A feasibility study in software development is a preliminary analysis conducted to determine whether a proposed software solution is technically achievable, economically viable, and will fulfill the intended requirements. It sets the foundation for the project, evaluating the potential success and challenges it may face.

Before the formal concept of feasibility studies became standard practice in software development, several activities were typically done, though less structured. 

Here's what typically happened before feasibility studies:

  1. Informal Discussions: Initial project ideas were often discussed informally among stakeholders, developers, and potential users.
  2. Ad Hoc Requirements Gathering: Instead of systematically collecting requirements, developers or project leads would gather requirements based on discussions and their insights.
  3. Prototyping: Some developers build prototypes or basic software versions to show stakeholders. This process allowed them to visualize the solution and offer feedback.
  4. Intuition-based Decision Making: Decisions about whether to proceed with projects were often based on intuition, previous experience, or the perceived enthusiasm of stakeholders rather than systematic analysis.
  5. Direct Implementation: In some cases, developers went directly to the coding and implementation phase based on preliminary discussions without formal project viability analysis.
  6. Initial Cost Estimations: Rough estimations of costs were made, but these might have taken into account only some potential variables and risks.
  7. Limited Market Research: Some market research was conducted, primarily if the software was intended for commercial sale. However, it might have needed to be more thorough than what's included in a detailed feasibility study.
  8. Trial and Error: Since there wasn't a formal assessment like a feasibility study, there was a greater reliance on a "trial and error" approach. If a particular software solution wasn't viable, it might be abandoned midway or after significant resources had already been invested.

The introduction of feasibility studies was an effort to formalize and bring structure to the early phases of software development. The shift towards formal feasibility studies in software development was primarily motivated by the need to minimize risks, ensure better allocation of resources, and improve the likelihood of project success. Feasibility studies provided a structured way to evaluate projects before significant resources were committed, making the software development process more predictable and efficient.


Why is a Feasibility Study Important in SDLC?

The feasibility study acts as a critical decision point in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). Here's why:

  1. Risk Reduction: A feasibility study can highlight potential pitfalls and risks, enabling stakeholders to make informed decisions.
  2. Resource Allocation: It ensures that resources, both time and money, are invested wisely in viable projects.
  3. Clarity: Provides a clear understanding of the requirements and the potential challenges.
  4. Stakeholder Confidence: Demonstrates due diligence to stakeholders, including investors.


Types of Feasibility Studies in SDLC

  1. Technical Feasibility: Assesses whether the technical resources and capabilities, including hardware, software, and technical expertise, are available to complete the project successfully.
  2. Economic Feasibility (Cost-benefit analysis): Evaluates the project's financial viability by analyzing estimated costs against potential benefits.
  3. Legal Feasibility: Reviews potential legal considerations, like copyright issues, patents, and data protection, and ensures that the proposed system doesn't breach any regulations.
  4. Operational Feasibility: Investigate if the proposed system can be integrated and operate within the existing organizational processes and structures.
  5. Scheduling Feasibility: Determines whether the completion of the project will happen within the proposed time frame.


How Do You Conduct a Feasibility Study for Software Development?

  1. Define the Scope: Clearly outline what the software project will achieve, including its functionality and features.
  2. Gather Input: Engage stakeholders, subject matter experts, and potential users to gather relevant information.
  3. Research & Analysis: For each type of feasibility (as mentioned above), gather data, and analyze. For instance, you'd evaluate available technology and expertise for technical feasibility.
  4. Cost Estimation: Estimate the financial and human resources required for the project.
  5. Document Findings: Present your findings, recommendations, and any potential challenges or risks.
  6. Review & Feedback: Engage stakeholders for feedback and refine your study based on feedback.


Best Practices for a Feasibility Study

  1. Engage Stakeholders Early: Get initial insights and buy-in from key stakeholders.
  2. Stay Objective: A feasibility study should be neutral, presenting facts rather than being overly optimistic or pessimistic.
  3. Use Accurate & Current Data: Outdated or incorrect data can lead to erroneous conclusions.
  4. Consider Future Scalability: Even if the software solution meets current needs, consider its scalability for future requirements.
  5. Seek Expert Opinions: Engaging experts can provide deeper insights, especially in technical and legal feasibility areas.
  6. Regularly Update the Study: For long-term projects, updating the feasibility study can be crucial as the market, technology, and other factors evolve.

In the tech world, time is of the essence. With a thorough study, you're not wasting precious weeks or even months on a project that's not viable. It's like having a time machine that shows you potential dead-ends so you can steer clear from the get-go. Nobody likes unpleasant surprises, especially not stakeholders or investors. When you can confidently present findings from a comprehensive feasibility study, it reassures them that their investment is grounded in solid research, not just hopeful thinking. 

An objective analysis tells you exactly where to deploy these resources for maximum impact, ensuring you're not spreading yourself too thin or placing bets on the wrong horse. If you're looking to nail your software project and bring it home with flying colors, a feasibility study isn't just recommended; it's essential. The prep work ensures your journey is smoother, faster, and more efficient, leading you straight to success. So, go ahead and invest that effort upfront.


Start with: What problem are you trying to solve? 

One of the activities we work through revolves around refining your problem statement. A problem statement is the key business problem that needs to be solved. In software development, it states “what has to be done” for a project to succeed. It does not say, “how it has to be done.”

We use the 5W’s + 1 H format as well as the SMART Framework when establishing a problem statement. In fact, you can draft your own problem statement by using our free download. This download will get you thinking through some of the questions and answers prior to starting your project.

Download: Problem Statement
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