NCC Load Testing – proof we can take the strain

With several thousand end-users totally reliant on our solutions to run their retail, e-commerce and m-commerce operations, it is vital that our infrastructure is resilient. For that reason, we decided to carry out a number of carefully planned and structured load tests to ensure that our e-commerce operations could deal with the expected peak in web traffic in the run up to Christmas 2013. We appointed the load testing specialists from NCC Group’s Web Performance division, and the tests were conducted in three phases: mid and late October and at the end of November on the website of one of our largest customers. We are pleased to say we passed with flying colours.

If you are interested in the details, NCC have published a case study on the entire testing process and its outcomes:

https://www.nccgroup.com/en/learning-and-research-centre/case-studies/cromwell-business-systems-website-performance/

We are sponsors of the British EMRAs

We are proud to be sponsors of the British EMRAs, the Electrical Manufacturing & Retailing Awards. There are numerous awards for Manufacturers and, for Retailers:

Electrical Retailer of the Year
Leading Design – Cooking Product
EMRA Sales Star – Consumer Electronics
Leading In-store Display
EMRA Multi-Channel Award
Leading Induction/Training Programme for Sales Staff

Each entrant will be scored on the aggregate of points awarded by the EMRA panel plus votes received by Get Connected Magazine readers. We look forward to finding out which retailers have won the awards, and are hoping that at least one of our customers will do very well. The awards will be presented at Twickenham Stadium this Thursday.

For further details see: http://www.emra-online.co.uk/index.html

Retra Golf Day success

We were delighted to have been able to support retra by fielding two teams in the retra national golf day which was held at Brocket Hall on Wednesday 11th September.

Cromwell Team 2, comprising Mark Howes and Ali Badcock (both Cromwell), Simon Cox (Hughes Electrical) and David Baggott (B. Slaney) played exceptionally well, winning the team competition.

Cromwell Team 1, comprising Sonu Kundi (Cromwell), Andy Pallant (Hughes Electrical), Robert Gibbs (Gibbs Home Electronics) and Mike Saunders (Chantry Television) played hard but didn’t have such a good day.

Highlights of the Cromwell players can be seen on this video compiled by Mark Howes:

Our own Marathon man

Dave and Wendy McLaughlin Edinburgh Marathon

Our fittest employee, Dave McLaughlin, continues to run, and run. On 21st April he ran the London Marathon in a time of 3:53:52, and then on 26th May both he and his wife, Wendy, ran the Edinburgh Marathon. Wendy was first home in a time of 3:55:03, followed by Dave in 4:04:52.

Dave’s next run is in 18 days’ time on 21st July: the National Lottery Anniversary Run. This is a bit of a rest as it’s a mere 5 miles. The course will traverse the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Newham, London before ending on the track inside the Stadium. Dave’s been practising doing the Mobot especially for the finishing line photo.

Refresh your website – often!

We have produced some guidance on why it is vital to keep your website content fresh – and hope it’s very useful:

Refreshing your website

Getting to Know Jack Warden

Jack Warden

We persuaded another of our staff to submit to a quick Q&A – so here’s what Jack Warden, who joined us in June 2011 as a trainee Programmer, said to our interviewer:

Q. How did you get into the software industry?
A. I did ICT and Electronics at A Level and was really keen to find a job in which I could use those skills.

Q. What do you most enjoy about working here?
A. It’s a really supportive and friendly place. I had a holiday job in a factory one summer and no-one spoke to me at all, so I had a horrid feeling that’s what work was like. Thankfully, it’s totally different here.

Q. What have been the biggest challenges at Cromwell?
A. This follows on a bit from what I said about the factory job. I didn’t know what to do when I first started here. Not on the technical side, but more about being in meetings. I didn’t know what was expected of me in terms of joining in or keeping quiet. Now I understand about making a contribution and know how to behave in a professional business environment.

Q. If you weren’t in your current role what would you choose to do?
A. The same as here – but in the games industry.

Q. How would you describe yourself?
A. Geeky, outgoing and quite loud. That’s a total contrast to when I first joined, as I was quite shy then. I’ve really got a lot more confident.

Q. Who, or what, makes you laugh?
A. Everything. I really do find life amusing, and I’m a really happy person although I’m not completely insane and do try and treat some things seriously.

Q. Anything about yourself you’d like to change?
A. The ability to grow a proper beard. I have serious goatee envy. Why can’t I grow one like Derren Brown?!

Q. Favourite food and drink?
A. No-one’s allowed to touch my secret stash of orange & pineapple squash. Plus I have a drawer full of sweets and chocolate. As addictions go, it’s pretty minor stuff though.

Q. Biggest regret?
A. Renting a room in a house owned by a completely weird Frenchman. He never spoke to me, and did bizarre things like tape over the switch on the bathroom heater so it couldn’t be turned on. It would make a good sitcom.

Q. If you ruled the world for a day what would you do?
A. I’d make men dress up in top hat and tails, and women wear ball gowns, so we could all have a really good laugh.

Q. What’s your pet hate?
A. “Keith’s” new blue Mazda!

Q. What’s your greatest achievement to date?
A. Coming out of my shell in the last year or so – it’s much more fun being a confident person.

Q. Who has had the biggest influence on your life?
A. My Mum. What can I say? She’s just always there for me.

Q. Who or what would you consign to Room 101?
A. All the rubbish, synthesised pop music around at the moment from talentless, synthetic bands.

