Conducting a Thorough Feasibility Study
Imagine that you've just come up with an idea for a new project. You believe that it will save your organization time and money, and, full of enthusiasm, you pitch it to your manager.
However, she has some questions. She wants to know if your project is commercially viable, whether it's compatible with the technology that your team uses, and how it could affect on-going work.
To prepare for questions like these, you could use the TELOS framework – a five-step process that guides you through key aspects of a feasibility study.
In this article, we'll look at how you can use TELOS to assess the viability of a project or idea.
About the Model
James A. Hall set out the TELOS framework in his 2007 book, "Accounting Information Systems," and he explained how you can use it as the basis of a feasibility study.
By using it, you can improve the "design" of a project to make it more successful, and you can spot projects that are fundamentally flawed, before you've invested time and effort in them.
TELOS is an acronym for five key areas that you need to explore as part of your study:
The TELOS framework is often used in project management to test the viability of an idea, but you can also use it more generally to analyze whether a proposed project idea is sound.
Applying the Model
Follow the steps below to apply the TELOS framework to a proposed project.
Your first step is to look at the technological requirements of your planned project, and examine how technology will affect its success. Think about these questions:
- Is it technically possible to deliver what you want? (You may need to do a "proof-of-concept" or prototype to show this.)
- Does your team have access to the technologies you'll need to make the project a success?
- Do people have the knowledge, skills and aptitude they need to use these technologies? If not, what can you do about this?
- Are decision makers, stakeholders, and users confident in the technologies, and are they willing to use them?
- How much time and money will it take to deliver the technological component of the project?
For medium-sized and large projects, you may find it difficult to assess the true technological needs of your project by yourself. Ask for specialist help to ensure that you don't overlook anything important.
Next, look at the economic feasibility of the project, and examine the possible costs and financial benefits.
- How will your project be funded?
- Are decision makers likely to support the project financially?
- How financially attractive is the project, particularly when compared with other projects that the organization wants to run?
- What financial constraints could affect your project? For example, does it need to show a return on investment within a certain period to be considered a success?
Again, the scale of the project will determine the amount of help you need. For simple projects, you may be able to prepare cash-flow forecasts and calculate NPVs and IRRs for yourself. For complex projects, you'll need the help of your finance department.
Next, you need to think about the legal aspects of your proposal. Consider the following questions:
- Does your idea break any law of your state or country, or conflict with any policy that your organization has in place?
- Does it violate any agreements that you've entered into with other parties (including confidentiality agreements)? Or does it infringe the intellectual property rights of any other organization?
- Will any pending legislation affect the success of this project?
If you have any doubts from a legal perspective, take appropriate legal advice. Also, specialist lawyers may know about risks and issues that you are not aware of.
Your next step is to explore how your proposed project will fit with the day-to-day work of your team.
- What new procedures will you need to implement to make the project a success?
- What training (in addition to technology-oriented training) will people need?
- What other changes might you need to make to support the project in the long term? For example, will you need to take on new team members?
- What impact will this have on other projects or other departments? (Conduct an Impact Analysis to think this through.) Make sure that you consult with all affected managers to understand the implications of the project.
The McKinsey 7S Framework gives you a useful starting point for thinking about how the change could affect your organization.
Time-consuming projects may not be cost-effective, and they may no longer be useful by the time you finish them, so it's important to take a realistic look at scheduling.
In this last step, think about these questions:
- Will you be able to deliver the project for when it's needed? (Read our article on estimating time accurately for tips on developing a realistic project timeline.)
- What scheduling conflicts (including conflicts with other projects or conflicts with the needs of other departments) might arise, and how will you address them?
- Where will key deadlines fall, and how will you ensure that you meet them?
Your organization may have specialist frameworks that it uses to evaluate potential projects. Make sure that you find out about these, if they exist.
The acronym "TELOS" stands for five key areas that you need to consider when you carry out a feasibility study. These are:
You can use TELOS, in conjunction with other frameworks, to assess the viability of a range of projects, from small team-based ones to larger business ventures.