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Project Stages and Gateways

At the core of the new Project Management System are six stages, linked to the new gateway approvals process:

Project Mandate

The first gateway consists simply of the appropriate Programme Board taking ‘ownership’ of a project idea, confirming that it is in line with their objectives and current priorities, and commissioning the next stage of project development work.

Project Proposal

This gateway consists of three key elements:

A more detailed review of the strategic fit to determine if the proposed project is the most effective way to meet the identified programme objectives.

A comprehensive review of the potential corporate considerations relevant to the proposed project.

A high level risk and impact assessment, on the basis of which a project “category” will be assigned, determining further approval and monitoring requirements.

Business Case

This gateway is where the detailed project planning work is undertaken, including appraisal of project delivery options; resource planning; developing budgets for project development and delivery (both revenue and capital); detailed risk and stakeholder analysis; and value for money assessment.  Taken together, these elements comprise the business case for the project.  

Project Start-Up

The project will be formally accepted onto the relevant programme on completion of gateway 3. However, it will not have authority to proceed to delivery until the Programme Manager confirms that all the necessary preparation for project delivery has been completed, using appropriate tools from the PMS.  This will include establishing and briefing the project team and (where necessary) project board; setting up reporting templates; confirming the project scope and exclusions; and agreeing tolerances and change controls.

Project Delivery

As part of gateway 4, project stages and milestones will be identified which will enable stage reviews to be scheduled at appropriate points during project delivery.  Again, the number and frequency of these will depend on the scale and complexity of the project.  In addition to these scheduled reviews, project reviews can be requested at any point where there are concerns about progress, or where the project moves outside its agreed timescale or budget tolerances.  

Project Close

Project close reviews should be carried out for completed projects to ensure benefits realisation plans and any post-contract management arrangements are in place and to capture lessons to be learned. 

The gateways are based on experience from other Core Cities, in particular Manchester City Council, that an effective gateway process is the key to successful programme and project delivery.  It ensures that each project or potential project (the first three stages are all part of the approvals process for potential new projects) has been properly evaluated, scoped, planned and delivered at key points in the project lifecycle.

With the increasing need for us to achieve more with less resource, it is essential that we properly define and evaluate each potential project in order to avoid wasting resources on:

  • projects which do not fit with agreed programme priorities
  • projects which are not the most efficient way to meet those priorities
  • abortive work on projects which ultimately prove not to be deliverable
  • escalation of project costs due to inadequate project planning and controls
  • duplication of effort due to lack of clarity over responsibilities for project management and decision-making.

The gateways are therefore mandatory, and Programme Managers will not accept onto their programme any project which has not been through the gateway process, meaning that the project has no authority to proceed.  However, the gateway process (as with all elements of the new PMS) is designed to be scalable.  Directorate Programme Managers will guide Project Managers to use only those PMS tools and templates which add value, depending on the type and nature of the project.     

You need to keep in mind that you get out what you put in. This process will help you start your project off on the right foot, and stay that way.  

How does a project “pass” a gateway?

The following sections provide further details of the requirements for each project stage and its associated gateway.  The approvals each project needs will depend on which category it falls into (based on the risk and impact assessment which forms part of gateway 2), but the basic process is illustrated below.

(You can download this diagram as a word file here.)

The process is intended to be flexible in order to aid efficient project delivery, not to hinder it.  Therefore, whilst all approvals need to be validated by the appropriate Board, the process can be carried out quickly if needed, with “fast-track” or interim approvals available as follows:

  • Programme Boards 
    - Programme Manager in consultation with the Programme Director
  • Project Review Group
    - Head of Programmes & Major Projects

As with all elements of the PMS, if in doubt, consult your Directorate Programme Manager.