Would you personally risk a million dollars on the chance that something might succeed without at first researching its likelihood of success?
Of course not.
Yet in a business context, it’s all too common to launch new projects and initiatives with little research into their feasibility.
Common sense dictates that your project must be feasible or else you’re not going to successfully complete it. Right? That’s our starting point, always, as project leaders. But knowing the viability of a project upfront is easier said than done.
A Feasibility Study in Project Management
A Feasibility Study will help you identify critical goals and aspects of the project you might overlook if you plunge into the project without assessing its viability and potential impacts to the bottom line, in addition to helping you identify a range of different alternatives solutions to potential problems in advance. Therefore, it can also be a crucial tool to help a team decide on which solution is most feasible to implement.
While not every project is worthy of spending a lot of time and money hiring a firm to conduct a heavily researched feasibility study, it’s worthwhile knowing that you can conduct your own and it’s not that hard.
1. Research the Business Drivers
Business is always going to drive your project because your project is an outgrowth of some kind of business venture. You need to identify them and have a strong understanding of what they are.
Strategic alignment is a core issues for project teams. While in a larger organization, this might be the purview of the PMO, in others the core business drivers might only be mentioned annually. If you don’t know what the core driver of your business is, ask. Interview your CEO or project sponsor to get clarity. Research critical competitor information to develop key business intelligence that will be crucial to your project’s success. Is your project impacted by markets or other external factors? Research that too.
You should be the expert in what will positively and negatively impact your business and the role your project will play in that.
Pro Tip: Remember, you’ll need to calculate the impact on the business if your solution doesn’t work. This is not the time or place for marketing pitches.
2. Confirm the Alternative Solutions
Once you’ve determined the key business drivers (and what to do if you can’t) now you have to work on Plan B. There’s always an Plan B. Without alternatives you’re too invested in one solution and that reduces your ability to complete the project on time, on budget and successfully.
Let’s take the example of developing new software internal to your organization, a critical upgrade to keep the core business profitable. What would you do if you’re working with antiquated IT systems? Maybe your alternative solution could be redeveloping the existing system or replacing it and you could even merge it with a better, newer system.
The Feasibility Study lives and dies on your understanding of the alternative solutions to the business problem. You need to do this due diligence in order to have a Feasibility Study that’s, well, feasible.
3. Determine the Feasibility
Once you have some alternatives mapped out then next step is to identify the feasibility of each of those solutions. That starts with the question, “Can this be delivered on time and under budget?”
The answer to that question is built on a number of different methods that assess the feasibility of each of the named solutions. For example, use these methodologies to help you figure out what the feasibility of your solutions is:
Research: Look online or through whatever means of research is available to you, and see how other companies have implemented the same solution and how it turned out.
Prototyping: Find the solution with the most risk factor and then from that build a sample and see the feasibility of creating a position resolution from that.
Time-boxing: Using your project plan, complete some of the outlined tasks therein, and see what the real-time duration is against what was estimated to determine your plan’s accuracy.
4. Choose a Preferred Solution
After having run through the feasibility of each alternative solution, you now have the data needed to select the preferred solution for your project. Simply put, choose the solution that is most feasible to implement. That is the one with the lowest risk factor and which gives you the greatest confidence of its success.
You now have a solution to the known business problem, one that you have the background work on to have a high degree of its success in delivering the solution to your problem, on time and under budget.
5. Reassess Feasibility
You’re not done yet! You’ll have to finally take that chosen solution and reassess its feasibility at a lower level. You do this by listing all the tasks that are needed to complete the solution. Run those tasks by your team, find out from them how long they think it will take to finish them. Add the tasks and time frames to your project plan and determine whether they can be meet within the assigned deadline.
Next, ask your team to identify the highest risk tasks and have them look deeper into them to make sure that they’re achievable within your timeframe and resources. Apply the same techniques you used in Step 3, which provide you with their practicality and the needed confidence. Once done, document the results in your Feasibility Study report.
Remember, degrees of risk are not deal breakers. For tips on how to plan and manage high risk projects, watch this video with project management expert and trainer, Devin Deen:
Once these five steps have been completed, have your manager approve it so that the entire project team shares your high degree of confidence that the project can and will be delivered successfully.
The Feasibility Study is but one more tool in your toolbox as a project manager. You know, that the right tool for the right job is half the battle, which is why you’ll want to take our 30-day free trial offer for ProjectManager.com, a powerful, collaborative software solution to managing your projects more successful.