To ensure your project will work out and deliver what you want and expect, it is essential to carry out a feasibility study at an early point in the process. There are many types of feasibility study but in this context it refers to whether a project can be developed to meet your objectives given its context and the resources available.
The main activities of the feasibility process are research which should focus on answering the following questions for the project:
- Is the project desirable? (from all stakeholders points of view)
- Can the project be accomplished? (from a legal point of view and with the time and resources available)
- Is the project viable? (will it cover its costs and make a surplus over a defined period)
A feasibility study is not a business plan. Instead a feasibility process answers the question "Is this a viable business venture?" from a number of financial, operational and technical perspectives and provides a plan that outlines the actions needed to take the proposal from 'idea' to 'reality.'
The feasibility study may narrow the scope of any project to identify and define two or three scenarios or alternatives from which the "best" alternative can be chosen. This becomes the basis of the business plan. By contrast the business plan deals with only one model.
It is important to remember that a feasibility process is just that - to see if a project is feasible - and it may not be. Legal constraints, technical difficulties, high capital costs, limited revenue generating possibilities and lack of energy and commitment by project champions may all provide insuperable barriers. Careful consideration will need to be given to the risks and liabilities and the time and energy that may be needed to make things happen: the bureaucracy that will have to be waded through to do so should not be underestimated. The important thing is not to pursue hopeless causes and try to balance being optimistic with being realistic and prudent throughout the process.
At this stage of a project, resources may be needed to appoint professional advisors to facilitate stake holder involvement in the project. Alternatively, this stage may be delivered by volunteers working with professional advisors or other local organisations that are deferring fee payments or providing services at no cost to the project.
Whichever way the project feasibility process is devised and implemented, the process will enable significant opportunities to engage with stakeholders in its development.