Managing Stage-Gate processes: the Ford TI experience

Rick Amori, Technology Integrator specialist at Ford Motor Company, discusses Ford TIs Stage Gate processes.

We’ve talked a bit about the theory behind Stage-Gate®, but there’s nothing quite like real life experience to make things come to life. In this video, Rick Amori, Technology Integrator specialist at Ford Motor Company, discusses Ford TIs Stage Gate processes, and why implementing a Project Portfolio Management tool like Planisware is worth it for managing research & innovation projects.




My name is Rick Amori and I'm a supervisor at Ford Motor Company. My main responsibility is to manage the Planisware application that we call Technology Integrator.

In our Technology Integrator application of Planisware, we're managing all the research and innovation projects that someday we hope to go into production on our cars and trucks.

Stage-Gate data workflows at Ford TI before implementing a PPM tool (0:30 to 1:23)

Before we implemented Planisware, our projects were implemented using Excel. And so there was really no automated workflow to get the stages and the gates approved by the management team for each project.

Excel files were either emailed or printed as hard copies and brought into meetings and then emailed back and forth between teams and ultimately stored on a shared site online.

And it was very hard to maintain integrity of the files, of the data. Multiple copies were being saved and passed around, different versions to different users on the teams.

And it was really quite frustrating to actually have a source of truth of the data that we could rely on and be transparent about it. And we didn't solve any of those problems really until we implemented our Planisware solution.

How Gate Project Reviews have changed since implementing Planisware (1:24 to 2:35)

One of the real benefits of using a Planisware application is that during our project design reviews, all of the data for each project is stored within the Planisware application. The project status, the project evidence, the work plan, the approvals are all in one place.

And so that really helps facilitate easy project reviews for a large team all at once with a single source. Each project is required to have a design review before the gateway is approved.

And so, you know if you do the math we've got hundreds of projects that maybe will go through one or two gates a year. So that may be several hundred design reviews globally each year for, you know when you look at the portfolio together.

Before we used the application, we were managing all of this in Excel workbooks. And it was a challenge to understand which was the current workbook that was the most accurate. Was it in someone's email inbox, was it stored on their computer or on a shared drive. It was really hard to prepare for design reviews with that system.

And now all of those problems have gone away basically once we went to a shared system like Planisware.

Structure of Stage-Gate processes at Ford TI, and how PPM tools can help manage them (2:36 to 5:10)

The ability to create custom templates within Planisware is really helpful in facilitating new stage and gate processes for different types of work.

So before where we would have Excel workbooks, we really couldn't create unique structured stage and gate processes within an Excel file or customized work flows within an Excel file.

But now using Planisware's template creation process we can create unique stage and gate processes within the tool and then the user just selects which process he or she wants to apply to their work and then the system takes over from there.

The stage and gate process that we use is called GTDS, Global Technology Development Process. And GTDS manages the work from a technology kickoff through a requirements and concept selection phase, and through a concept readiness phase and application readiness phase. So there are four stages and gates within the process.

But now, to take advantage of what Planisware offers as far as creating new templates, we have actually four unique templates that manage different types of work in our technology and innovation stage.

So we've got four templates. I described one of them to you, our product technology template. But we also manage pure research under a different process. We manage process technology improvements for manufacturing and test processes under our third template. And then we've got a fourth template that's unique to the others where we manage corporate and business application and business practices, such as credit and finance projects.

We're really happy with the way Planisware allows us to update project templates on a global basis.

So for an example, with our old system if we wanted to add a new deliverable or modify part of the stage and gate process that was documented in the Excel files, it was almost impossible to submit changes to these open files because there were multiple versions stored all over the place in people's laptops, in the cloud somewhere.

But with the Planisware solution, since there's only a single project version stored online, we can make changes to the projects or the structure within the stage and gate process and immediately trust that that change has gone through and is seen by all the users instantaneously. So that's a really great advantage to the old system that we're happy that Planisware can provide for us.

Better data flows help improve the management of research and innovation projects (5:11 to end)

We've seen huge improvements in the way our management team can approve and manage their projects with the Planisware application. For example, the automated workflows that help managers approve their stages and gates really helps the flow of their work within the tool.

They don't have to rely on emails or opening up files that are shared between people. They can just go right in the Planisware application, find what their next steps are, it's just presented right for them from their home page and they can implement their next steps really easily with that application.

I really enjoyed the relationship that Ford has with the Planisware development team. First of all, we do so much customization based on our quirky or adapting requirements within the tool that the Planisware team is very approachable into helping us find different solutions to the problems that we're trying to solve.

Stage-Gate® is a registered trademark of Stage-Gate Inc.