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Topic 3.5: Feasibility analysis

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Critical thinking is the process of reviewing all the options, ideas, or outcomes of our creative processes, and objectively arriving at an optimal decision.

In part, it also involves making judgements about the quality of the information being considered.

In other words, do we have enough information?

Is it sufficiently reliable for our purposes?

And, if challenged, how can we prove this?

According to The Foundation for Critical Thinking, a critical thinker:

Raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely

Gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively

Comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards

Thinks with an open mind, recognising and assessing their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences, and

Communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

Is that the best you can do?

These are challenges that we will return to throughout this course.

For now though, let’s assume that we have gathered a high quality set of options and, in the next few topics, begin to critically deconstruct them with a view to arriving at the best one.

The purpose of feasibility analysis is to determine which of the options identified would make the best projects.

The two questions that need to be answered by any feasibility analysis are:

  • Is this something people want (demand)?
  • Is this something we can do (supply)?

Our purpose here is to reduce our myriad options identified to a small, manageable handful.

These can then be subject to more comprehensive, critical analysis (the business case).

Feasibility analysis is often conducted as a two step process.

First, we need to establish threshold feasibility.

This might involve asking some simple yes/no questions of each option along the lines described in the last lesson:

  • Is this something people want?  Yes
  • Is this something we can do?  Yes
  • Is this something we are allowed to do?  Yes
  • Is this something we can afford to do?  No

Taking this approach, we should be able to very quickly discard those options that are not worthy of further consideration.

To some extent, we almost certainly did this intuitively as we were developing our list of options; nonetheless it is always a useful exercise to conduct before proceeding to the next step.

The remaining options are then analysed for their relative feasibility.

This may involve asking similar questions of each option, only this time we are comparing options relative to each other:

  • Do people want Option A more than Option B?
  • Is it easier for us to produce Option A than B?
  • Is Option A more affordable than Option B?

A useful tool for this purpose is the widely employed SWOT analysis technique.

For each option that satisfies our criteria for threshold feasibility we can ask, what are its strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats.

In other words, from our organisational perspective, what are the pros (strengths) or cons (weaknesses) of delivering each alternative as a project?

Similarly, from the market’s point of view, what are the opportunities each project might exploit versus the risks that it might expose us to?

Other, related techniques for analysing the relative feasibility of options include:

Applied with an appropriate level of rigour (that, yes, involves thorough stakeholder engagement), we should be able to identify a short list of anywhere between two and four alternatives that are the ‘most’ feasible.

Taken together with the ‘do-nothing’ option, we can than proceed to the more detailed – and therefore time and resource-intensive – analysis of costs, impacts and risks that is the business case.

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