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Engineers, have you ever heard from business leaders, “Pull out all the stops! We need to go fast on this project and deliver on-time to the customer!”? Managers, maybe you have heard your engineering team lament “Why do we need all these design reviews? All these phase gates stifle my creativity and flow!” Sentiments may run along some similar line of thought, that a gated process will impact delivery or limit engineering innovation. Today, we discuss how organizations benefit when they implement a structured development process and how gate reviews are important to the ultimate success of a project.

Structured and Gated Process: Brief Example

In a structured and gated development process, projects flow through several distinct phases, as represented by the boxes in the image below: ideation and concept generation; scope and requirements; design and development; test, verification, and validation; and production and launch.

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Example of a typical process flow

At the boundary between two successive phases in a structured and gated development process is a decision event, represented by the arrow in the image above, involving stakeholders in the project. These decision events – gate reviews or exit meetings – provide a platform and mechanism for information flow between business functions and enable stakeholders to take appropriate action regarding the project. Project schedule can be adjusted, additional resources can be deployed, down-stream activities can be planned, risks can be identified and mitigated earlier in the project, and so on. All these actions occur as a result of establishing and following a structured development process appropriate for your organization and sized according to project needs.

8 Benefits of a Structured Development Process

Benefits of a structured development process are many and varied across the entire spectrum of business:

  1. Projects progress smoothly with fewer surprises from an earlier phase cropping up in a later phase
  2. Hand-off between design engineers and production engineers occurs on a cadence that best utilizes available resources
  3. Technical and financial risks are identified sooner and can be mitigated appropriately
  4. Projects can be staffed at appropriate levels to increase overall business productivity
  5. Delivery to the customer occurs per scheduled and agreed upon milestones
  6. Reduces likelihood of issues and re-work after delivery by identifying and addressing activities during development
  7. Implements order and organization to what can become a hectic environment
  8. Increases the prospect of ultimate success of the project

The Customer and Ball Systems

Ball Systems utilizes such an approach on every project we undertake to ensure every customer has every expectation met. Our team works extensively with the customer to ensure every detail of a project is understood. A comprehensive quote is then generated and delivered to the customer, and this becomes a gate in the above process. Both parties agree to move forward and enter into a contract to execute the project – or the “go-ahead” is given to proceed to the next phase: design and development. This process repeats at the boundary of each phase in the example above from start to finish of the project, and these decision events keep the project progressing along the path of successful completion. Of course, detailed status and information exchange take place between the customer and our team within each phase of a project. A structured development process provides the framework in which these phase-specific exchanges take place, and it also focuses attention on a specific aspect of the project at the appropriate time rather than randomly addressing questions in a haphazard manner. This keeps focus where focus belongs at a given moment in the overall project effort.

All this adds up to a better-quality, finished project that can be completed at an overall lower cost to the customer. Ball Systems has become very adept at following a structured development process that maximizes productivity and efficiency in development of custom test solutions for the customers with which we partner. 

Check out our case studies to learn more about how we implement our gated development process everyday.

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