Feasibility Studies

After the opportunity for a project becomes evident, the next step might be to initiate it, which means you're ready to jump right into creating a project charter for the project. But before you take that plunge, you should know that some organizations will require a feasibility study prior to making a final decision about starting the project.

Feasibility studies are undertaken for several reasons. One is to determine whether the project is a viable project. A second reason is to determine the probability of the project succeeding. Feasibility studies can also examine the viability of the product, service, or result of the project. For example, the study might ask, "Will the new lemon-flavored soda be a hit? Is it marketable?" The study might also look at the technical issues related to the project and determine whether the technology proposed is feasible, reliable, and easily assimilated into the organization's existing technology structure.

Feasibility studies might be conducted as separate projects, as subprojects, or as the first phase of a project. When you don't know the outcome of the study, it's best to treat it as a separate project. The group of people conducting the feasibility study should not be the same people who will work on the project. Project team members might have built-in biases toward the project and will tend to influence the feasibility outcome toward those biases.

Real World Scenario

The Interactive voice Response (IvR) Tax-Filing system

Jason, Sam, and Kate are web programmers working for the Department of Revenue in the State of Bliss. Ron, their manager, approaches them one day with an idea.

"Team, business unit managers are thinking it would be a great idea to offer taxpayers the ability to file their income tax returns over the telephone. We already offer them the ability to file on the Internet, thanks to all your efforts on that project last year. It has been a fabulous success. No other state has had the success that Bliss has had with our Internet system.

"Kate, I know you've had previous experience with IVR technology, but I'm not sure about you guys, so this is new territory for us. I'd like to hear what each of you thinks about this project."

Jason speaks up first. "I think it's a great idea. You know me, I'm always up for learning new things, especially when it comes to programming. When can we start?"

Sam echoes Jason's comments.

"This technology is pretty sophisticated," Kate says. "Jason and Sam are excellent coders and could work on the programming side of things, but I would have to pick up the telephony piece on my own. After we're up and running, we could go over the telephony portions step by step, so Jason and Sam could help me support it going forward. I'd really like to take on this project. It would be good for the team and good for the department."

Ron thinks for a minute. "Let's not jump right into this. I know you're anxious to get started, but I think a feasibility study is in order. The senior director of the tax business unit doesn't know whether this project is cost justified and has some concerns about its life span. A feasibility study will tell us the answers to those questions. It should also help us determine whether we're using the right technology to accomplish our goals, and it will outline alternative ways of performing the project that we haven't considered. I don't want Kate going it alone without first examining all the issues and potential impacts to the organization."

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