Feasibility studies

The aims of a feasibility study are to find out whether the system is worth implementing and if it can be implemented, given the existing budget and schedule. The input to the feasibility study is a set of preliminary business requirements, an outline description of the system and how the system is intended to support business processes. The results of the feasibility study should be a report that recommends whether or not it is worth carrying on with the requirements engineering and system development process.

If a system does not support the business objectives, it has no real value to the business. While this may seem obvious, many organisations develop systems which do not contribute to their objectives either because they don’t have a clear statement of these objectives, because they fail to define the business requirements for the system or because other political or organisation factors influence the system procurement.

Carrying out a feasibility study involves information assessment, information collection and report writing. The information assessment phase identifies the information that is required to answer the three questions set out above. Once the information has been identified, you should question information sources to discover the answers to these questions. Some examples of possible questions that might ask:

  1. How would the organisation cope if this system was not implemented?
  2. What are the problems with current processes and how would a new system help alleviate these problems?
  3. What direct contribution will the system make to the business objectives and requirements?
  4. Can information be transferred to and from other organisational systems?
  5. Does the system require technology that has not previously been used in the organisation?
  6. What must be supported by the system and what need not be supported?

Information sources may be the managers of departments where the system will be used, software engineers who are familiar with the type of system that is proposed, technology experts, end-users of the system, etc. Normally, you should try and complete a feasibility study in two or three weeks.

When the information is available, you then write the feasibility study report. You should make a recommendation about whether or not the system development should continue. In the report, you may propose changes to the scope, budget and schedule of the system and suggest further high-level requirements for the system.

(c) Ian Sommerville 2008