Have you ever wondered how businesses determine if a particular software solution is a good fit for them? It’s not about guessing or taking a leap of faith. Instead, they rely on a crucial process known as feasibility studies in software engineering. This indispensable step helps teams assess whether the software they’re considering is viable for their needs and aligns with their goals. And it’s not a one-size-fits-all thing; there are actually several types of feasibility studies to choose from.
In the realm of software engineering, these studies are like the compass guiding a ship, ensuring the project is heading in the right direction. There are six main types of feasibility studies: organizational, economic, technical, operational, legal, and scheduling. Each type plays a vital role in decision-making, contributing a unique perspective and answering specific questions. So, whether you’re assessing the practicality of the technology, the financial implications, the legal boundaries, the logistical considerations, the time constraints, or the market acceptability, these feasibility studies are your roadmap to informed decision-making. By the end of this discussion, you’ll understand why these six studies are instrumental in shaping successful software engineering projects.
What Are Feasibility Studies in Software Engineering?
A feasibility study is the process of evaluating how the project will run against time and financial constraints. The study investigates a proposed system’s user needs, required resources, costs, and benefits to an organization.
The core of a feasibility study involves recognizing the need of a project. The project team must conduct preliminary investigations of the current system, share details of its state, and point out its shortcomings. Once the planning team completes this phase, they present the management with terms of reference.
A feasibility study is part of the software development life cycle in software engineering. One of the things a development team does is act like detectives. They gather information, interview people, and scrutinize documents.
6 Different Types of Feasibility Studies in Software Engineering
We have compiled a list of six types of feasibility studies in software engineering. These include:
- Organizational Feasibility
- Economic Feasibility
- Technical Feasibility
- Operational Feasibility
- Legal Feasibility
- Scheduling Feasibility
1. Organizational Feasibility
Under organizational feasibility, the software engineering team develops a strategic plan. The plan is part of a detailed report stating how the proposed system will support and meet a company’s objectives. If there are outlier projects that do not directly impact strategic goals, the doesn’t assign them any funds.no funds are assigned.
To check whether the software will be organizationally feasible, you must establish the staff’s willingness to accept it. Also, assess the technical know-how. Can the managers, middle, and low cadre teams cope with the incoming technology? If the staff accepts it, you will successfully implement the new software. Conversely, you stand a risk of failure if workers detect threats to their job security. Organizational feasibility studies tackle these exhaustively.
2. Economic Feasibility
Economic feasibility assesses the costs and savings of developing a proposed system. It determines the software’s capability to generate financial gains. Economic feasibility covers the development team’s expenses, hardware costs, software costs, and the cost of the study. Cost savings is also another benefit.
A project might be too expensive to undertake. The only way to figure this out is by conducting a cost/benefits analysis. Using spreadsheets, the team lists all the estimated costs. Then, they calculate financial savings and compare them.
A new system should increase revenue and generate more profit for software to be economically feasible. There are also intangible benefits, such as an improved ability to compete with rival firms in the industry. Eventually, an organization must recoup all costs and enjoy benefits from the new or upgraded system.
3. Technical Feasibility
In technical feasibility, you evaluate the existing software, its capabilities, and shortfalls. The team also analyzes the technology they need. Along with this, technical feasibility covers technical skills and human resources. They determine what hardware to acquire or develop within the stipulated time frame.
While conducting technical feasibility studies in software engineering, the team assesses the existing system and determines whether to upgrade or add new technology. While at it, the technical feasibility team analyzes the skill depth of its members. Since the team will frequently be in consultation, every individual must possess a skill that would help solve problems encountered along the way.
4. Operational Feasibility
At the operational feasibility level, the software engineering team investigates the impact of the proposed software. Additionally, the engineers define what procedures to implement. Further, they evaluate the suggested system users’ ability while interacting with it. These users include employees, suppliers, customers, and the management team. For instance, employees will commit multiple errors or refrain from using the system if they develop software that is too complicated. At that point, the new system will lose its operational feasibility.
5. Legal Feasibility
A part of the legal feasibility study includes examining legal requirements, such as contracts, data protection, and copyright infringement. Unbeknownst to the technical staff, there could be a host of legal traps. Subsequently, a business entity could face expensive litigation if these are not checked and anticipated.
Laws and regulations control the activities of commercial enterprises. Thus, legal feasibility is an essential factor in software development projects. Take online trading, for instance. Some countries outlaw online gambling and lotteries. Therefore, it would be illegal to develop betting software in such regions. In short, software development projects that breach the law are legally not feasible.
6. Scheduling Feasibility
Software development projects must be completed on time. Scheduling feasibility studies in software engineering help to estimate the probable completion period. First, the development team examines the constraints. Then, they set milestones that help in tracking the progress made. Upon achieving a milestone, the development team should compare it with their schedule.
There must be no delays unless the milestone change requests are officially sanctioned. The study should establish a start date, estimated duration, and completion date for each phase. Milestone reviews are critical in mitigating delays, hence the importance of conducting a scheduled feasibility study.
