Studies into the common causes of failure of infrastructure projects found that some of the key factors contributing to poor outcomes include:
Lack of clear link between the project and key strategic priorities and measures success
Lack of focus on breaking development and implementation into manageable steps
Poor governance around project selection, scope, and procurement method
Projects inadequately developed or reviewed, without a robust business case approval process
Lack of project capability, especially at portfolio level
Lack of stringent and standardised oversight and governance necessary for complex projects
Lack of strategic decision-making and lack of support during major project initiation
Inadequately defined benefits and lack of priority given by project teams to ensure their realisation in favour of other issues such as delivery timeliness and cost.
Policy key features
The Gateway Review Process, developed by the United Kingdom Office of Government Commerce (OGC) (a Treasury office) in the early 2000s, is a process now used by several jurisdictions around the world that aims to give greater scrutiny and oversight to major projects throughout their lifecycle.
The Gateway Review Process achieves this by mandating a series of reviews by a panel of independent experts at prescribed stages of the project lifecycle. The panel verifies the clarity of objectives and success criteria for the project, identifies and rectifies any issues or flaws in project development to date, ensures thorough planning has been carried out, and ensures that a project is likely to achieve its stated benefits and objectives.
Exact criteria for determining whether a project is required to pass through the gateway review process varies by jurisdiction. The review process is typically required for projects exceeding a prescribed risk threshold, determined by a combination of their upfront expenditure, lifetime cost, their degree of special interest to the government, and their risk.
The specific timing and contents of each gateway review vary by jurisdiction but are generally based on the original process developed by OGC, which consists of the following six gateway reviews:
Strategic Assessment – this step applies only to programs to review its objectives and contribution to the overall organisational strategy and objectives
Business Justification – held following completion of the strategic business case to confirm that it is robust, and that the project meets the business’ needs, is achievable, and is likely to achieve value-for-money.
Delivery Strategy – investigates the assumptions within the outline business case and investigates the proposed approach within the delivery strategy to ensure their suitability.
Investment Decision – investigates the full business case and governance arrangements for the investment decision to confirm they are robust, and that the project is still required, is achievable, and will deliver value-for-money.
Readiness for Service – investigates the organisation’s readiness to transition from planning to implementation and investigates the capabilities of delivery partners and service providers.
Operations Review and Benefits Realisation – investigates whether the benefits set out in the business case are being achieved and that operations are running smoothly.
Additional assurance activity may happen outside of these six gateway reviews. For example, the UK Government carries out Assurance of Action Plans following formal gateway reviews to ensure recommendations are being effectively implemented and has recently introduced a ‘Response to Red’ protocol to ensure a timely response to ‘red’ projects.
Many government treasuries make the provision of project funding for subsequent stages, and thereby progression of a project’s development, contingent on evidence that the gateway review process has been properly carried out for all previous stages and recommendations implemented.
Gateway reviews generally consist of:
A panel of independent experts, supported by training and materials delivered by a government infrastructure, treasury, or finance body who oversees the gateway review process
An assessment by the independent panel of the overall likelihood of success for the project based on the findings of their review.
Recommendations of required actions to address any issues identified in the review, with clear priority levels and responsible persons assigned to each recommendation.
Completing the gateway review process does not guarantee project success. Some projects subjected to the full series of reviews may still be delivered late or over budget or may fail to realise the intended benefits, especially if government agencies do not fully implement review recommendations in a timely manner.
Standardised, independent scrutiny of project development ensures that projects are more likely to deliver value by catching and rectifying flaws in the development process early.
Widespread use of gateway review processes in jurisdictions has led to higher-quality project development. Over the five years following implementation of a gateway review process, the proportion of projects in Australia assessed as having significant issues that must be addressed before project development may proceed was reduced from approximately one-in-five, to virtually zero.
Governments who have implemented a gateway review process have yielded sustained benefits including:
Avoiding costs resulting from delays from poor planning
Selecting the most suitable delivery approach on a more consistent basis
Identifying environmental and social impacts earlier in a project’s development
Clearer definition of roles and responsibilities between and within organisations.