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A comparative study of six stage-gate approaches to

product development

Rachel Phillips
Parametric Technology (UK), Coventry, UK
Kevin Neailey
University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
Trevor Broughton
University of Warwick, Coventry, UK

Keywords product development performance among


Product development, Introduction competitors, a key issue for success.
Process efficiency,
Manufacturing, Teams Companies today are competing within an
environment that is global, intense and
Abstract dynamic. Many forward thinking organisa- External and internal dimensions
Some companies to aid the pro-
duct development process have
tions are using new business strategies, new of product development
implemented a stage-gate frame- organisational approaches, new business External
work, as a high-level representa- processes and new enabling technology, to Wheelwright and Clark (1992) highlight three
tion of the activities required.
continually improve their product develop- critical driving forces behind the product
Such a framework allows the
development process to be closely ment process. development process:
monitored and controlled, using Research has shown that product develop- 1 Intense international competition. In-
stages of work and review gates. ment is a vital process for most manufactur- creased number of competitors capable of
Six different companies have been
ing firms' growth and prosperity (Zirger and competing at world-class level.
examined to show the variations in
representation. Each approach Maidique, 1990). The product development 2 Fragmented, demanding markets. Custo-
was compared to a generic four- process is the means by which new products mers demand high levels of performance
staged framework. Companies or services are developed from identification and reliability.
which are organised mainly in
of the need to launch into the market, as a 3 Diverse and rapidly changing technologies.
cross-functional teams adhere
strongly to the four stages, tangible product or service. It incorporates Increased knowledge and existence of
namely a low-phased approach. numerous activities, from marketing technology.
However, companies organised
through to manufacture and sales.
with a strong functional structure
This work compares six different compa- Internal
tend to have more phases and
gates within each stage, i.e. a nies' stage-gate approaches to the product The success of a project based on introducing
high-phased approach. These ad- development process. The six product devel- a new product into a market, will be reflected
ditional phases tend to be placed
opment stage gate approaches were collated in the management of the product perfor-
late in the product development
and compared and contrasted against a mance against the time and cost of producing
process rather than at the start
where their effect would be great- generic four-staged framework, derived from the right product:
er. A generic representation of the . Product performance. The product must
this research for use as a control. The
product development process meet the demands in the market for value,
applicable to various organisa- similarities in approaches were examined
reliability, and distinctive performance.
tions and industrial sectors, pro- and then supporting information on each of
vides an architecture for carrying
. Product development time. Speed of devel-
the organisations gathered. The organisa-
out any business process im- opment is imperative, as it will allow the
tional structure and the product background
provement project. firm to ultimately bring the new product
were some of the significant factors used to
to the market early.
provide support to the research findings; the . Product development cost. Development
The authors would like to six different companies examined adopt two cost will dictate the product's cost.
thank the EPSRC for general approaches.
sponsoring the CAPS The generic stage gate representation will Rosenau (1993) refers to these three dimen-
project, in which some of sions as the triple constraint (Figure 1). It is a
the findings of this report provide a high level reference which can be
has been researched. used as a standard across the engineering/ diagrammatic format of the factors affecting
manufacturing industry. The overall archi- the product development process within the
tecture and understanding will facilitate both organisation. During the development of a
Business Process Improvement initiatives new product, all three constraints will be
and provide a standard for comparing changing continually. The diagram shows
Integrated Manufacturing
Systems the three constraints as orthogonal. Each
10/5 [1999] 289±297 axis, of product cost, product time and
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
# MCB University Press product performance, play a significant part
[ISSN 0957-6061] http://www.emerald-library.com
in the success of the project. They are shown
[ 289 ]
Rachel Phillips, Kevin Neailey Figure 1 common tool used within organisations
and Trevor Broughton The triple constraint proposed by Rosenau today to facilitate the process.
A comparative study of six
stage-gate approaches to (1993)
product development Stage-gate development
Integrated Manufacturing Stage-gate development is a framework, which
Systems is applied to the company's product develop-
10/5 [1999] 289±297 ment process. The framework aids the process
and enables the efficient and effective move-
ment of a new product from idea to launch. It is
essentially an integration of project manage-
ment disciplines and the processes needed to
realise a new product. It is a conceptual model
which more and more organisations are im-
plementing to overcome the problems of
product performance, development cost in-
creases and development time slippage. It is
therefore an aid to keeping the risk associated
with new product development to a minimum.
Risk is a measure of likelihood and conse-
quence of a situation arising, risk will affect
the three measures of product performance,
development time and cost.
as being mutually exclusive. In reality this is
not the case; each constraint can have a
direct affect on another.
A model stage-gate approach
While the details of a particular company
Drivers for product development system may vary, a typical model is illu-
process improvement strated in Figure 2 (Cooper, 1990). Each stage
of the diagram represents an element of the
The quality (product performance) of the
product development process, a group of
product strongly depends on the quality of
activities. Each gate represents the review
the process (Blessing, 1993), quality being a
point for the previous stage, a point where
critical measure of success. The process itself decisions are made based on the information
is only as effective as the decisions made generated in the previous group of activities.
within it, and as efficient as the speed with The framework allows the organisation to
which the information required for each improve the quality of the output, by focus-
decision is made available (Thirupathi and ing on the process itself, in being able to
Roy, 1997). Hence the use of stage-gate remove non-value-added activities in the
frameworks, which provide a high-level re- process and reduce risk associated with the
presentation to enforce decisions at review product's development.
gates and to break the whole process into A general description of the generic four-
smaller stages of activity, with which to staged control framework (Cooper, 1990;
guide the information-generating activities. Ulrich and Eppinger, 1995; Wheelwright and
It is also important to consider at this point Clark, 1992) is given in Table I.
that effective product development decisions
are often based on information obtained from
multiple functional areas in the organisation, Comparative study of six different
making effective communication an impor- companies
