Monthly Archives: April 2014

Virtual Team Project Feasibility Study

Feasibility Study Outline for Projects Done Virtually

by Mark Sivy

feasibility studyA thorough feasibility analysis provides the necessary information to make decisions concerning the project and much of what is needed to develop a business plan.  One must keep in mind that the study should capture and examine all of the variables facing a concept so that an informed decision can be made concerning the investment of time and resources.

The feasibility study for a project that will be completed through a virtual team, online collaboration, or partners who are at-a-distance typically follows a traditional format, with special attention and modifications being made in certain aspects. Perhaps the most important of these is the level of consideration, care, and thoughtfulness that go into communication. This includes messages that are sent and received, and those that are delivered to virtual teams, individual employees, and stakeholders. (Virtual communication will be discussed in detail in an upcoming post.)

Communication

Below is a suggested table of contents for a feasibility study. It’s followed by a brief description of each element.

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Introduction
  3. Scope
  4. Terms and Acronyms
  5. Project / Concept Overview
  6. Description of Objectives, Products, and Services
  7. Assumptions
  8. Consequences and Risks
  9. Alternatives
  10. Technology Considerations
  11. Product and Service Market Analysis
  12. Marketing Strategy
  13. Training and Professional Development
  14. Staffing and Organization
  15. Timeline
  16. Benefits
  17. Financial Projections
  18. Findings and Recommendations

1. Executive Summary
The executive summary provides an overview of the content contained in the feasibility study document. This section is written after the rest of the document is completed.

2. Introduction
Describes the reasons for the concept or project and also the intended outcomes from the feasibility study.

scope3. Scope
Describes the scope of the feasibility study as it relates to the project, stakeholders, and those who it will impact. This is sometimes captured in the introduction.

4. Terms and Acronyms
Provides a list of the terms and acronyms used in this document and the definition of each. Working with team members and suppliers who are at-a-distance requires this section to be comprehensive and to provide a clear and common understanding. This is particularly important when members are internationally dispersed or have different cultural backgrounds.

5. Project / Concept Overview
Offers a brief overview of the proposed project or concept. This will serve as a point of reference for the remainder of the document.

6. Description of Objectives, Products and Services
This section provides a more detailed description of the objectives, products and/or services which are being considered as part of the feasibility study. The purpose of this section is to provide detailed descriptions of exactly what the organization is considering so this information can be applied to the remaining sections of the document.

7. Assumptions
Determine the project assumptions, such as operational life of the proposed system, maintenance, training, sustainability, and scalability.

8. Consequences and Risks
Includes consequences of not taking action, what delays and risks might occur during work, and what delays and risks can be tolerated.

Risk

9. Alternatives
Describes an alternative(s) to the suggested system and states the reasons why the alternative system(s) was (were) not selected.

10. Technology Considerations
This section should explain any considerations the organization must make with regards to technology, including hardware, software, infrastructure, skills, and interfaces. Technology may be developed or implemented internally or contracted through a service provider. This must consider the needs of the virtual organization and technologies that facilitate virtual collaboration and teamwork.

11. Market Analysis
This section provides and assessment of the existing domestic and overseas markets. It will describe who makes up the target market, who the competitors are, how products and services will be distributed, why users might select the products and services and how the market may change in the future.

12. Marketing Strategy
This section provides an analysis of the market and a description of the marketing process. This includes considerations such as a global competitor analysis, differentiating the organization and outcomes from competitors, determining who the marketing will target, and what types of marketing will be used.

13. Training and Professional Development
This is usually not included as a dedicated element in a traditional feasibility study, but in the instance of virtual undertaking it is a crucial component. Realistically, most leaders and team members are inadequately prepared for at-a-distance operations and this is a common reason why many virtual efforts meet with unexpected difficulties, cost overruns, or failure.

14. Staffing and Organization
This examines the people who are needed to implement an idea, including skills, backgrounds, and knowledge. At this point it is also necessary to consider the international nature of the undertaking, including differences in time zones, languages, and cultures. There will also need to be a plan for integrating additional staff and responsibilities into existing organization structures and staff.

15. Timeline
This section will provide an overview schedule, which serves as a guideline and includes major milestones and estimated time frames.

