The Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP) works to raise standards of communication between deaf and hearing people. Primarily, it offers nationally recognised qualifications in sign language and other forms of communication used by deaf people. Courses leading to CACDP awards are offered at more than 700 colleges and centres throughout the UK.

Established in 1982, CACDP has 26 full-time and 12 part-time staff, and a national network of over 100 volunteers. While it is a charity, CACDP is similar to any other small business inasmuch as effective leadership is vital.

As chief executive, Miranda Pickersgill is responsible for not only ensuring the smooth running of day-to-day operations but also the future direction of CACDP. She has a hands-on role at the charity and her work takes her on frequent business trips throughout the country. “I’m out of the office more than 30 per cent of the time, so the ability to access my e-mail so that I can make quicker decisions is an essential requirement,” she explains.

Previously, Mrs Pickersgill used an HP Ipaq 5500 pocket PC with GPRS connectivity, supported by Vodafone, as well as another separate mobile phone. But she found the PDA cumbersome to use and data transfer speeds were frustratingly slow. So, in order to provide her and other senior managers with improved mobile communications, CACDP switched to BlackBerry devices, supported by T-Mobile. “There was an initial set-up cost because of the need to invest in a new server,” Mrs Pickersgill explains. “But we invest in a lot of database technology and so was a readily justifiable expense.”

The advantages of the BlackBerry emerge in different ways. Take the need to have continuous access to e-mail. Using her old PDA device, Mrs Pickersgill found downloading e-mail was a laborious process as it was necessary to dial-up and wait for messages to download. Now, her BlackBerry provides instant access to her inbox and the ability to reply to requests in real-time. “E-mail is such an immediate form of communication that I think being unresponsive is simply not acceptable,” she says. “What I love about my BlackBerry is that it gives me a very similar experience to sitting in front of my PC. I have the same level of responsiveness as if I was sitting at my desk and without a doubt, it’s my office away from the office.” Alternatively, traditional “dead time”, such as when travelling, is the bane of a senior manager’s life. Such inefficiencies are much reduced when using the BlackBerrys.

A good example of such use occurred when Mrs Picksergill was stranded on a train but was still able to participate fully in the meeting to which she was travelling. She explains: “I was stuck on a train and it was obvious that I wasn’t going to make it to the meeting on time. However, as the meeting leader was deaf, I was able to communicate with him using my BlackBerry. By being able to have a dialogue with him, this meant that the meeting could go ahead, saving us all a lot of time.”

According to Mrs Picksergill, BlackBerry has also contributed to the smooth running of CACDP as other members of staff are easily able to contact their chief executive, while she is away from the office. “Being able to respond to queries even though I’m not physically in the office has contributed positively to the operational efficiency of CACDP,” she explains.

For many, unbroken access to e-mails is a concern as it becomes unclear where the boundaries between work and the rest of life sit. However, Mrs Pickersgill has found that because the BlackBerry enables her to answer e-mails during work time, she is having to do less work at home. “My job is quite demanding. In the past, when I returned from business trips, I used to have to catch up on e-mails from home. But now if I have to work from home, I’m not responding to e-mails but concentrating on activity, which is more crucial for the organisation,” she says.

Looking to the future, she is excited about improved communication between hearing and deaf people. “Deaf people rely on mobile technology a lot and I can’t wait for the day when I’ll be able to use my BlackBerry to watch video e-mails,” she concludes. “But until then, we are more than happy with what T-Mobile has done for CACDP. My own personal productivity has improved and this has had a positive impact on the efficiency of our charity.”

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