The Fate of FSR

Feasibility Study Reports - better known as “FSRs” is widely used in the State of California for project management.  A 2012 update to the Statewide Information Management Manual (SIMM) describes and summarizes the purpose of FSRs:

"The FSR provides a basis for project management, program management, and executive management, and state-level control agencies to understand and agree on business problems or opportunities, and the need for Information Technology (IT) expenditures to address them.  The FSR provides a summary of the results of the feasibility study and should be prepared at a level of detail commensurate with the scope and complexity of the proposed technical solution. Sufficient technical detail should be included in the FSR to demonstrate that the proposed solution to the business problem or opportunity is workable and realistic."

As the new and improved project management procedure is adopted, FSRs are going away and will be replaced with an alternative as California state government settles in to its new approval process for technology projects.

In their current form, FSRs are completed before a project is launched, and are submitted to the Department of Technology before the project is approved. Preparing FSRs for state agencies and departments has been a dependable business opportunity for a number of firms around Sacramento.

“We won’t be having FSRs in the future. We certainly are currently involved in those, and have many that are approved, said Marnell Voss, the California Department of Technology Deputy Director Marnell Voss, who oversees the department’s Statewide Technology Procurement Division. Her comments came during an interview with last week.

Feasibility studies won’t be eliminated in practice. They’ll take another form in the state’s new four-phase Stage / Gate project approval model, according to officials close to the situation.

Stage 1 is the business analysis, stage 2 is the alternatives analysis, stage 3 is the  procurement analysis and stage 4 is the solution analysis.

The new approval process uses a series of phased, “stop-go” decision points along the way. Officials say the new approach should help avoid large-scale, costly project failures. The four phases of Stage / Gate process could be fully complete by the end of 2015.

One of the common complaints about the current FSR model is that it is inflexible and doesn’t adapt as needs change. In some cases the FSR is completed several years before a project implementation begins, and by that time the cost, business requirements and IT solutions on the market are considerably different.

The Department of Technology wants to improve the situation by implementing a new collaborative review and development process for reportable IT projects.

“The collaborative review provides the opportunity to have the right people at the table at the right time to discuss the business case, identify issues, develop consensus, make decisions, recognize inherent risks, and come to an agreement on risk resolution strategies,” wrote Andrea Hoffman, the project manager of the department’s State Technology Approval Reform (STAR) project, in an update last month.

The state also is revamping its planning forms. Unlike the current FSR, which is built around an open narrative, the new documents will feature a series of yes-no question in order improve collection of structured data. Officials also are developing a new cost worksheet to better align it with the state’s budget process.

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