Using the Status Quo Analysis for Strategic Project Planning

To ensure informed decisions, project proposals must address multiple issues relating to the underlying need and solution, including nature, cost, and expected benefits. But, to ensure that the best decisions are made, with maximum credibility, proposals must also include a complete analysis comparing the solution proposed to known alternatives, including "keeping things as they are".  That is the status quo analysis, and you can read on to learn more about it.

What is the Status Quo Analysis?

In a nutshell, the "status quo alternative" addresses the impact of "doing nothing for now". But why include "doing nothing" as an alternative, when the whole purpose of your proposal is to enact change? By including the "status quo alternative" you can deliver realistic recommendations and present a positive business image. The status quo analysis is all about action, inaction and consequences.  Doing nothing for now (or keeping things as they are) is not necessarily "neutral" - there can be both negative and positive consequences - and a full consideration of all factors will only serve to strengthen any subsequent actions taken.  (Also Read: Planning Concepts for the Project RFP)

Status Quo Analysis: The Big Question

If we take no action, what will be the likely impact be on one or more of the following....?

  • Our ability to upgrade technology in the future.
  • Our ongoing vendor relationships.
  • IT staff productivity, retention and professional development.
  • End-user productivity and our ability to provide quality support.
  • Our short and long term financial plans.
  • The need for flexibility to act in the future.
  • Other projects, planned or already underway.
  • The longevity of the "do nothing" strategy - how long can it last?
  • Overall company strategies for market share, expansion, reorganization or other change.

These variables form the basis of the "consequences" determination, so you can better understand and express the impact of "doing nothing for now".

Performing the Status Quo Analysis

In order to ensure consideration, and to seek approval, requests for project funding should always stress the business side of the equation, looking at the value of the proposal and its overall contribution to the bottom line.  Try looking at the issue from a non-technical, end-user perspective. To that end, as you prepare funding proposals, anticipate questions and objections, and get ready to address the following:

  • WHY should this investment be made?
  • WHAT are the short and long term costs?
  • WHAT is the expected return on the investment?
  • WHAT are the short and long term operational benefits and risks?
  • WHAT will the proposal cost in terms of time and human resources?
  • WHAT are the alternatives to be considered, including taking no action at all?

In addition, project proposals should be considered in light of any and all realistic, probable business benefit. While meaningful "status quo" analysis may take some effort, it can be time well spent.  For with just one proposal, a "status quo scenario" can effectively demonstrate that you:

  • Have considered all the available alternatives.
  • Understand both the technical and business ramifications of  your recommendations.
  • Understand the need to express key technology initiatives in business terms,  setting the stage for the best possible decisions... even if that decision is to do nothing for now.

In conclusion, funding approval will depend on more than the technical quality of your proposal. You must be able to convince management that you have carefully considered the consequences of your recommendations, as well as all viable alternatives. 

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