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Checkpoints Vs Gates

Seems strange but in even very sophisticated and large programmes with talented and experienced external programme management supports, I have seem the "gate" and the "checkpoint" being misplaced, misunderstood and/or treated as the same.

In my view they are both required but have completely different purposes, and are very different from the perspective of the sponsor and key decision makers.

A checkpoint should be a regular event, maybe at the end of a project phase (e.g. design), a prototyping session, a trial session and review with potential customers etc. where we have a set of expectations from the project delivery and we want to review progress and potentially replan or simply verify that all things are going to plan. It is a formal project event and as such should have the appropriate formalities associated with it, maybe checkpoint sponsor sessions, demonstrations and reports, but regardless needs to be documented in whatever fashion agreed and reviewed with the appropriate project personnel.

A "Gate" is something far more formal. A project gate should have a clear set of rules/conditions associated with it (set at the outset of the delivery), that are agreed with sponsors. These considerations or rules needs to be "measurable" and we need be able to demonstrate that we have met these agreed on considerations before we pass through the gate. If we have not we need formal permission to proceed regardless, but should (where we have not met an agree condition) document what actions need to be taken post passing the gate.

I generally allow the Project Manager to approve progressing through the checkpoint, but progressing through a project Gate is a sponsor decision (and as such (s)he must be provided with the appropriate information to make the decision) and it is up to the sponsor to specify the actions required of the project in order for it to proceed if conditions are not met.

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