tant part of successful development (Roch- Method of comparison
ford and Rudelius, 1992). Thus concurrent The four-staged framework was derived from
engineering is also a fundamental concept for initial examination of different stage gate
successful product development. representations used by engineering/manu-
facturing companies. Research has been
carried out as part of an EPSRC-sponsored
project CAPS (Rolls-Royce, 1995). Within this
An approach adopted to aid the
research project the product development
product development process
processes of two Aerospace companies, Rolls-
Many organisations understand the impor- Royce and Short Brothers were investigated.
tance of the product development process as In each case, interviews were carried out to
being a key to their success. A stage-gate capture and represent the activities of the
representation for product development is a product development process in detail. Once
[ 290 ]
Rachel Phillips, Kevin Neailey the overall processes were gained, additional employ different titles for each phase,
and Trevor Broughton example data was collated using LucasVarity whereas Kodak, General Electric and Bom-
A comparative study of six and the PIM (product introduction manage- bardier have six, seven and ten phases. The
stage-gate approaches to
product development ment) process, experience of which had been process can therefore be classified as high-
Integrated Manufacturing gained by one of the authors while in phased stage-gate approaches (Kodak, Gen-
Systems employment with LucasVarity. The infor- eral Electric and Bombardier) or low-phased
10/5 [1999] 289±297 mation collated was compared to that of stage-gate approaches (Rolls-Royce, Lucas
Wheelwright and Clark (1992) on stage-gate and Motorola) as shown in Table III.
representations of Motorola, General Electric
and Kodak. The different stage-gate repre- Examination of the high-phased
sentations are listed in Table II. organisational approaches
The main objective of this research was to Kodak
derive a standard high-level representation Kodak has a product development stage-gate
that would act as a generic template for any process consisting of six phases. The addi-
product development process. Once the four- tional reviews are within the first and third
staged framework had been developed, it was stages of the control stage gate used for
used as a control on which to compare the six comparison. Kodak's products include mi-
different variations in approach. Each orga- crofilm equipment, copiers, cameras and
nisation's stage gate representation was medical instruments. The company has ex-
tabulated using the four-stage control as ternal forces of intense international compe-
shown in Table III. tition and demanding markets, so it is
The table provided a visual comparison of necessary for the company to concentrate on
which companies had a relatively high its internal strengths of supplying a product
number of phases to represent the overall with unique attributes and characteristics
process and which had a low number. If the first before any other competitor. A key
stage gate representation of a company had competitive dimension is time to market
more than four phases of development then with very close customer orientation.
the additional phases were listed in the Kodak has therefore placed more emphasis
relevant stage of the process. on the initial stage of development, where all
the customer needs are identified, thus split-
Comparisons between the stage-gate ting the preliminary concept stage into two
approaches phases. This forces the company to review the
The number of phases range from four to ten. progress of the project and ensure that the
Although the number and title of the phases objectives are being met. It is vital that they
may vary between the organisations, they all create a clear customer focus. The validation
have the same underlying objective. This is stage is also in three phases. Here they are
to provide a means to monitor and execute emphasising at this point that the product fit to
projects efficiently and effectively. Figure 3 market is critical, as also is the actual
shows the stage-gate processes model used by production of that product. It is important for
Bombardier. the organisation to gain additional reviews
The approaches used by the different throughout this stage, to obtain tighter control.
companies were compared and contrasted Although Kodak have six phases, they do
against a four-stage control. Table III shows not have an equivalent phase to the fourth
that each organisation follows the typical control phase of in-service product support.
stages of development. The difference arises Therefore, it could potentially be a seven-
in the number and title of phases into which phased stage gate.
each organisation splits their individual As a company, Kodak is functionally orga-
process. The number of formal reviews that nised, with only cross-functional advisory
will take place will therefore vary. Table III groups being used on special issues (e.g.
shows where these phases fit within the environmental) (Wheelwright and Clark, 1992).
control stages used. Motorola and Rolls-
General Electric
Royce all have just four phases of develop-
General Electric has a very diverse set of
ment and Lucas has five, although they
businesses, manufacturing processes, tech-
nologies and markets. Their product devel-
Figure 2 opment stage-gate process is applicable to
The stage gate approach (Cooper, 1990) this diverse set of businesses. They have split
the first, second and third stages of the
control stages into three, two and three
phases respectively. Like Kodak they have
placed additional reviews within the initial
stage to keep a clear customer focus. This
forces the organisation to have decision gates
[ 291 ]
Rachel Phillips, Kevin Neailey Table I
and Trevor Broughton Stage and review descriptions for the generic four-stage framework
A comparative study of six
stage-gate approaches to Stage number and Review gate number
product development
name Stage description and name Review gate description
Integrated Manufacturing
Systems Stage 1. Preliminary Identification of the need and Gate 1. Preliminary The concept is reviewed in
10/5 [1999] 289±297 concept development generation of a concept concept review respect to the mission and
accompanied by a specification capability of the organisation and
and economic justification the orientation of the market
(Wheelwright and Clark, 1992) itself. This is to ensure that the
concept is distinctive and
complementary to the already
existing capabilities of the
organisation
Stage 2. Design and The design phase can be split Gate 2. Design and A decision is made as to whether
development into two sub-phases,varying in development review to progress into detailed design
level of design for manufacture
Initial design phase. A geometric
scheme of the product with a
functional specification of each
major sub-system and some initial
process plans will be developed
Firm-up design phase. A complete
specification of geometry,
materials, process plans and all
unique parts in production will be
produced
Stage 3. Validation Validation is a process of testing Gate 3. Product The final review prior to launch of
the strategies implied in the launch review the product into the market, to
design to reduce risk and ensure that the product is fit for
maximise expected benefit. It purpose
can potentially lead to increased
quality of the product (Cooper,
1994). The initial validation stage
can be early testing of
prototypes, which may be made
up of production ``intent'' parts.
After initial testing there is
further prototype testing, with
supplied parts
Stage 4. In-service When the product is launched, Gate 4. Product Periodic reviews take place
product support manufacturing is ramped up and support review within the service life of the
the product is monitored in product to monitor the product's
service performance