Steps Followed in a Software Development Feasibility Study
The following are some of the steps to follow when carrying out a software development feasibility study:
A system overview is the first step in the assessment phase. It states the company name, system title, category, and operational extent. The software development team determines whether the new system will achieve an organization’s objectives. It also states whether the existing system upgrades are viable or not.
Examples of guiding questions are:
- Does implementing the new system require new technology?
- The scope of work, and is it within the system development budget?
Answers to these and other questions are all aspects of the assessment phase.
You cannot overhaul a process when you know little or nothing about it. In this phase, the team collects views and ideas from users. They must concisely define and document the user requirements. Failure to nail this step often results in a faulty end product. In addition, the requirements should drill down to different user levels.
Typically, the software development team will interview end users inside an organization. They will also request that external users, i.e., customers and suppliers, share feedback. On the other hand, if an organization is modifying its existing systems, the team will review the documentation.
Drafting a Feasibility Study Report
Upon concluding feasibility studies in software engineering, the team drafts a report. It contains findings and recommendations. The report states whether the company should develop new software or improve the existing system. The software review team highlights budgetary changes and an estimated work completion schedule.
Also in the report are references to documents reviewed and definitions of terms used, including abbreviations and acronyms. Risks and delays that may be encountered during implementation also form part of the report’s contents.
Once a study returns a feasible verdict, the client gives the go-ahead. The first step is to conduct a systems analysis. At this point, analysts determine the bones and flesh of the new system.
What inputs will it need? What output shall it generate? Will it need paper forms and external files? Answers to these and other queries go into a requirements document. This document is called a Software Requirement Specification (SRS). It contains:
- Details of the problem
- Alternative solutions
- Software system requirements
- System constraints
Next, the analysts prepare a systems specification. It contains detailed instructions, file definitions, flowcharts, and other diagrams. Along the way, analysts and system users engage in brainstorming sessions. The two teams meet regularly as the project progresses. In this phase, also called the design phase, software engineers transform the SRS document into a software architecture.
What follows is a design of the proposed system. Engineers may use two approaches, traditional and object-oriented design. In traditional design, the software developers thoroughly examine the system in a structured format. It is the most preferred approach when reviewing numerous outcomes of feasibility studies in software engineering. The second approach, i.e., object-oriented design, identifies system objects and explores their correlation.
Upon verifying and checking that the system’s specification is accurate and verified, programmers take over. They write and test the software codes. Numerous tests get underway using automated tools and quality assurance checks. Module testing also takes place at this stage. It follows a structured approach, defining a test plan, testing criteria, and managing test cases. Debugging takes place in this stage too.
After testing the system thoroughly, production or changeover takes place. End-users undergo thorough training. The system development team stays on alert to respond to queries and correct various errors that crop up. A system at this stage takes several weeks before reaching stability.
Once the system stabilizes, an evaluation of its correctness gets underway. There is an entire list of things that need correcting. Besides, the team must also contend with unanticipated issues. Further, the integration of software modules takes place in this phase.
The software development engineers test each module before adding the next one and testing again. It is an incremental process. The team seeks to ascertain whether the software conforms to the SRS document’s requirements. Once all modules are in place, they tested the system as a fully developed product. There are three system testing phases: Alpha, Beta, and Acceptance. Alpha testing is done at the software developer’s site. Beta testing targets customers, while the client does Acceptance testing.
After months of designing, training, and stabilizing a system, the next phase is implementing it. Programmers have already tested the software and are confident that it meets the organization’s requirements. Implementation of feasibility studies in software engineering takes place in two phases. In the first phase, the client gets a trial version of the software as an experiment to determine whether any changes are needed. Users are encouraged to share feedback on the system’s operation.
The complete system is delivered to the client during the second implementation phase. Even more importantly, the system must be secure. Note, a system delivery could replace a manual system, a new system, or a modification.
Software maintenance is a critical stage in the system development life cycle. Even though maintenance is a rewarding experience, it can also be time-consuming. Types of maintenance carried out are corrective, adaptive, perfective, and preventive.
- Corrective: Involves correcting past problems or repairing current performance failures.
- Adaptive: Changing the system so that it is in sync with the external environment, e.g., changes in taxation.
- Perfective: Enhancement or modification to match changing needs.
- Preventive: This is the maintenance process to prevent the system from becoming obsolete.
Feasibility Studies in Software Engineering: Final Thoughts
The objective of feasibility studies in software engineering is to evaluate the viability of proposed projects. By conducting a feasibility study, you can discover what would and wouldn’t work. Further, it protects your company from risk exposure. Once the company accepts the outcome, software engineers develop, test, and deliver a complete system.
In addition, feasibility studies are critical tools that help organizations leverage their return on investment. An organization will conduct organizational, economic, technical, operational, legal, and scheduling feasibility during software development. A feasibility study follows a systemic approach, culminating in a report. Therefore, a well-executed study increases the success of a software development project.
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