The next step in the process is to do a first cut or preliminary screen. The screen consists of six Numbered Questions each with a list of “for consideration” questions to guide thinking. Instead of actually answering the Numbered Questions in detail, the only thing the small groups doing the evaluation needs to consider is “how weak or strong the ideas are” from the perspective of each of the “Numbered Questions” based on the underlying “for consideration” questions. Points based on a 1 to 10 scale are used for each of the six Numbered Questions, answered by small groups. No points are assigned to a question if the idea is so weak that the company should forget it, or 10 points of that aspect of the idea looks outstanding. The maximum 60 possible points indicates an opportunity with an exceptionally high, almost certain potential for success, however most scores run in the middle of the range. As in the first part of the process, several small groups of 3 to 5 people produce the best results.

The six Numbered Questions are:

Is It Really An Opportunity?
Why does the business opportunity exist?
What products or services will the company make and sell?
Who will use them?
Does the company have access to the potential customers?
How will a customer use the product or service?
Is it a real need?
What are the potential customers doing now?
Is our offering significantly better?
Is there an opportunity for expansion and growth?

Does The Opportunity Fit You Personally?
Do you believe in the concept?
Does the need it fills mean anything to you?
Is the idea begun to take over your imagination time?
Do you have, or have access to, the necessary technical expertise?
Are you a champion for this opportunity?
Who else believes in it?

Does The Opportunity Fit The Company?
What does the company bring to this opportunity?
Will the company be a credible supplier of this product in the eyes of potential customers?
Is it fit to company culture?
Does it match the company’s investment goals?
Can be profitable?
Who could spoil the opportunity?
How can we minimize those risks?
Is it a threat to competitors?
What would they probably do?
Were within the company might it fit strategically?
How does the opportunity fit with the strategy of the local Business Unit?

Do We Have The Right People?
Who are the people that can make this happen?
Does the company have relevant expertise and knowledge of this industry?
Do we have in-depth experience relevant to this opportunity?
If we don’t have experience, what linkages might we need to develop?
Would that be feasible?

What Resources Are Needed?
What would it take to develop a sample or prototype and test it with potential customers?
What will we have to invest to take the opportunity through the Gate process?
If we decide to pursue it, would development be expensive?
Would there be opportunities to save on development costs?
Will the company’s global network and resources give any advantage?
How soon could the company have positive cash flow?
We find this is not for the company, can we sell the technology or business to recover some of our costs?

Preliminary Plans
Who will take this to Gate One?
What other expertise is needed on the team?
What support will they need?
How will we enter the market?
Is the timing favorable?

Preliminary Screen Scoring

From each of the team deliberations, the project scores for questions 1 to 6 are added up. Each breakout group produces a listing of ideas rank ordered by total score. The data can be collected in an Excel spreadsheet as shown in the “Preliminary Screen Scoring” figure. Another way to look at the overall strengths and weaknesses of the ideas is to plot them using a star or spider diagram. The data presented in this way allows a company can see if its ideas are generally stronger weak in one or the other of the Preliminary Screening areas.

Having rank ordered the ideas in the first cut of this process; the top ideas are now given a closer look by looking at internal and external issues. In the second and third cuts of this process the focus shifts to some of the issues that will shape the ideas’ chances for success in the gate process. Although by definition, a team would not have all the answers at this stage, it’s still useful to ask these questions now. In the second and third screens the questions of the first cut are used, but the scoring system changes. A plus +2 score is given for a positive; an advantage, or a strong yes. The premise is that this aspect of the project is well understood; the company has a good handle on it. A plus +1 score is given for maybe; more information is needed. It’s a much weaker yes. A Zero score is given for a flaw; the project is too fuzzy to carry forward. It’s a “no” answer.

Again small teams of 3 to 5 people work collaboratively. It’s important for the groups to have cross functional membership as mentioned before. The second and third cut evaluations tend to take more time than the quick reaction answers to Question Zero or the First Cut. Breakout teams spend 20 to 45 minutes on each idea. Occasionally they may want to check a fact, consult the literature, or call an internal or external contact to get their perspective. Even though the answers are qualitative, they can distinguish highly promising ideas from those which are obviously flawed.