to monitor the product concept development development process, with the cross-func-
at this point in the development cycle. They tional issues being raised in the reviews
have an additional phase within the second (Wheelwright and Clark, 1992).
control stage in order again to drive the
structured reviews so that the project is
Bombardier (BES model)
Bombardier (BES model) is made up of a
managed from preliminary design into criti-
number of organisations, including Short
cal productivity, rather than a natural pro-
gression without structured review. They Brothers, Canadair, Learjet and de Havil-
also have three phases in the third stage, land. Therefore like General Electric it
again with a customer-based phase prior to operates across a diverse product and busi-
the manufacturing of the product. This ness range. There are two phases in the
drives the project to address its applicability concept development stage and one in design
to the market prior to full manufacture. It and development. Bombardier use three
instills discipline in the project management phases for the one validation stage of the
techniques. control framework, each additional phase
General Electric are predominately func- requires additional structured reviews. A
tionally-oriented during the phases of the competitive dimension of Bombardier would
[ 292 ]
Rachel Phillips, Kevin Neailey Table II
and Trevor Broughton
A comparative study of six A list of the different stage gate approaches of Motorola, Kodak, General Electric, Lucas
stage-gate approaches to Industries, Rolls-Royce and Bombardier
product development
Integrated Manufacturing Company Product development stages
Systems Bombardier Aerospace Group (Short Brothers plc is part Conceptual definition
10/5 [1999] 289±297
of this group) (seven phases)a Management review and approval
Preliminary definition
Detail definition
Product definition release
Product certification
Program completion
Kodak (six phases) Customer mission
Technical demonstration
Technical/operational feasibility
Capability demonstration
Product/process design
Acceptance and production
General electric (ten phases)b Customer needs
Concept
Feasibility
Preliminary design
Final design
Critical productivity
Market/field test
Manufacturing feasibility
Market readiness
Market introduction follow-up
Lucas Industries plc (five phases)c Opportunity evaluation
Design and development
Validation
Implementation
Manufacturing support
Rolls-Royce plc (four phases)d Project planning
Full concept definition
Propulsion system realisation
In-service monitoring and technical support
Motorola (four phases) Product definition
Contract development
Development through manufacturing start up
Program wrap-up
Sources:
a
Bombardier Aerospace Engineering Systems (1997)
b
Wheelwright and Clark (1992)
c
Lucas Varity plc (1997)
d
Ruffles (1995)

