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  • Darby Kidwell

Struggling with managing manual approval processes?


Before formalizing and proceduralizing our internal processes, we had used Gmail, Excel, and other similar products to track and manage core aspects of our business. These tools were never the right fit for the job but sufficed. However, the lack of using the right tool often led to its problems, such as having ambiguity over task ownership, lack of flexibility in review processes, and even disjointed communication from a lack of a shared workspace. Does this feel familiar? What you want is one place to track all these workflows, the ability to update these workflows as your business needs change, and the ability to establish clear structure and ownership around these tasks. We have worked to standardize and create a turn-key Stage-Gate application, which involves minimal setup, provides high ROI for your business, and adds stability and discipline around these types of processes.

What is Stage-Gate?

For the uninitiated, Stage-Gate (or Phase-Gate) style processes all follow a similar style or pattern. There is a process, which can be broken down into discrete steps. Each step (or Stage) includes a set of tasks or deliverables to complete, which require some form of collaboration or communication amongst a team. At the end of a Stage, there is often a review cycle or decision point (Gate) to determine either the feasibility of the initiative or the output delivered by the current stage. Once the approver(s) have reviewed the produced materials and reached a determination, they can push the process into the next Stage. This linear, repetitive process is a good candidate for this style of Stage-Gate application.

What is the challenge?

Why change? What does digitally transforming your Stage-Gate process provide? These are questions often asked when considering migrating an existing process into a digital platform. Before addressing this, let's discuss the hurdles of managing these types of processes by hand or with other solutions. Typical pitfalls of managing projects through Outlook, Excel, or similar products include a lack of structure around the process. This makes the process more error-prone and can include missing required documentation, approval steps, or deadlines. Processes tracked with these types of products often lack any auditability in a regulated environment. In addition, as workloads grow, prioritizing the right tasks, whether that be processes with tighter deadlines or priority projects, becomes even more important. These existing products rarely support reporting needs or the ability to gain insights into how the process is operating.

What can 'Stage and Gate' do for you?

We aim to help solve these challenges by adding structure around these processes. The ‘Stage and Gate’ application isn't created for one specific use case - it is easily configured to solve all Stage-Gate problems your organization might encounter. From the backend, it provides users with an easy-to-follow wizard to set up any process and requires zero development effort. Any number of stages can be created with any number of approvers per stage. Each stage can have set SLAs to help inform users when tasks are due and to help workers prioritize the correct work. Actions are automatically audited to help meet compliance and enterprise standards. Users are able to collaborate, have a complete view of their data, and share documents via role-based security. Lastly, since the application is built within Appian, it can be configured to easily integrate with other existing applications. From the front end, users are provided a clean dashboard. They have the ability to see all tasks that need to be completed for their processes as well as seeing any stages that need their review. Users have the ability to start any configured Stage-Gate process and have seen all upcoming due dates in their custom calendar.


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