What are you setting out to deliver?
A regular challenge for project teams is how you (and they) should approach solving a business problem. Your organisation’s leadership will want an idea of how complex a solution is before committing any funding and a team will be asked to deliver this high-level view at speed and low cost. This is usually known as project feasibility.
This aspect of project management requires being able to quickly understand what the time, cost and solution for a problem might look like, whilst also presenting the range of risks and issues that might impact it. All these factors must be understood in enough detail to provide a meaningful plan – if there are large unknown areas, it can be difficult for leadership to agree it is the right course of action.
What should a project feasibility study contain?
There are lots of ways that a project feasibility study can be presented and your organisation may well have a template document(s) that should be completed. Regardless, a good feasibility study will invariably contain the following information:
- Executive summary: summary describing the business problem, the business benefits of fixing that problem, the recommendations, the plan, and the cost profile. Always assume this is the only part of the document your senior stakeholders will read!
- Marketplace analysis: consideration of what competitors are doing and how other industries are tackling this problem
- Solution review: review of the business, process and technology solutions available
- Communications strategy: including the number of people impacted by the proposal and how, e.g. change in role, business process or systems people use etc.
- Project plan: will vary in detail depending on the length of time you have spent on this study, including all key milestones alongside commentary
- Project resource: the resources needed to deliver your project milestones
- Budget forecast: cost forecast of your recommendations (or recommended options)
- Findings and recommendations: summary of key themes and outcomes of your study including clear recommendations on solution, communication, project plan and budget
Depending on your project, you may also need to consider other areas such as legal or regulatory requirements.
How should you go about this?
The key to any feasibility study is understanding the areas that your project might impact. One option of approaching this would be to schedule a range of workshops to examine the different areas of your project, with a clear agenda and expected outcomes. Consider your stakeholders’ availability and also having owners per workshop to share responsibility and continue to gain buy-in.
For certain organisations or projects, project incubation may be more appropriate. Project incubation is all about working collaboratively, testing ideas and solutions, failing fast and learning quickly. Project teams are set up with dedicated resources (both technical and business) to explore delivery options and develop potential solutions and prototypes. Being given the opportunity to explore problems in this way allows project teams to understand issues in more detail and save time in the longer term.
Your study should also be enriched by research. Read any available documentation about impacted business areas, systems, and organisational structure, and give yourself the best chance of uncovering potential challenges. Where appropriate, also look at external sources. Consider how other organisations have tackled similar problems or if there is any advice available from trusted organisations, consultancies, or government bodies (particularly relevant for regulatory projects). By doing research around your project you are giving yourself a better opportunity to plan in more detail and with more accuracy.
With any initiative, there is also the opportunity to learn from past experience. Engage your network to learn what worked well (and did not!) when delivering similar initiatives. Additionally, take the time to review your organisation’s lessons learned and see where previous projects have faced challenges and what they did to overcome them.
What is your ‘plan for a plan’?
Throughout any scoping exercise, it’s rare you will have the time to explore every aspect of a project. Instead, your challenge is to quickly identify the major hurdles and understand them in more detail compared with other areas you feel will be more straightforward. When presenting back to your leadership, be clear about which areas that have been subject to a deeper analysis and which have gone through a shallower review.
You can foster a better relationship with your leadership when you are transparent about what is known and unknown during the early stages of a project compared to committing to a timeline that has the potential to change significantly. Instead, present a shorter plan highlighting the areas you are more confident in, and be clear about when you will be able to commit to a more detailed timeline.
Get in touch to find out more about how r10’s Project Delivery team can help organisations quickly shape projects.
Written by Hasib Dewan, r10’s Senior Manager and Project Management Lead