be to have low development costs with high in the first stage to a cross-functional project
value products, hence the additional reviews structure in the second and back to a
during the critical stages of the product functional for the third. In the second control
development process of Bombardier Aero- stage, concurrent engineering principles are
space businesses. aided by computer-aided design and business
Short Brothers have additional phases process systems (Short Brothers, 1997).
which fall within the first and third stages of Hence the BES model needs only one phase at
the control. Information was gathered while this point in the development process (see
process mapping the product development Table III).
process of the nose cowl in Shorts, a sub-
system of the nacelle supplied to Rolls-Royce. Examination of the low-phased
The organisational structure that Short organisational approaches
Brothers had supporting the development Lucas, Rolls-Royce and Motorola, all had
process changed from a functional approach similar stage-gate processes to that used as
[ 293 ]
Rachel Phillips, Kevin Neailey the control. Lucas is the only exception with High- versus low-phased approaches
and Trevor Broughton one more phase in the validation stage. The In the examination so far, what is becoming
A comparative study of six
stage-gate approaches to variation in approach was in the titles used evident is that the underlying organisation of
product development by the organisations for each phase. Project each company plays a significant part in the
Integrated Manufacturing management control is not reduced owing to type of stage-gate approach that each com-
Systems the lesser number of phases in a stage. The pany has adopted. The organisations that
10/5 [1999] 289±297
organisations place emphasis on these speci- have fewer phases to each stage, have cross-
fic phases, but in all the cases, with closer functional teams involved throughout the life
examination of their product stage-gate pro- of the project, whereas the high-phased
cesses there are a number of formal reviews organisations have a functional orientation
that must take place within a stage. This is to development, hence the need to enforce
also true with the high-phased stage gate reviews into the overall stage-gate process. A
cross-functional team will have informal and
processes. They too would have additional
formal reviews throughout in taking respon-
reviews within a phase.
sibility for the whole project, whereas
Rolls-Royce propose that teamwork predo-
responsibility is not generally as clearly
minates within the project orientation of
focused in a truly functionally-oriented
the product development process (Ruffles,
environment.
1995). They also co-locate all their teams to
A high-phased approach leads to more than
encourage a pure cross-functional and con- one formal decision gate being incorporated
current engineering environment. Motorolla within each of the stages of development.
also have co-located cross-functional This does not imply that the high-phased
teams, selected and dedicated to the product organisations carry out any different activ-
development process (Wheelwright and ities to those of Lucas, Rolls-Royce and
Clark, 1992). Lucas actively encourages mu- Motorola. It does, however, suggest that the
tli-disciplinary teams to contribute to all high-phased companies listed are able to
areas of the project where they have a place emphasis in a particular stage, by
relevant contribution to make (Lucas Indus- separating a stage into more than one phase.
tries, 1995). Dividing a stage into more than one phase,

