Stage gates are still imortant even in Agile product maanegement

When I was a developer in the late (90s, I had the benefit of having started my career in marketing and combined with an overdose of enthusiasm and self-confidence, I thought I knew better than anyone about how the product should be designed.

Not that many years later I was in charge of Product development and planning and with the benefit of some training and mentoring from some of the best, I was acutely aware of my frailty when it came to predicting the present, let alone the future for long enough to make a business case deliver and keep a whole building full of us in employment.

The fact of the matter is that because there is huge demand today does not mean there is means,  nor does it mean there will be demand, nor means next year. A market opportunity is a different can of works than a product opportunity and the first stage gate must at the very least ask the questions; Is there a strong possibility that this opportunity will deliver the benefit’s we need? Are we able to do it? Is it right for the brand or will it confuse our customers about who we are? what impact will it have on other products we have that may be rising stars or in the long tail generating strong revenue?

Of course you probably have a few more in mind, but those few alone are sufficient to point out that there is serious strategic thinking to be done before you scribble an elevator pitch on the wall of the developers den and go off to lunch.

As we progress through a software development project, we often come up with new problems we had not identified, or problems that are simply a whole lot bigger than expected. They may not always be technical, but could be regulatory changes  etc.

When these things happen and the likelihood of achieving an acceptable offering and still being able to return a profit is threatened, then there must be a stage gate process.

When the early launches are not achieving the type of results we anticipated and we don’t know why, there must surely be a strong argument for stepping back from it and taking an informed and sober view of the chances for success and the opportunity cost and potential reputation cost of a failure. Of course there is always an opportunity to handle these issues on the fly and do it fairly well, but there are times when a more sober and considered approach is a good idea.