associated validations & signatures.

Tip#1: depending on the exact industry or needs, companies will split or collapse several phases, usually from 4 to 1+6 phases.

Tip#2: from experience, the most efficient companies have a dedicated person, usually related to the Quality Team, reviewing the project deliverables according to the Quality Manual before any Gate … insuring or advising the teams or the project manager on any misalignment to the company’s own standards. To keep a fresh and independent view, that person must be external to the daily development team.

The example below includes 1+4 phases but other possibilities will also be described

Typical Phase-Gate product design process
Typical Phase-Gate product design process

Note1: depending on company organization and project complexity Phase #0 & Phase #4 may not always exist
Note2: a V&V (Verification and Validation) phase may be included in one of the above phases or may need to be separated

  • the gates (blue doors above): these are mandatory, planned, reviews of the project. The mission is to validate the completion of the previous Phase so as to start of the next Phase. The typical members are. It is important to understand that a project can (and must) be stopped, due to project reasons (too high costs, lead-time …) or external reasons (change of market, new competitor, acquisition …)
  • the team(s): the size of the teams involved is basically indicated above in green. It includes not only the obvious team involved in that phase (ex.: designers in “design Phase”) but also other teams that must be involved in advance (ex.: Purchasers already at Phase #1 or plant designers at Phase #2)

A company project template should include and list a selection of the documents listed below in each phase

Phase 0: market study and overall feasibility

The project has not really started yet. Although it should be a bit formalized and under some control, most companies let Marketing or Advanced R&D teams search freely in any direction at this stage, in order not to write-a-project-in-order-to-study-a-project or feasibility-of-the-feasibility.

  • Market analyses
  • overall feasibility
  • general specifications & main functions
  • project Risk Analyse
  • Full factory & market costs targets
  • ROI, range & company benefits
  • General planning

Phase 1: Project inception & Needs definitions

  • Functional Analyse & Functional Specifications
  • team definition (RACI), resource allocation & customer representative
  • detailed project planning & structure
  • patent & IP analyse (existing & possible)
  • production basics & suppliers’ pre-selection

Phase 2: design

  • detailed technical specifications
  • aesthetical design & concept studies
  • iterations on:
    • mock-up & prototyping
    • design & CAD files of prototype
    • tests & verifications
  • functional Verification
  • Risk analysis & Product FMEA
  • design freeze
  • selection of suppliers
  • production definition (tools …)
  • validations of initial samples – First Article Inspection (FAI)
  • tooling installation
  • Instructions For Use (IFU)

Note: this design phase is frequently split into a mockup or prototype phase, separated from the design phase, to identify where trials and searches are made, from the final design time-race where no new concept (should) be searched

Phase 3: industrialization

  • instruction & operator training
  • pilot-run / pilot batch & run-at-rate
  • process validation
  • usability validation
  • Product Validation
  • homologations (when applicable)
  • marketing plan & sales resources training
  • maintenance policy & associated docs (ideally part of an earlier phase)

Notes: this phase is frequently preceded

  • by a dedicated homologation phase, in order to clearly separate roles & independent or external validation. Military, automotive or medical industries
  • by a pre-industrialization phase when the final product integrates sub-assemblies coming from various sources or suppliers

Phase 4: Product launch & market feedback

  • production volume ramp-up
  • start of supervision period: most companies keep the project open for a certain period of time (6 months?) to have first market feedback, first production improvements if needed, or early design failures corrected
  • (minor bug correction or product improvement?)


  • the period length should be defined, in order not to keep the project open-for-ever, release the resources and freeze the costs and conclusions. Short if big volumes and feedback-correction loop is fast (typical: software) or long if volumes are lower or if it takes time to get the product back from the market and correct it or huge revalidation is required
  • this period should not be used to design new products or variants. Start a new project in such a case
  • the gate review is here more a global project review & market review, as all costs and efforts have already been spent; although it should not be under-estimated, as it is the main source of company’s global improvements, product feedbacks and lessons learned … so as possibly a new project start 🙂
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