Table III
Table of comparison of the six different stage gate approaches
Organisation
Generic stages Bombardier Kodak General Electric Lucas Industries Rolls-Royce Motorola
Preliminary concept Conceptual design Customer mission Customer needs Opportunity Project planning Product definition
development Management Technical Concept evaluation
review and demonstration Feasibility
approval
Design and Preliminary Technical/ Preliminary design Design and Full concept Contract
development definition operational Critical productivity development definition development
feasibility
Validation Detail definition Capability Market/field test Validation Propulsion system Development
Product definition demonstration Manufacturing Implementation realisation through
release Product/ feasibility Manufacturing manufacturing
Product process design Market readiness start-up
certification Acceptance and
production
In-service product Program No equivalent Market Support In-service Program wrap-up
support completion introduction monitoring and
follow up technical support
Number of phases 7 6 10 5 4 4
High or low phased High High High Low Low Low

Figure 3
Typical stage gate model populated with the overall Bombardier product development process

[ 294 ]
Rachel Phillips, Kevin Neailey allows the placement of the review gates to be reviewing that the product is in line with the
and Trevor Broughton realised. It forces the organisation to review market and customer requirements origin-
A comparative study of six the progress of a project by committing the
stage-gate approaches to ally proposed. However, it is by this point
product development need for these extra review gates within a that the majority of the development costs
Integrated Manufacturing stage. As an example, Figure 4 has taken the have been spent and the product costs are
Systems Bombardier information once again and high, yet the emphasis to keep the close
10/5 [1999] 289±297 populated a stage-gate approach as viewed monitoring and control is placed post devel-
from using the four-stage gate as a control. It opment. As discussed earlier, a competitive
visually shows where the phases fit within a dimension that is as critical as performance
stage and immediately highlights where is cost, so the design and development phase
Bombardier have placed emphasis within the should be a phase to be split into sub-phases.
process. This will allow a closer monitoring and
Phased emphasis within a high-phased control of the progress within this stage of
approach the development, to ensure that the develop-
The market and industry in which it is ment costs are kept to a minimum.
positioned will influence the emphasis that
the organisation places within its product Stage gate versus company organisation
development process. Therefore the focus of High-phase frameworks for effective execu-
the organisation's strategy will vary as to the tion, monitoring and control of a product
competitive dimension which is most critical development process, generally have a func-
to its success. If the organisation competes tionally-oriented structure underlying it.
within a tight customer-oriented market, With the implementation of a high-level
where unique product attributes are neces- phased stage gate, formal reviews are sched-
sary to survive, then the organisation would uled into the process and are forced to take
focus the initial stage of the product devel- place. The lower-phased stage-gate compa-
opment review to meeting the customer nies, those with four or five phases similar to
needs. This requires closer monitoring tech- the four-staged control used in the table for
niques to allow for the customer needs to be comparison, commonly have a cross-func-
clearly realised and addressed. The high- tional team underlying their individual
phased organisations that have been exam- frameworks.
ined in this paper all have more than one The cross-functional team would be formed
phase within the first stage of the control at the beginning of the product development
stage-gate approach. process, during the identification of the need
Another stage in which the high-phased for a new product and would follow the
organisations listed have more than the one project through to the launch of the product
phase of the control, is the validation stage. It into the market, a characteristic of concur-
is within this stage that the company is rent engineering methodology. The team

Figure 4
Proposed view of the stage gate process using Bombardier's product development process

