Gateway reviews: is your project on track?

By Steve Armitage

2PM Services’ Principal Consultant, Steve Armitage, explains the importance of gateway reviews for programme / project success.

If your boss / key stakeholder / conscience* (*delete as appropriate) asked you:

“How is your programme / project going and will it deliver what we need, when we need it? Oh! and how’s the budget going? Because I’m counting on you…”

Just how confident would you really be in your response, be it – “Great”, “On track”, or “Arrrgh”?

If your response involved the latter, help is at hand! To enable you to be truly accurate and to do so with confidence, there is a solution! In fact, there are two – gateways and health checks.

What are gateway reviews (a.k.a. gateways)

Gateway reviews have been around for a long time and are frequently incorporated into programme and project lifecycles. However, often they are inconsistently applied so the full benefits are not achieved.

Many of Australia’s state governments have successfully implemented a mandated ‘Gateway’ process for their infrastructure and ICT programmes and projects. 

Is it time to kill your project?

Gateway reviews, also known as ‘Phase Gate’, ‘Go / No-Go Review’ and ‘Kill Point’, are checkpoints that arise at critical decision points in a programme or project. They look forwards and backwards. Backwards, to provide assurance that work has been completed well, and forwards, to determine if the programme or project should proceed to the next stage. Or if no longer viable or required, to be closed.

As part of programme and project assurance, gateway reviews should be conducted by independent resources. The ‘review team’ is selected for their expertise relevant to the needs of the programme or project. As such, they provide independent advice to the Sponsor / senior responsible owner who can improve or advance the initiative.

Gateway reviews include supplementing the existing team’s expertise and offering recommendations on how delivery of the initiative could be improved. Key principles applied to executing a gateway review include:

When to do a gateway review

The appropriate points for gateway reviews will depend on your programme and project methodologies / lifecycles. These can vary based on the scale, complexity, and risk of the initiative. The important rule is to be proportionate and therefore tailor it to suit the situation. Typical points for gateway reviews include:

6 Steps to undertaking successful gateway reviews:

  1. Determine the relevant key decision points in your programme and / or project lifecycle, considering the types of programmes and projects you do.
  2. Consider defining a risk-based approach to the application of gateway reviews, as not all programmes and projects need the same level of rigor.
  3. Consider the need for reviewers to be independent of the delivery. Can you provide in-house, or will you need to engage help from outside your organisation?
  4. Plan and schedule gateway reviews into your programmes and projects. Select your reviewers, engaging from within and outside your organisation as required.
  5. Undertake the gateway review. Meet with your Sponsor to agree on specific scope, documentation review, interviews, analysis and the formulation and presentation of recommendations. Not forgetting feedback on the gateway review process itself for continual improvement purposes.
  6. Consider all and apply appropriate gateway review recommendations to the programme or project to enhance the successful outcomes.  

Health checks

Health checks are more targeted reviews that can take place at any time during a programme or project. They are typically triggered by a specific event e.g. a significant concern or significant period between gateways.

They can be very similar to a gateway review or instead focus on specific risks, issues and / or concerns. Like a gateway review, they benefit from independent resources and by having the right expertise on the team.

More information on health checks can be found here.

If you would like help reviewing, setting up, or running your gateway process, please reach out to 2PM for a friendly conversation.