A piece of cake for the digital family

5th September 1997 at 01:00
I know you have all been hanging on the edge of your seats waiting to hear if we got our Investor in People status, so let's put you out of your misery and share the news that it's all OK. We're going to join the ranks of those with an extra graphic on their stationery or website. Goodness knows it was an interesting experience for all concerned.

Picture if you can, our small Internet Service Provision business, with premises adjoining our home; very Highlands and Islands high-tech. The team comprises those of us who are here permanently, as well as the infamous Glasgow Sophie, whom we had not met at the time we were assessed. Our assessor had been prepared for Sophie, and had agreed to liaise with her using e-mail, as we do.

What he had not been told was that our team had expanded, and Moira had also joined us. Here in the north, we have a very active and successful Workers' Educational Association, and it puts on regular courses called Enterprising Women, to encourage new starts for, well, women.

Moira was on such a course, and was keen for a telematics-based work placement, which we provided over the IIP assessment period. She is embarking on an OU course shortly, and will be learning online, so her time with us was fruitful all round: she learnt about being online, and while doing so, she commented on all our helpdesk facilities from a user's viewpoint, and kept us objective.

So, we had to explain to our assessor that Moira would also need an e-mail message, and there was this other thing. You see, we're a flexible bunch, and Christine had decided to take her family holiday at this time, but didn't wish to miss the assessment. She had agreed that, regardless of where she was, she would phone in at a prearranged time for a chat with the assessor.

The scene is set, the Investor in People assessor is seated in our living-room, and we troop across from the business premises one at a time, to be interviewed on our own sofa. I made sure that copious cups of coffee were provided, and even arranged cakes from the baker around the corner, which couldn't be seen as a bribe, surely.

After the coffee, the assessor needed to send his e-mail messages, and we set up an Internet account and provided a very short e-mail course for him, before leaving him in peace to send his confidential missives off to Moira and to Sophie. Luckily, he had an experienced colleague at Highlands and Islands Enterprise to whom all responses were to be sent, ensuring privacy all round.

At the appointed time the phone rang, and Christine joined in the fun. She was stuck outside Birmingham in a two-hour jam, with her children being fractious in the back of the car. But she'd made it for the assessment, and had a long chat about her involvement here. Later, Joel popped in for his turn. No digital family business would be complete without a whiz-kid adolescent, and Joel fits the bill for us; he even finished off the cakes. And that was that, we said goodbye to the friendly assessor and awaited his comments and the panels' decision.

When the decision came, Ross and Cromarty Enterprise notched up another first, because it notified us by e-mail. The next stages are more about product than process, and thus interest me less. There is an IIP rite of passage involving the plaque and the logo. The familiar triangular plaque will be presented at an awards dinner at Alness Academy, one of the growing number of schools which has now achieved IIP. Since we have no public premises it will be tricky to decide where to put this important piece of door furniture, but no doubt we will think of something.

As well as getting a free supper we are invited to take one of our business colleagues to introduce them to the IIP concept (a bit like the old Tupperware idea, if I remember correctly), and it seems only right and fitting that the baker round the corner comes too.

After all it was their cakes. I'm sure that clinched it.

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