Work done for an online course content development company (June 2012)

Expected learning outcome: Identify the types of evidence necessary for supporting communications

One of the most important decisions you can make in business communications is what information to include. Include too much information and your reader may be overwhelmed and not fully understand your purpose. Include too little information and your reader may not be convinced to take the action you propose. There are no rules that govern how much information to provide. The decision is a result of your synthesis of the information you have available.

Imagine a company assigns a task force to investigate, design, and propose an energy efficiency plan. The plan should make the company more environmentally friendly and also reduce expenses by reducing energy usage. Some ideas for energy leakage are:

  • Employees leave their computers on overnight
  • The company uses over 100 servers in one location
  • Energy efficient lights should replace costly fluorescents
  • There are multiple refrigerators in the building
  • External lighting is excessive

Are these circumstances really costing the company money? The task force must research.

Some sources that might inform the task force are business journals with stories about companies like theirs that have adopted energy efficiency policies. Trade journals about energy usage will probably have reports on various energy leakage in operations like this company. The task force can conduct their own site research to see energy habits the company currently has. Computer magazines and technology journals can inform the task force as to whether there are new energy-efficient technologies for servers and computer shut-down.

All of these sources of information should be synthesized to help the task force discover:

  • What is the current level of energy consumption?
  • What are the contributing factors that can be addressed?
  • What technology and best practices exist that this company can purchase or adopt?

Because the task force will be proposing costly change that may disrupt the company’s operations, they should evaluate the sources of their information for bias and accuracy before using them. Knowing the importance, or responsibility, of the report can help the task force decide if a source is appropriate or not.

For example, the task force may not want to take the IT manager’s word for it that the company cannot consolidate the 100 servers into fewer units. A green IT company might not be the best source of information, either, since they want to win the company’s business to upgrade the technology.

In another example, a hospital broke ground on a new wing that would house 1000 new servers to store medical records and improve the performance of the system. A competing IT firm offered to run a diagnostic survey on the hospital’s existing servers to determine if the hospital really needed the technology upgrade. The diagnostics revealed that the hospital was only utilizing about 30% of their current server space. There was no need to buy new servers; they just needed to maximize the units they already had. The new wing became a patient ward instead of a server room and the hospital was able to boost revenue by taking more patients. Had the hospital’s own team done their due diligence, they may have found a less-costly solution to the server problem. Instead, the diagnostic firm earned the services contract to rebalance the servers’ data.

In the case of the hospital, the internal team tasked with determining what to do about the system’s sluggishness needed to conduct research. The team should have used journals, case studies, and internal reporting to develop an informed proposal. Instead, they allowed a technology firm interested in selling the hospital servers to write the proposal.

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