Business Plan Vs. Feasibilty Study
Business plans and feasibility studies are analysis and decision-making tools used by companies. Feasibility studies are used to determine whether a proposed action has a high enough probability of success that it should be undertaken. Business plans are blueprints for implementing actions that have already been deemed feasible by the company's management.
Business plans map out the direction a company intends to take to reach its revenue and profit objectives in the future. They are a compilation of numerous decisions made by the management team about how the company should be run. Feasibility studies are designed to provide guidance for one decision. Feasibility studies are often done to decide whether to start the business or not -- whether the likelihood of success is high enough to make the financial risk worthwhile. They can also be used to make decisions about whether to launch a new product in an existing company, or enter a new market -- any activity where there is a question about whether the company should take the action or not. Feasibility studies are sometimes termed cost/benefit analyses because the projected costs of the project are compared to the expected benefits to yield a conclusion.
Although the content and emphasis of business plans vary by company and industry, all plans have many elements in common. They describe the products or services the company intends to sell, why customers need these products or services, the target customers, how the company intends to reach them through its marketing strategy, the background and capabilities of the management team, and risk factors the company may face. They also contain information on projected revenue and profit. Plans contain these specific elements because many times they will be read by investors or other people outside the company, and these individuals want to see very specific information in a plan. Feasibility studies may have some or many of the same elements of a business plan, including a description of the human resources required and financial projections, but all the information leads to a conclusion or recommendation.
A business plan assumes a business is going to succeed and presents the steps necessary to achieve success. Those in charge of conducting a feasibility study should not have a preconceived view about whether success will be attained. They must be as objective as possible. They conduct research and let the facts lead to the ultimate opinion given in the study. If the study's conclusion is that the project is viable, some of the research done may be included in the company's business plan, such as projections of the size of the market.
Both business plans and feasibility studies attempt to predict future outcomes using assumptions about what is likely to happen in the business environment -- the economy and the company's competition. But this environment is always changing and the assumptions a company uses in its projections of revenue or profit may prove to be incorrect. Companies find that some of the strategies in their plan do not work to the degree the business owner expected, and have to be adjusted. In the case of a feasibility study, an incorrect conclusion can be especially costly -- it could mean launching a venture that has very little chance of surviving or approving a project that wastes the company's human and financial resources.