Gartner Blog Network


Phase Gated

by Nathan Wilson  |  October 25, 2013  |  Comments Off on Phase Gated

Phase gates provide a structure to large project. The give the impression of being able to control a project or at least track it’s progress. The reality is that each phase cannot be verified until the next is complete and verified. This means that design defects are commonly discovered in final test. This tendency for phase gated projects to hide bad news is the source of the expression that 90% of all software projects are 90% done 90% of the time.

This trend was on display yesterday when congress was investigating the issues on healthcare.gov. Officals from QSSI and CGI both stated the end-to-end testing started too late. It is difficult to gain much insight from any post-mortem blame fest, much less one held in the national spotlight. In addition, I have no non-public knowledge about what happened during the project. Despite this, it would appear that phase gating was a major contributor of this.

Why would you start end-to-end testing too late? Because it is the final phase of testing and testing is the final phase of development. With a firm deadline, every slip in earlier phases of the project took time away from the most critical testing phase.

The solution to this problem is to define “done”. If each piece of functionality was end-to-end tested as it was developed, there would not have been any critical crunch of testing at the end. In addition, if the functionality was built starting with the most important features first, then the most important functionality (such as account creation) would have been working a long time ago.

The approach that I have described is agile development, we have been doing it for over twelve years now and it works. Of course there is no silver bullet in software development and it is not clear that functional but incomplete solution would have been acceptable, but it would have been better that what we got.

Additional Resources

View Free, Relevant Gartner Research

Gartner's research helps you cut through the complexity and deliver the knowledge you need to make the right decisions quickly, and with confidence.

Read Free Gartner Research

Category: 

Nathan Wilson
Principal Research Analyst
1 year at Gartner
27 years IT industry

Nathan Wilson is a principal research analyst in Gartner Research, where he focuses on agile development methodologies.Read Full Bio




Comments are closed

Comments or opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors only, and do not necessarily represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management. Readers may copy and redistribute blog postings on other blogs, or otherwise for private, non-commercial or journalistic purposes, with attribution to Gartner. This content may not be used for any other purposes in any other formats or media. The content on this blog is provided on an "as-is" basis. Gartner shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of the content or use of this blog.