Critical Initiative Delivery

1 minute read

Why you need a "Planning Tollgate"

Nov 27, 2016

Written by: Doug Murphy

Have you ever experienced that moment of frustration when you realize a project nearing final implementation does not meet your expectations? Everyone started on the same page, but somewhere along the way, the project team deviated from what you were expecting. Consider inserting a checkpoint, called a “planning tollgate”, to explicitly review and approve the project team’s proposed solution prior to the beginning of project delivery. Here are a few reasons why a planning tollgate makes sense:

  • Confirms scope of the project. Identifying and documenting your requirements is a known best practice. However, having a deliberate line-by-line approval of the high-level business requirements with your team and key stakeholders will ensure alignment on “what” is required to solve the problem or deliver the expected innovation. It will also allow generation of the necessary documents to prevent scope creep during delivery.
  • Creates alignment on the design. Just having approved requirements does not guarantee success with meeting your expectations. You also need to explicitly align on “how” the team intends to solve for requirements by reviewing their proposed design. Reviewing the “how” may also highlight scope elements that were missed in the previous step. For example, are you okay with a call-in only strategy for customer response, or should all response channels (phone, web, mail) be available?
  • Clearly articulates the required investment and timelines. Finally, a clear articulation of “what it will take” to deliver enables a “buy” or “no buy” decision before costs begin to ramp up significantly during the execution phase. If the effort will cost too much (real dollars or opportunity cost) or cannot be delivered in time for the specific need, should implementation even be pursued? These tough decisions need to be made before the project team begins to burn precious resource hours and dollars.

Taking the time to conduct a “planning tollgate” prior to the execution phase of a project is an investment of your time, as well as the project teams. However, making the investment at this stage is critical in avoiding those late-game surprises.