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The home for everything we write about tech, software development and product management.

Sweating the details: The combination of science and craft powering Enable’s software development teams

Build It BetterNovember 25, 2012

Enable Tech is a column on design and technology by David Hunt. David has been our operations director from the very start, and has lead the evolution of Enable into one of the most respected and high-quality software development businesses around. David has an uncompromising passion for design, quality and excellence.


On Monday, Matt will arrive at his desk to confront a 315 page document. It describes the precise inner workings of a mission-critical software solution. It sounds pretty complicated.

But the software doesn’t exist yet.

In three months, Matt and his team will race from zero lines of code to tens of thousands. The end result will be rolled out to hundreds of users, who will rely on it every day. It’ll be delivered on time, on budget — and if it’s not the best piece of software our company has ever created, we’ll be disappointed.

It’s OK, Matt has done this before.

Silicon Valley comes to Stratford-upon-Avon

Build It BetterNovember 6, 2012

A recent visit to Silicon Valley in California by the Directors of Enable in Stratford-upon-Avon has inspired the firm to design their new headquarters along the lines of global giants Google and Intel.

Entrepreneurs Denys Shortt and Andrew Butt have invested over £1 million in the new Enable Headquarters at The Courtyard on Timothy’s Bridge Road. The pair started Enable in a stable block in Buckland near Broadway in 2000 and now the company employs 30 people with sales of £2m per annum — a wonderful start-up to success story.

What is most remarkable is that Andrew was just 16 when Enable began and Denys made him the Managing Director — one of the youngest to hold this position ever in the UK.

The offices have been designed by Enable’s Operations Director, David Hunt, whose talents far exceed just running his software team. David, who also project managed the fit-out of the premises, said “My goal for this project was to create an environment that not only reflected Enable’s values but also reinforced them; As our staff and clients spend time in this space they will notice the attention to detail, the consistency, the quality of what’s around them and will be reminded of what Enable is all about.”

We’ve moved!

Build It BetterNovember 1, 2012

Enable is very excited to be announcing details of its new offices. Please update your contact details.

We will be contacting you soon to book a suitable date and time to show you around our new base. In the meantime feel free to drop us a line and let us know when would be convenient for you.

Street address10-12 The Courtyard, Timothy’s Bridge Road, Stratford-upon-Avon, CV37 9NP, UK

Emailhello@enable.comTelephoneOffice: 0845 519 20 80Helpdesk telephoneHelpdesk: 0845 519 11 00

Enable Tech: Building the DealTrack website

Build It BetterOctober 10, 2012

Enable Tech is a column on design and technology by David Hunt. David has been our operations director from the very start, and has lead the evolution of Enable into one of the most respected and high-quality software development businesses around. David has an uncompromising passion for design, quality and excellence.


Last week, we launched a new subsidiary business called DealTrack. DealTrack is a software solution that helps organisations manage complex trading agreements involving retrospective payments, such as rebates, retrospective discounts, royalties, purchase income and back margin.

In this article, I’ll guide you through some of the more interesting techniques used by the website we built for DealTrack.

1. SVG graphics

Almost every image on the DealTrack website is delivered in SVG format. SVG has been around for a long time, but browser support is only now nearing a level where SVG can be considered a worthwhile option. As someone who is enthusiastic about design, SVG has some upsides that excite me.

  1. High resolution displays are going mainstream: products such as the Apple iPhone 4, third generation iPad, Retina MacBook Pro, Samsung Galaxy S3 and Nokia Lumia 920 have introduced displays to the marketplace that are capable of displaying 250 to 350 pixels per inch. Artwork designed for conventional computer displays looks blurry on these devices. SVG is a vector image format and therefore images authored in this format look beautifully sharp not only on these new high-DPI devices but on older displays too.
  2. Editing tools such as Adobe Illustrator allow SVG to be edited natively. There is no need to hold a “master” version of your website artwork in addition to an exported “published” version. An SVG file can be opened directly, edited and saved. It’s a slick workflow.
  3. SVG is based on XML. It is therefore dead easy to create SVG output programatically. For example, a status icon that needed to be coloured red in some cases and green in others would typically require two separate versions of the same image. With SVG you could create a single version and alter a colour attribute on the fly — driven by your application’s business logic.

Growth and jobs at Enable in Stratford-upon-Avon

Build It BetterAugust 15, 2012

Stratford-upon-Avon based software development company Enable has made a £1 million investment into 7,000 sq ft of new freehold offices in the Stratford-upon-Avon Enterprise Park.

The Managing Director and 29 year old award-winning young entrepreneur Andrew Butt commented “This is a milestone for Enable—it is our first freehold headquarters! We see it as an investment for the future and key to our plans for continued growth.”

Denys Shortt, CEO of Enable commented “Enable is expanding and will have its best year in history this year. We are winning orders from big firms and employing locally with graduates from Warwick University.” He continues “We are also delighted to have had several banks offering us funding for our growth—a good sign that the banks are lending.”

