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What is a Feasibility Study? Why are they Beneficial?

‘Change is the only constant in life.’ Just as these famous words by Heraclitus are true for everyday life, they’re also true for organizations. Every organization is faced with change, big or small. It may be a relocation, expansion, rebranding, or internal restructuring. That being said, change can be intimidating and it’s important to approach such decisions with as much knowledge, insight, and preparation as possible to ensure a successful outcome. Performing your due diligence not only provides you with a preview of what’s to come, but also a comfort in knowing you’ve adequately evaluated the options, identified the potential challenges, and gained an understanding of the perceived likely impacts of the action. One way of performing this due diligence is by conducting a feasibility study.

A feasibility study is an assessment tool that determines if a proposed action is feasible before implementation and helps to determine if the action is viable. The study closely reviews and evaluates all factors essential to the organization’s success to effectively gauge the likelihood of the action’s benefits. These factors may include an organization’s position in the marketplace, strengths and weaknesses, financial situation, competitors, customers, and relevant industry trends.

Conducted prior to any action being taken, a feasibility study is often performed by management or an external consultant. It’s important that whoever conducts the study has access to the organization’s relevant information and extensive knowledge and expertise in the area being studied.

There are many types of feasibility studies, and they can be as broad or specific as necessary for an organization to find them beneficial. In the world of Project Management, there are five primary types of feasibility studies:

  1. Technical Feasibility: Evaluates an organization’s available technical resources, ensures they’re accessible, determines whether they satisfy the organization’s needs, and assesses the technical team’s ability to manipulate the resources to best serve the project.

  2. Economic Feasibility: Analyzes the costs and benefits of a strategic decision or change. Delivers an understanding of economic benefits, project expenses, and potential unforeseen financial challenges.

  3. Legal Feasibility: Confirms that the proposed action complies with all codes, rules, and legal requirements.

  4. Operational Feasibility: Identifies whether and how well the plan coordinates with the organization’s existing backdrop, and how those impacted will engage with it.

  5. Scheduling Feasibility: Estimates how much time is required of a team to complete the proposed change.

More often than not, a single study will encompass multiple ‘types’ of feasibility studies to serve its purpose most effectively. For example, a Real Estate Feasibility Study evaluates a project’s viability specifically as it relates to a specific location and market. This would qualify as an Economic Feasibility Study, as it studies factors pertaining to property values, tax implications/incentives, and potential profits.; a Legal Feasibility Study, as it evaluates regulations and codes based in a geographic area such as zoning laws; an Operational Feasibility Study, as it examines a need in a community or market, property availability, and market trends; and a Scheduling Feasibility Study, as it identifies internal and exterior timeframe constraints, which may include project logistics, environmental factors, and available resources.

The benefits of a feasibility study can be wide-ranging, depending on the type of information that is gathered. Generally, the information provided can be evident in the following benefits:

  • Creating a plan and budget that is realistic and informed by hard data found in the study

  • Verifying that a specific action will bring desired results

  • Understanding challenges that may arise and how to adapt the plan to minimize disruption

  • Showing that the goals can be achieved more easily, more quickly, or more economically

If an organization is anticipating a change in the short- or long-term future, a feasibility study can help steer decisions toward success. Together with a customized plan and an experienced team member, the study will provide certainty and knowledge to the organization, allowing the organization to move forward with confidence.

A real-life example of a feasibility study conducted by the SHYFT team is the Mulberry Corridor Feasibility Study. Central Iowa Shelter Services approached SHYFT to lead their strategic real estate planning and feasibility study to explore the future development of the area surrounding the shelter. The goal of the study was to envision future projects and tackle a comprehensive look at the continued issue of homelessness. Through stakeholder interviews and input from surrounding businesses and patrons, our team discovered a need for more connected community spaces that showcase art and culture, support wellness, and invest in social accountability.

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