Artifacts: Key to Dynamic Stage-Gate Success

It is said in the start-up world that you receive funding based on two things: First is promise that includes team and idea, Second is performance, success gaining traction in a market with your solution. This explains the labeling of Start-up early investors as friends, family and fools. In the enterprise world the early stages use executive sponsorship and sales leaders, could we use the same labels!

The need to present and sell on performance starts early in the innovation stages or as I call it Stage Zero as you interview customers about the problem and solution set you are proposing to deliver. Traction that is demonstrated in this early stage fails if it is overly qualitative rather than quantitative. Entrepreneurs make the mistake of falling in love with their solution then bending the data which only serves to create skeptics of investors. Founders bias has killed many potentially great solutions.

How to fight this? Data, quantities of process, result and decision data. Trustworthy data like this is created in real-time allowing the reviewer to walk through each day in the life of your progress. So the question is how to create artifacts that do this without hindering cadence, while delivering value to all for time invested.

I have successfully managed a few Dynamic Stage-Gate teams now and am honing in on a base set of artifacts for the process. Here are some of the ideas that are essential.

Undeniable Truths
Every great process needs a map any time line from which you can all documents off.
Framework style documents work, Frame the ideas, Frame the Hypothesis, Frame the findings
Ends statements – You can’t get there from here is you don’t know where you are and where you are going!
Decisions are derived from data not pulled out of the air so show that, If… Then… next step is….
Documents tell your story better than you then allow a reviewer to embrace it over and over again
Data works when you keep metrics that are important and constant, Sample is critical
Accountability comes from commitment! SIGN HERE!

So what I am working on
1. A time based map to hang other documents and show volume of activity that is easy to see work done
2. An overall canvas of idea, expected action and traction. The Lean canvas Rocks here. Keep every iteration!
3. Interview sheet that after 20 becomes a report from a survey tool capturing all Quantitative and Qualitative data
4. Test concept form, Hypothesis, test methodology and expected results – this does not evolve
5. Test concept Report, What happened? From that do you continue, pivot or kill
6. Overall Traction report against metrics and plan – this is the Board/Advisers one pager
7. The ask, From here based on activity we ask ____ to do ___ by (Date)
8. Commitment statement from Board and Advisers

Good luck and let me know what you would add, remember that the best story is the shortest!

Tim Bates