Denys Shortt started Enable Software in 2000 with 16 year old Andrew Butt who he made the Managing Director. Since then Enable has grown to almost £2m sales and now has 24 employees.

Enable exhibiting at Warwick University

Build It BetterApril 30, 2012

As a result of continued demand for Enable’s software development service, and consistent revenue growth, Enable will be exhibiting at two key events at Warwick University in May.

The first is the Warwick Summer Careers Fair on Tuesday 8th May. Organised by the Employer Connect team at Warwick, this event connects employers with students expecting to graduate imminently. Enable’s Managing Director, Andrew Butt, and Operations Director, David Hunt, will be attending.

The second event, also organised by Warwick’s Employer Connect, is a PhD network event on Thursday 10th May. Enable is privileged to be able to access this unique opportunity and discuss some specialist roles available to PhD graduates. This event will be attended by David Hunt and Dan Wood, an existing PhD graduate.

David Hunt commented "Enable is focussed on recruiting top talent. We recognise that in order to achieve this it’s about pitching ’the Enable difference’ to candidates and attracting people with a shared vision and values."

Enable is a keen supporter of promoting from within, and has successfully recruited, trained and developed many graduates over the past few years.

Coventry at work: evolve and fight for sales — or die

Build It BetterFebruary 27, 2012

Enable’s CEO Denys Shortt recently wrote an article for BBC News on his top tips for business survival. The article is reproduced below in full.

Denys Shortt is a former England under-21 hockey player, an entrepreneur and founder of DCS Europe plc and Enable Software, employing nearly 300 people. He is also chairman of the Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

My drive and determination comes from my England hockey days when I played centre forward, the goal scorer. I learned the hard way from my coaches—you were either scoring goals or you were dropped from the team!

I worked for my father for a few years and learned how family businesses have their challenges. I realised that to grow a really big business I had to think big. In just 15 years I have grown DCS Europe to sales of £130m and 250 employees.

I have not stopped there—I started a second business, with a 16-year-old, called Enable Software. This is now up to £2m sales and 20 employees.

Enable shortlisted for Touch FM Pride of Stratford Award

Build It BetterJanuary 19, 2012

Enable have been shortlisted for Business of the Year at the Pride of Stratford 2012 awards. Enable’s CEO, Denys Shortt, has been shortlisted for the Entrepreneur of the Year and Citizen of the Year awards.

Judges have praised the outstanding quality of entries received for the inaugural Touch FM Pride of Stratford Awards 2012 with DCS.

After hours of deliberation, the judging panel confirmed the nominees who are in the final reckoning for an award. The ceremony, created and hosted by Touch FM (Stratford’s local radio station), will be presented at a glittering event in Stratford upon Avon on 17th February 2012. The night will reflect and recognize the best that Stratford District has to offer.

The judges have selected just 39 finalists from hundreds of applications. Each of the 13 categories (which include Business of the Year, Citizen of the Year and the Stratford’s Pride Award) has three finalists.

The Judges are: Gina Fusco (Head of Strategy and Marketing, NFU Mutual), Richard Egginton (CEO, Stratford Town Trust), and Steve Orchard (CEO, Touch FM). Cllr Stephen Thirlwell (Deputy Leader, Stratford-on-Avon District Council) attended on behalf of Cllr Chris Saint (Leader, Stratford-on-Avon District Council).

New enterprise groups tackle host of issues, and all over breakfast

Build It BetterJanuary 9, 2012

Enable’s CEO, Denys Shortt was featured in the Daily Mail this week, in an article about Denys’s role as chairman of Coventry and Warwickshire LEP. The Mail’s article is shown below.

Denys is chairman of Coventry and Warwickshire LEP, one of the first such bodies to be approved by the Government. Denys, 47, is an entrepreneur who in 1994 founded DCS Europe, a beauty company that distributes brands including those made by Unilever and Procter & Gamble to more than 70 countries.

Local Enterprise Partnerships are the Government’s much vaunted replacement for the Regional Development Agencies, which were scrapped in the 2010 Budget. The new Government funded groups are intended to be led by business, for business. Since the concept was launched, 24 have been approved and set up.

The firm also sells its own range of beauty products called Enliven and turns over £130million a year.

Through the LEP, Denys hopes to provide local firms and entrepreneurs with the support they need to expand their businesses and deal with relevant issues, such as access to finance. The partnership has held regular focus groups, targeting business sectors from farming to automotive, as well as forums on issues including planning and skills. It also holds breakfast meetings for firms to tell of their concerns, while a conference in October was attended by 300 businesses.

Access Internet-hosted apps when you're offline, with HTML5

Build It BetterDecember 2, 2011

Enable has been a pioneer of Internet applications since its inception 12 years ago. We quickly recognised that physically installing software on every PC in an organisation was not the way forward, as upgrades need to be carried out individually on each computer, computer-specific problems can be encountered, and users can only work on the specific PCs that have the software installed. On the other hand, browser-based applications can be accessed via a web browser from anywhere without requiring any local installation, and upgrades are carried out once in a central location.

