To Quality Gate or not to Quality Gate. That is the question.
Before we delve into the specifics on when you should embrace or reject the concept of quality gates, let me explain what they are. I can imagine that you are thinking of some sort of door or high tech gate you pass through, like an Amazon cashier-less store. But, alas… no, I have to disappoint you there. But don’t stop reading now, I assure you you’ll want to continue.
Quality gates are a tool that is used to “close off” different stages of a project. In practice, they are meetings where the quality manager, together with the core project team, go over the necessary deliverables of the current phase of the project. These deliverables are usually defined at the start of the project or by the PMO (project management office).
Let me give you an example: The project has completed the realization phase, meaning the necessary development has been completed. For this phase, the team has put forward the following deliverables:
Establish the solution landscape
Implement the solution in the development environment using incremental building in time-boxed iterations
Conduct overall end-to-end testing of the solution within the UAT environment
Setup the production environment
Prepare for data migration and data archiving
Conduct performance testing
Conduct project team and key user training
Finalize end user training materials and documentation
Track and report on value delivery
So during the quality gate meeting, the quality manager goes over each deliverable with the team to confirm everything has been completed and up to the necessary standards.
Love and Hate
The reason why people might have a love/hate relationship with these comes down to a couple of factors.
In theory, these meetings have a huge advantage for your/the project. They assure nothing is left out by anybody and guarantee a level of quality the client/end user will appreciate. By defining the necessary deliverable up front by the team, everybody has a buy-in. The reporting to the stakeholders can also align with these meetings, as they are a clear defining line between each phase, giving structure and overview to all involved. Plus, your stakeholders are happy that they get frequent updates on the progression of the project - a bonus!
Watch out for the pitfalls
But be aware! These quality meetings can quickly be felt as bureaucratic necessity that all parties hate.
First of all: make sure everybody attending is part of the project team. Do not invite people that are not directly involved or working on the project as they will not have any added benefit attending. Only the people that have decision rights to pass or fail the gate should be attending.
Secondly: make sure the attendees are fully aware of what the project entails and what the goal is. If needed give them a short summary of the project goal, either via a short mail before the meeting or on a one-pager - no need to give the full blown presentation. They should already have some notion.
Last but not least: make the meeting as efficient as possible. Make sure the quality manager, or whoever conducting the meeting, has all the necessary information at their fingertips. This reduces navigating the numerous project files. Next to this, the attendees that had an active role in the current phase of the project should be able to answer any questions the Quality Manager has.
Embrace the quality
In the end, these meetings give your project a defined structure. They also give confidence to the stakeholders that the project will adhere to the quality standards defined at the beginning by the team or the PMO. So there is no reason to hate them, but you need to be aware of the possible pitfalls.
We at CANGURU can assure you that we have perfected the art of the quality gate. Not convinced? Give us a call and we’ll happily answer any question you have over a coffee.