What is a ‘Feasibility Study’
A feasibility study is an analysis of the ability to complete a project successfully, taking into account legal, economic, technological, scheduling and other factors. Rather than just diving into a project and hoping for the best, a feasibility study allows project managers to investigate the possible negative and positive outcomes of a project before investing too much time and money.
The feasibility study focuses on helping answer the essential question of “should we proceed with the proposed project idea?” All activities of the study are directed toward helping answer this question.
Feasibility studies can be used in many ways but primarily focus on proposed business ventures. Farmers and others with a business idea should conduct a feasibility study to determine the viability of their idea before proceeding with the development of a business. Determining early that a business idea will not work saves time, money and heartache later.
A feasible business venture is one where the business will generate adequate cash-flow and profits, withstand the risks it will encounter, remain viable in the long-term and meet the goals of the founders. The venture can be either a start-up business, the purchase of an existing business, an expansion of current business operations or a new enterprise for an existing business. Information File C5-66, Feasibility Study Outline is provided to give you guidance on how to proceed with the study and what to include. Also, Information File C5-64, How to Use and When to Do a Feasibility Study will help you through the process and help you get the most out of your study.
A feasibility study is only one step in the business idea assessment and business development process (Information File C5-02). Reviewing this process and reading the information below will help put the role of the feasibility study in perspective.
A feasibility study is usually conducted after producers have discussed a series of business ideas or scenarios. The feasibility study helps to “frame” and “flesh-out” specific business scenarios so they can be studied in-depth. During this process the number of business alternatives under consideration is usually quickly reduced.
During the feasibility process you may investigate a variety of ways of organizing the business and positioning your product in the marketplace. It is like an exploratory journey and you may take several paths before you reach your destination. Just because the initial analysis is negative does not mean that the proposal does not have merit. Sometimes limitations or flaws in the proposal can be corrected.
A pre-feasibility study may be conducted first to help sort out relevant scenarios. Before proceeding with a full-blown feasibility study, you may want to do some pre-feasibility analysis of your own. If you find out early-on that the proposed business idea is not feasible, it will save you time and money. If the findings lead you to proceed with the feasibility study, your work may have resolved some basic issues. A consultant may help you with the pre-feasibility study, but you should be involved. This is an opportunity for you to understand the issues of business development.
Also, a market assessment (Information File C5-30) may be conducted that will help determine the viability of a proposed product in the marketplace. The market assessment will help to identify opportunities in a market or market segment. If no opportunities are found, there may be no reason to proceed with a feasibility study. If opportunities are found, the market assessment can give focus and direction to the construction of business scenarios to investigate in the feasibility study. A market assessment will provide much of the information for the marketing feasibility section of the feasibility study.
Results and Conclusions
The conclusions of the feasibility study should outline in depth the various scenarios examined and the implications, strengths and weaknesses of each. The project leaders need to study the feasibility study and challenge its underlying assumptions. This is the time to be skeptical.
Don’t expect one alternative to “jump off the page” as being the best scenario. Feasibility studies do not suddenly become positive or negative. As you accumulate information and investigate alternatives, neither a positive nor negative outcome may emerge. The decision of whether to proceed is often not clear cut. Major stumbling blocks may emerge that negate the project. Sometimes these weaknesses can be overcome. Rarely does the analysis come out overwhelmingly positive. The study will help you assess the tradeoff between the risks and rewards of moving forward with the business project.
Remember, it is not the purpose of the feasibility study or the role of the consultant to decide whether or not to proceed with a business idea. It is the role of the project leaders to make this decision, using information from the feasibility study and input from consultants.