Enable has focussed on developing browser-based applications that are fast to operate and easy-to-use for both the occasional and the expert user. A major goal has been to make browser-based applications as ‘feature rich’ as the desktop, and this has been largely achieved in recent years.

In the past, a potential downside of browser-based applications has been that they require a reliable Internet connection to operate. However, Enable has recently completed development projects where this is not so. Utilising HTML5, Enable can develop applications with functions that can be accessed and used with only intermittent connectivity. When an Internet connection becomes available, data is able to synchronise between the user’s device—PC, smartphone, tablet—and the central server that hosts the application.

Enable’s Denys Shortt wins national award

Build It BetterNovember 16, 2011

On a star studded evening of entrepreneurs in London—including James Caan, Julie Meyer and Will King—the Growing Business Awards celebrated the best of British Business. Created by Real Business and the CBI in 1999, the Growing Business Awards are the most established recognition for UK independent and entrepreneurial businesses.

This year’s event kicked off the first Global Entrepreneurship Week, where enterprise activity is being championed across the world.

A new award for ‘Local Hero of Enterprise’ was won by Denys Shortt, founder of DCS Europe and Chairman of the Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

Declan Curry, presenter for BBC Business News, announced the award:

“Former England Hockey player, highly successful entrepreneur and proud son of Stratford-upon-Avon, Denys Shortt commits himself to a huge array of local community projects—from supporting the town’s football club to mentoring business owners to launching an ambitious new project to place helipads on rooftops alongside accident and emergency wings.”

Barclays extends banking facilities of £19m to Enable's parent company

Build It BetterOctober 5, 2011

Barclays Corporate has extended banking facilities of £19m to DCS Europe — Enable’s parent company. DCS Europe is the UK market leader of sales and distribution of health, beauty and household brands. As a result, the business has moved its’ banking operations to Barclays Corporate in recognition of the bank’s support for its ambitious growth plans.

The facilities will support the expansion of the Group which operates from its 11 acre site in Stratford-upon-Avon and which employs over 250 people. DCS is the official UK distributor for Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Colgate and many more. The company’s own brand ’Enliven’, which consists of a range of 75 products, is produced in their new factory as well as the manufacturing of a number of own-label products on behalf of retailers such as Superdrug, Next and Wilkinsons.

As well as expanding its repacking and manufacturing divisions, DCS is now looking for further global growth in export markets, building on its presence in 70 countries.

Commenting on the deal, CEO of DCS Europe, Denys Shortt said: “Our deal is proof that the banks are lending in these tough times despite what the newspapers say. We are continuing to grow the business following the investment in our facility in Stratford earlier this year and we will to continue to develop all areas of the business to create jobs and growth.”

Develop your own App Store with Enable

Build It BetterAugust 20, 2011

With the continuously growing need to access applications and data on the move, consumer products such as iPhone and Android powered devices are increasingly being used to meet business requirements.

The benefits of consumer apps apply to the business world. Benefits such as being able to optimise the user experience for the device screen size and being able to work with intermittent Internet connectivity.

One of the major challenges is deciding which devices to support. Do you support Android, Blackberry, iOS, or a combination of those? Perhaps you need to support all three, which involves a rewrite of the application. Also, if you are developing a business app it is surely important to be able to access it on a desktop computer and/or web browser? If you do develop multiple versions of your app then you will need to integrate with each of the App Stores.

There is another approach to this challenge, using Enable. We can provide you with your own company App Store, and develop applications once that work across Android, Blackberry and iOS as well as desktop computers and web browsers without having to be written multiple times.

This is achieved by delivering each application over the web but using the latest technology to cache important information locally on the device, therefore allowing you to work with intermittent connectivity to the Internet. The applications look and feel like locally installed applications.

DCS Europe: from clipboard to iPhone

Build It BetterJune 21, 2011

Enable has delivered an iPhone application to allow merchandising teams to capture real-time data during site visits.

With annual sales in excess of £130 million, DCS is one of Europe’s largest distributors of health and beauty products. Under the direction of founder Denys Shortt, the company has witnessed unprecedented growth over a period of seventeen years since it was established in 1994.

DCS supplies over 30,000 retailers and 500 wholesalers in the United Kingdom and exports to 70 countries worldwide. In addition to handling the distribution into selected markets of brands such as Gillette, Colgate, P&G, Unilever, L’Oreal and Cussons, the company has launched its own Enliven range of budget-priced toiletries.

The importance of accurate customer compliance data

Providing accurate, up-to-date data to their renowned range of suppliers is vital to DCS. Deals that are agreed between suppliers and customers determine which products are to be displayed by the customer, at specific prices and positions. Short-term promotional deals are offered and core range products are identified.

Video: Enable’s Denys Shortt hosts Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister

Build It BetterMarch 8, 2011
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