Who They Are:
The Snohomish County Public Utilities District is the second largest publicly owned utility in the Pacific Northwest. Providing electric and/or water utility service, the Utility's service area consists of 2,200 square miles. In terms of customers served, the District is the twelfth largest in the nation with more than a quarter million residential, commercial and industrial customers.
How Writing Plays a Role:
The Information Technology (IT) department manages the Utility's computer systems. IT staff members also write complex business cases to receive funding approval for important technology projects. For instance, one business case involved setting up a program to order supplies online, a time and money-saving measure that would impact the entire agency. A comprehensive analysis of these business cases indicated several writing issues:
extensive technical language used for a non-technical audience
unclear who the reader is, thus missing the mark on who will read the case and grant the funding
not showing a compelling need for the project to be funded.
Staff spent numerous hours writing business cases only to have them denied funding. Readers often complained that the benefits of the proposed project were unclear. Besides wasting time writing documents that achieved few—if any—results, the staff had less time to handle other issues, putting further stress on an already stretched staff.
Business Writing That Counts! provided a customized training to 48 project managers who write business cases. The one-day on-site training focused on improving the business cases by understanding and writing to the reader, learning the Power Numbers System to get organized and start writing quickly, and using language that expressed the benefits of these proposals.
Results of Training:
After the training, senior management noticed a marked improvement in the IT staff's writing. Senior managers reduced their writing time by 20 percent while project managers experienced a 10 percent improvement. This translates into a savings of $107,154. Perhaps even more importantly, the business cases were more readable, allowing the utility's top management to better understand the project's benefits and thus make better decisions about investments. This translates into saving the agency additional time and money.