Careful oversight is required to ensure projects support strategic business objectives and resources are effectively implemented into an organization's enterprise architecture. The initiation phase begins when an opportunity to add, improve, or correct a system is identified and formally requested through the presentation of a business case. The business case should, at a minimum, describe a proposal's purpose, identify expected benefits, and explain how the proposed system supports one of the organization's business strategies. The business case should also identify alternative solutions and detail as many informational, functional, and network requirements as possible.
The presentation of a business case provides a point for managers to reject a proposal before they allocate resources to a formal feasibility study. When evaluating software development requests (and during subsequent feasibility and design analysis), management should consider input from all affected parties. Management should also closely evaluate the necessity of each requested functional requirement. A single software feature approved during the initiation phase can require several design documents and hundreds of lines of code. It can also increase testing, documentation, and support requirements. Therefore, the initial rejection of unnecessary features can significantly reduce the resources required to complete a project.
If provisional approval to initiate a project is obtained, the request documentation serves as a starting point to conduct a more thorough feasibility study. Completing a feasibility study requires management to verify the accuracy of the preliminary assumptions and identify resource requirements in greater detail.
Primary issues organizations should consider when compiling feasibility study support documentation include:
- Business Considerations:
- Strategic business and technology goals and objectives;
- Expected benefits measured against the value of current technology;
- Potential organizational changes regarding facilities or the addition/reduction of end users, technicians, or managers;
- Budget, scheduling, or personnel constraints; and
- Potential business, regulatory, or legal issues that could impact the feasibility of the project.
- Functional Requirements:
- End-user functional requirements;
- Internal control and information security requirements;
- Operating, database, and backup system requirements (type, capacity, performance);
- Connectivity requirements (stand-alone, Local Area Network, Wide Area - Network, external);
- Network support requirements (number of potential users; type, volume, and frequency of data transfers); and
- Interface requirements (internal or external applications).
- Project Factors:
- Project management methodology;
- Risk management methodology;
- Estimated completion dates of projects and major project phases; and
- Estimated costs of projects and major project phases.
- Cost/Benefit Analysis:
- Expected useful life of the proposed product;
- Alternative solutions (buy vs. build);
- Nonrecurring project costs (personnel, hardware, software, and overhead);
- Recurring operational costs (personnel, maintenance, telecommunications, and overhead);
- Tangible benefits (increased revenues, decreased costs, return-on-investments); and
- Intangible benefits (improved public opinions or more useful information).
The feasibility support documentation should be compiled and submitted for senior management or board study. The feasibility study document should provide an overview of the proposed project and identify expected costs and benefits in terms of economic, technical, and operational feasibility. The document should also describe alternative solutions and include a recommendation for approval or rejection. The document should be reviewed and signed off on by all affected parties. If approved, management should use the feasibility study and support documentation to begin the planning phase.
Systems Development Life Cycle