Project Feasibility: What Should You Assess?

A feasibility study is a report that documents decisions concluding in a choice of one from two or more alternatives. It establishes possibilities, evaluates economics, and forces reflections on the perceptions of a decision...In the feasibility study, the problem is described, and one or more potential solutions to the problem are considered in some depth. Decisions about what steps to take to effect a solution are based upon the results of the feasibility study – Dr. Patrick Logan.

Let's imagine you're trying to decide which University to attend for your doctorate degree. You've identified 10 universities that offer the program you're interested in but are unable to make a decision on which option to go for.

A feasibility study can be done to answer 2 main questions:

  1. Can the degree (along with all the lifestyle changes that come with it) be completed successfully?
  2. Which university options are preferable to others?

It's often advised that projects be preceded by feasibility studies to reduce surprises down the line and limit the chances of project failure. As part of enterprise analysis, the business need is defined, after which the analyst proceeds to identify the solution alternatives that are capable of fulfilling the business need. Imagine a captain that's trying to decide on the best course to sail to get to his destination, the feasibility study can be likened to a map which displays the routes (options), landmarks (milestones), signs (risks/rewards) that help the business decide on which course to follow.

Assessing a project for feasibility can involve any or all of the following:

  • Passing the word to affected stakeholders and gauging their response
  • Conducting an informal working session with a team of experts to analyze project feasibility
  • Launching a full-blown feasibility study, complemented with reliable data and market research, to determine the most viable solution approach.

While some project ideas are based on clear and justifiable business reasons, some are based on management's whims. Where the latter is the case, an initial discussion with other key stakeholders can help get an initial “feel” or insight into the general attitude towards the proposed project. Do stakeholders seem motivated, excited or uncertain? This insight will help to anticipate the challenges you are likely to face and decide on how to prevent or address them, should they occur.

Getting a feel for stakeholders' interest in the project is only one angle to assessing feasibility. Project feasibility can be examined from multiple perspectives as shown on the diagram below:

Your perception of feasibility is not static but prone to change. This is because as the project progresses, new information becomes available and understanding increases – these situations can alter perceptions of how feasible the project is. Analysts should therefore keep a pulse on feasibility throughout the course of the project to increase the chances of success.

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