16. Benefits
It is important that the feasibility study captures the most important outcomes of the products and/or services that are being considered as well as how they may benefit the organization, workforce, end-users, and clients.

Finances17. Financial Projections
This section provides a description of start-up costs, operating costs, revenue projections and profitability.

18. Outcomes and Recommendations
This section will summarize the outcomes of the feasibility study and explain what course of action is recommended. This section may include advantages and disadvantages of doing the project and suggestion to enhance project success.

Every feasibility study has its own character and should be formatted accordingly. For other ideas on performing a feasibility study, there are many good web-based resources such as the Together Works discussion, HUD template and Wikipedia information.

Reflection Point – An absolute can only be given in an intuition, while all the rest has to do with analysis. ~Henri Bergson

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Online Group Organizers

Online Group Organizers

by Mark Sivy

Why Would I Use One?

These web-based tools enable coordinators, leaders, and self-motivated individuals to create communities of volunteers, staff, or like-minded people that are organized and managed online, but who connect and interact in-person (or online for that matter). Organizing one of these events is an excellent way to establish yourself or an organization as the “go-to” expert in a given profession or business.

Online Group Options

There are several players in this field, but I find GroupSpaces, BigTent, and Meetup to be the most appealing. GroupSpaces offers free and paid plans, BigTent is free, and Meetup is paid only. Similar services are GroupLoop, SureToMeet, Wild Apricot, MemberClicks, and Meetin.org.

GroupSpacesBigTentMeetup

 

 

 

These providers and others offer a range of basic services that you would want to have such as calendars, file sharing, forums, RSVP’s, and public-facing webpages. Other options where many providers start to differ, and that you may want to consider as decision points, would be photo sharing, event specific services, social media links, subgroups, and file storage.

Setting Up Your Group

Even though each service is slightly different, here are some general points to consider in setting up your group:

  1. Select your area of interest and then do your research to find out what type of individuals might be interested in your group and what topics would attract them.
  2. Have a few photos ready, at least one of you and one that represents your group.
  3. Sign up with your service of choice and create a personal profile.
  4. Search around and see what type of activity is already happening within your area of interest. Search for keywords that relate to your field. Don’t let competing groups control your ambitions. Pursue your interests and be good at it.
  5. Consider that keywords or tags that describe what your group is about or hoping to accomplish.
  6. Craft a clear brief description that explains exactly your group’s purpose, giving potential members a clear idea of who should join and what to expect. If done well, the description will enable people to understand what type of community and conversations you hope to develop.
  7. Create the group, providing the location, name, description, etc.
  8. Select the pricing plan (if available).

Grow Membership

To get more members to join, and if you think you’re ready, schedule your first meeting. Don’t immediately host this event, but rather plan for it to occur about a month after you start your group. Contact friends, associates, and organizations that you think might have an interest in the group. Announce it through your social media and networks.

The First Meeting

Coffee ShopThis means knowing when and where it will be. Usually this is at an open public space such as a coffee shop. Keep the first event simple, serving mainly for introductions and open conversation. Pay close attention, both analyzing the audience and learning individual interests. Make the members feel as a part of the process.

Usual Meeting Format

The members typically meet, network and talk over drinks and light snacks. In certain locations these can be provided through the group or in others they can be purchased onsite by the individual attendees. Often there is an invited guest speaker or a panel discussion to stimulate interest and attendance.

Meeting Venue

The place to meet will depend upon the size of the group. The key is to find someplace free. Most establishments that sell food and beverages will be open to hosting a group of people, but be sure they can provide a dedicated space. Based upon available capacity, set a limit to the number of people who say they will attend and then create a waiting list.

For the Meeting

The day of the meeting, contact the meeting venue to confirm their awareness and that they’re prepared. Bring an attendance list, sign-in sheets, blank name tags and markers. Have people put their name, company, and specialization or title on the name tags.

Ongoing Social Media Connections

facebook-260818_1280In addition to maintaining communication through the online group service, other social media channels can be used to maintain community, networking, and conversations. The choice will depend upon the type of group, whether casual, professional, or somewhere in-between.

Funds

Typically there are costs associated with meetings and other operational expenses. These can be paid by the organizer, sponsors, membership dues, or event fees.

Sponsors

Getting sponsors is a way to help fund meetings and to make them more professional at times. Sponsors can come from within the membership, a local industry or a business.