A Feasibility Study tells you whether it’s even possible to achieve the objective of a potential project, and can also point to the solution with the best chance of success.
This post explores when you need a Feasibility Study, the process for doing one, and strategic and project management impacts. It also asks what IA (ChatGPT) thinks about the topic.
When Do You Need a Feasibility Study?
For every project, early in thinking about whether to go forward or not, you need to think about feasibility. I some cases, it may be a simple answer: “Yes, of course, this is feasible.” In other cases, the project may be so necessary that you simply need to climb whatever mountain or obstacle you encounter.
Usually the idea of considering feasibility shows itself during the process of building a business case for the project. While thinking through what justifies the project, you need to ask if the project is even feasible. You may also ask which option for the project is most feasible.
Often you can do a simple feasibility study as part of evaluating options right in the business case analysis. However, more complex projects with more complex options will require a more in depth analysis of the feasibility – a full-blown feasibility study.
The link at left shows a Flevy Feasibility Study template with a 10-year financial model xls and supplemental pdf (paid link).
This post strips out the business case portion – covered in our post about writing a business case – and focuses entirely on doing a feasibility study.
Feasibility Study Process – Elements of a Feasibility Study
Developing a feasibility study is a process, as indicated by the diagram above. Here’s a brief overview of the elements of a feasibility study process:
- Identify Expected Result – Based on the strategy drivers behind the project, describe in detail what result you expect. Describe it in terms where you can identify measurable outcomes.
- Establish Scoring Criteria – Based upon the expected result and measurable outcomes, derive some specific metrics. These should be numbers that you can easily measure objectively.
- Identify and Describe the Solution – First identify multiple solution approaches. Then, for each refine the solution and describe it. Ideally you will have maybe 2-4 possible solutions to investigate for feasibility.
- Rate the Solution – For each solution, rate it according to the scoring criteria you have determined. This is where a significant portion of the analysis will occur. Weight criteria according to importance and priority.
- Choose a Solution or Move On – The result of the analysis should point to the best solution. In some cases, it may even indicate that none of the solutions are sufficiently feasible. Choose a solution if acceptable – or reject the project.
Let’s now investigate each of these steps in the feasibility analysis process in more detail.
Elements of a Feasibility Study – Identify Expected Result
Before attempting to identify an expected result, you need to be clear about the problem or opportunity at hand. This should be covered thoroughly in a business case analysis so I will not cover it here.
A structured requirements statement can bring you closer to identifying your target expected results. The requirements statement can be organized around strategic business drivers for the project. Business drivers may include:
- A business objective that must be achieved within a specific timeframe.
- Timing around regulatory changes that are coming into effect or trending.
- A temporary competitive advantage that has a limited timeframe.
- Trends in the marketplace that require decisive action to gain an advantageous market position.
- Actions needed to move on a disruptive opportunity.
Whatever those business drivers are, they will each have a related detailed business requirement. It is best to map your business drivers to individual requirements hat support those business drivers.
With a mapping between your business drivers and business requirements, you are now in a good position to establish feasibility scoring criteria.
Elements of a Feasibility Study – Establish Scoring Criteria
With a clear picture of the expected result of the project, the next step is to identify or create metrics to measure success. These metrics will take two forms:
- Progress Metrics – These can be milestones and other indicators to show how you are doing at different phases of the project. The idea is not so much to grade the project based on progression toward completion, but to clearly show how it is progressing toward realization of the strategic goals and objectives.
- Final Metrics – This relates solely to the product of the project. Does the “final product” meet the original objectives?
It is not all black and white based on numerical scoring! Scoring criteria will also include other metrics related to feasibility. These include:
- Risks – This is a study unto itself – with risks identified and classified as to likelihood and impact. Most important are mitigating actions.
- Issues – Similar to risks, issues are conditions or events which have the potential to prevent achievement of project objectives. They are typically ranked based upon priority, and ability to identify and execute actions to resolve.
- Assumptions – These often relate back to the risks and issues. You can assume you will not have a particular risk or issue, and the anticipated results could look great. However, it may be risky to make the assumption.
Risks, issues, and assumptions themselves can eliminate an option as being “not feasible”.
Let’s move from setting up the scoring criteria to identifying and describing solutions.
Elements of a Feasibility Study – Identify & Describe Solution
There will hopefully be several solutions to consider. The key at this point is to clearly lay out at least 2 or 3 potential options for approaching the problem or opportunity.
Each option must be described in sufficient detail to allow reasonable scoring based on the scoring criteria. However, for one or more options, there may be still some uncertainty. In those cases, you may need to gather more information and devise some low cost and low risk experiments such as:
- Create a Prototype – This can help to clarify or even resolve risks and issues. It can “prove” that an option is viable – or not.