[ 295 ]
Rachel Phillips, Kevin Neailey would also take responsibility for the project duct performance can be realised and where
and Trevor Broughton as a whole; cost, timings, product perfor- the project timescales can subsequently be
A comparative study of six mance and quality. The use of cross-func- effected. Tight control is therefore vital and
stage-gate approaches to
product development tional teams leads to empowerment of the project management needs to be made easy.
Integrated Manufacturing team members to review their progress On reflection of the organisational struc-
Systems internally, formally and informally, allowing tures, it is evident that at this stage in the
10/5 [1999] 289±297 the risk associated with product development development it is critical to either have a
to be kept to a minimum. Hence, monitoring cross-functional team to manage and review
and control is the responsibility of the team throughout, or have a number of additional
and the framework does not need to reflect phases to force the development process to be
the need for additional formal reviews. If the reviewed. At all times the project constraints
frameworks are broken down to details are closely monitored. However, of the high-
within phases, the team reviews would phased companies examined, the additional
become evident. phases were not concentrated in this stage of
Functionally-oriented organisations do not the process, but were pre- and post-develop-
have a core team that takes the project ment.
through the whole of the product develop-
ment process. Hence the responsibility falls
to a project manager who co-ordinates the Conclusions
contributions of all functions. Facilitating
the contributions is a broader management All six companies examined closely follow
role than that of a cross-functional project the principles of the stage-gate approach to
manager. It would need additional reviews to product development. Although varying in
pull together the functional departments to detail, all the processes fit a basic four-stage
review the project's progress and the pro- process. These stages were preliminary con-
duct's development within the product cept development, design and development,
development process. The additional reviews validation and in-service product support.
or phases would co-ordinate with the compe- Companies with a cross-functional team-
titive dimensions of the organisation. The based organisation tended to adhere very
additional reviews also allow the risk asso- closely to these four stages. Companies with a
ciated with managing a functional team more functional organisation used more
when introducing a new product, to be kept phases and hence enforced formal reviews
to a minimum. within certain stages. In particular, the first
The organisation should increase the stage preliminary concept development and
number of reviews within the first stage of especially the third stage validation were
preliminary concept development, if the given most attention. Strict control at all
competitive dimension of the company was stages is necessary but concentrating on the
customer focus. On the other hand, an validation stage means that additional mon-
organisation that competes within a high- itoring is encouraged post the majority of
cost development industry should increase development spend. In order to provide a
the number of phases within the develop- more rigorous framework for reviewing
ment stage, to allow closer monitoring of product cost and performance then an addi-
progress specifically against this particular tional phase or phases should be incorpo-
competitive dimension. rated into the second stage of the process, i.e.
Of the six companies examined, Short the design and development stage. A reduc-
Brothers have used both a functional struc- tion in the number of phases in the third
ture and a cross-functional structure at stage would be possible. This would provide a
various points in the development process. more efficient and effective monitoring and
The functional structure is evident in the control process overall for a high-phased
preliminary concept development. In the approach. Alternatively a multi-team-based
design and development stage, Shorts have structure could be followed. This approach
adopted some of the concurrent engineering would provide the rigour required internally
principles and have implemented technology to manage the product's costs and perfor-
to improve this critical stage in the develop- mance and therefore needs fewer gates.
ment process. Figure 4 highlights this as the Utilising a generic four-stage representa-
diagram shows that they have just one of tion, which is applicable to different organi-
their phases of development within this sations within various industrial sectors,
stage. provides a high-level architecture which can
The design and development stage is a key act as a standard for organisations to refer-
stage in the overall product development ence. A standard representation provides an
process, as it is where the majority of initial insight into product development,
development costs are incurred, where pro- facilitating business process improvement
[ 296 ]
Rachel Phillips, Kevin Neailey projects. It will also provide a baseline from Rolls-Royce plc, Computervision Ltd, Digital
and Trevor Broughton which research on understanding the Equipment Co Ltd, University of Leeds, Uni-
A comparative study of six decomposition of activities supporting, the versity of Warwick (1995), Control and Access
stage-gate approaches to
product development product development process can be in- of Product Data through Product Structures
itiated. The high level standard can be used (CAPS), Proposal to EPSRC under the Inno-
Integrated Manufacturing
Systems as shown in the research as a comparison vative Manufacturing Initiative ± Integrated
10/5 [1999] 289±297 tool by which companies can compare their Aerospace Manufacture. Reference A/01/028,
product development performance and thus October.
examine their competitive advantage. Rosenau, M.D. (1993), Managing the Development
of New Products, ITP, pp. 39-41.
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[ 297 ]