In a gated process, a project is broken down into smaller stages or phases, each delimited by a gate. At each of these gates, the project decision-makers meet to review the project and decide, based on specific criteria and the information available at the time, whether to continue, stop, hold, recycle or modify it.
A classic three-phase project would include (1) Specification discovery, (2) Development / prototyping, and (3) Testing / validation. To each of these gates corresponds one or several deliverables.
Gated process are often used in new product development (NPD) projects where they provide structure and allow early termination of low value projects.
see also: stage-gate®, new product development related articles: planisware enterprise demo: combining agile and stage-gate for new product development