- Survey the Staff – Internal staff are familiar with the internal workings of the organization and can provide realistic input on issues involving change, especially to business processes.
- Survey Customers – This is a way of assessing the market about new products and services. It can reduce the risk, provide input to tweak the solution, or help eliminate an option entirely because it is not feasible.
The whole point of this step in the process is to end up with several potential options with enough detail that you can compare, contract, and score them.
Elements of a Feasibility Study – Score Solution
Scoring each possible solution allows you to objectively compare. You need to ensure the criteria are objective by getting sufficient input from a cross-section of stakeholders to weight the scores.
Based upon your scoring criteria, you score each option on each of the criteria. Then adjust the score based upon a weighting of that score.
Based on the 80:20 rule, you will likely identify 2 or 3 criteria that hold most of the weight. For example, if you have 10 criteria, 2 or 3 will probably be most important. So, if you set up a weighting scale for these 10 criteria, the best approach is to limit yourself to, let’s say, a total of 100 points. The top 2 or 3 criteria might use up 50 or more of those points, with the rest distributed among the rest of the criteria.
For comparison purposes, lining up all options in a chart based on the criteria, scores, and weightings will provide a nice summary format for review and discussion.
The discussion will also consider the risks, issues, and assumptions.
Elements of a Feasibility Study – Choose Solution or Move On
Now, with all of this information in hand, the team should be in a position to weigh the options. It’s decision time.
In the process of reviewing the data, the team may even make some adjustments to weightings, and even ratings.
Most importantly, the discussion will include the weighing of risks, issues, and assumptions. This requires judgment and careful consideration of factors that can make one solution more feasible than another.
It can also remove one or more of the options from consideration as “not feasible”.
Feasibility Analysis and Strategy
Strategy is sometimes criticized for lacking implementation savvy.
While implementation is certainly “where the rubber meets the road”, many projects fail. One way to improve that is to ensure that the project is feasible.
Before a strategy is accepted and implemented, it should be determined that it is feasible.
See the Feasibility Study template at right (paid link) with a 10-year financial model xls.
Feasibility Analysis and Project Management
Once a project has been selected for implementation, it still carries risk. It is most important that project managers understand the risks, issues, and assumptions that helped decision makers determine that the project is feasible.
The project manager will likely need to put some mitigating controls in place to manage risks and issues – especially those of the greatest probability and impact.
These PM templates include a great Feasibility Study template (paid link):
Finally, the scoring criteria are also important as an input for managing the project. They can provide some metrics to be monitored throughout the project to help assess progress toward milestones and eventual success in delivering on project objectives.
All aspects of Feasibility Studies and much more are available within the Method 123 Project Management Templates (paid link).
Artificial Intelligence and Feasibility Analysis
What does AI have to say about feasibility studies?
I asked ChatGPT:
“What are the Elements of a Feasibility Study?”
Here was the reply:
“A feasibility study is an evaluation of the practicality and potential success of a proposed project, business, or product. The elements of a feasibility study typically include the following:
- Project Description: This section should provide a detailed overview of the project, its objectives, and its expected outcomes.
- Market Analysis: A feasibility study should include an analysis of the target market, including its size, growth potential, and competition. The analysis should also include a description of the current market trends, customer needs, and preferences.
- Technical Analysis: This section should evaluate the technical feasibility of the project, including the availability of resources, technology, and infrastructure required for the project.
- Financial Analysis: A feasibility study should include a financial analysis of the project, including the estimated costs and potential revenue streams. The analysis should also evaluate the return on investment (ROI) and the payback period.
- Risk Analysis: This section should identify and evaluate the potential risks associated with the project, including financial, technical, legal, and operational risks. The analysis should also provide recommendations for mitigating these risks.
- Legal and Regulatory Analysis: A feasibility study should include an analysis of the legal and regulatory requirements for the project, including permits, licenses, and other legal obligations.
- Organizational Analysis: This section should evaluate the organizational structure and resources required for the project, including the roles and responsibilities of team members, the project timeline, and the project management approach.
Overall, a feasibility study is a comprehensive assessment of the viability of a proposed project, and should provide a clear understanding of the risks, costs, and potential benefits associated with the project.”
This is a pretty good answer – clear, concise, short, and covering all bases. I can’t think of anything it is really missing, except for some depth in some areas, such as risks, issues, and scoring criteria. But I did ask what it is – not how to do one.
Conclusion and Further Resources
This post explored what a Feasibility Study is, and when you need one. Then it dug deeper into the process for doing one, and the strategic and project management impacts. Finally, it also asked what IA (ChatGPT) thinks about the topic.
What other best practices for Feasibility Studies can you suggest?
Here are a few more resources for you:
For a concise 5-min overview video about performing a Feasibility Study, see this video by Jennifer Bridges for projectmanager.com at