Q. All-time favourite TV programme?
A. Lucky Star. It’s a Japanese animation based on comic strip manga.

Q. What’s your favourite piece of kit?
A. My ancient Samsung flip-up ‘phone. It’s not smart, it doesn’t make me coffee in the morning, but it still makes calls and that’s all I need a ‘phone for believe it or not.

Q. Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
A. How can I possibly plan that far ahead? It’s a tough call to plan next weekend.

Q. Surfing or Safari?
A. Surfing. I don’t fancy a safari at all.

Q. What surprises you?
A. Interviews like this.

Q. Do you have any hidden talents?
A. I speak and write a bit of Japanese, and would love to visit the country one day. But I have a long way to go before I could make myself understood. The language has some interesting peculiarities – like it being spoken differently if the speaker is a man, woman or child, or depending on the relationship you have with the other person. Still, I like a challenge.

Q. If you were stranded on a desert island who would you most want to land on the beach?
A. Dylan Moran. He’d be able to see the funny side.

Getting to Know Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown

Continuing the series introducing some of our staff, here are some insights into Sarah Brown who joined us in September 2012 as a graduate trainee in our Applications Support team:

Q. How did you get into the software industry?
A. I applied for a job at Cromwell straight from University. They were advertising for a junior project manager but the applications support role was also available and that’s what I accepted.

Q. What do you most enjoy about working here?
A. It’s never boring. There are always new subjects to master and I love getting to grips with them.

Q. What have been the biggest challenges at Cromwell?
A. Learning Open-Retail. It’s a massive system and I am very conscious how little of it I know. Retail, too, is a complex industry – there is far more to selling consumer goods than I ever imagined.

Q. If you weren’t in your current role what would you choose to do?
A. I’d be a Forensic Psychologist with the Police. They profile offenders and provide guidance on interviewing witnesses, amongst other areas. I did a combined English Language & Communication and Psychology degree and loved the Psychology side. I got a First in the Forensics module. However, I had to be realistic – there are so few jobs in that field and I had to broaden my search for employment.

Q. How would you describe yourself?
A. Outgoing and chatty are probably the two attributes that spring to mind first! I also enjoy a challenge and work hard at whatever I take on.

Q. Who, or what, makes you laugh?
A. I love live stand-up and have seen both Jimmy Carr and Alan Carr live. Jon Richardson from 8 out of 10 Cats is a favourite, too.

Q. Anything about yourself you’d like to change?
A. I can be impulsive and that’s got me into hot water on a few occasions.

Q. Favourite food and drink?
A. Indian food washed down with Archers and lemonade would hit the spot every time.

Q. Biggest regret?
A. Not taking a pure Psychology degree. I didn’t enjoy the English side at all, and doing the combined honours made it very unlikely I could get into Forensic Psychology after I graduated.

Q. If you ruled the world for a day what would you do?
A. Stop all war and conflict. Then everyone might realise global peace is a great idea.

Q. What’s your pet hate?
A. Other people snoring! It’s a small thing, but so, so horrible to listen to.

Q. What’s your greatest achievement to date?
A. Getting my degree.

Q. Who has had the biggest influence on your life?
A. My Dad. He brought up me and my two older brothers from when I was just ten, holding down a full-time job as well. He’s a wonderful role model.

Q. Who or what would you consign to Room 101?
A. The Go Compare ad campaign. Everything about it sets my teeth on edge.

Q. All-time favourite TV programme?
A. Eastenders. It’s pure escapism, full of drama, and makes me count my blessings because every character in it has such a horrible life.

Q. What’s your favourite piece of kit?
A. My Samsung Galaxy S2.

Q. Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
A. Hopefully at Cromwell, but wherever I am I hope to have a settled career in which I can make a real difference.

Q. Surfing or Safari?
A. Safari – it would be a dream to go on one. I’m not a great one for the sea, so surfing doesn’t appeal at all.

Q. What surprises you?
A. Usually one of my older brothers. One of them once hid in my wardrobe for an hour just so he could jump out and scare me witless. It’s a miracle I don’t have a wardrobe phobia.

Q. Do you have any hidden talents?
A. I play badminton, though I couldn’t say I have a great talent for it. I’m double-jointed, so could maybe try being an escapologist if all else fails.

Q. If you were stranded on a desert island who would you most want to land on the beach?
A. Adam Levine, the front man of Maroon 5. He’s not just a musical talent – he’s also campaigned for all sorts of causes such as LGBT rights, ADHD and cancer and I really admire that he’s using his influence for good. Fingers crossed, I’m seeing them play next year.

Charity lunch raises £200

The Strawberry Tea

Well over half of the Cromwell team were treated to a fabulous home-cooked buffet lunch yesterday – all in aid of Breast Cancer Care. The brainchild of Jude Prophet, Management Accountant, and Marie Whittle, Head of Planning, the lunch comprised a Ploughman’s lunch and a “Strawberry Tea” with strawberries and cream, home-made cakes, brownies, scones and meringues. All the cakes and sausage rolls were baked by Jude in a marathon 13-hour baking session on Sunday. At just £5 a head this was an incredible bargain and the opportunity to contribute to an immensely worthwhile cause. The lunch raised £200 from participants and donations. If you fancy running your own “Strawberry Tea”, which is an annual fund-raising event for Breast Cancer Care, see www.breastcancercare.org.uk/strawberry.

Getting to Know Dan Marshall

Dan Marshall

Another of our staff “volunteered” to reveal his innermost secrets, so here’s the confessions of Account Manager Dan Marshall who joined us in June 2010:

Q. How did you get into the software industry?
A. I’ve been building and modifying computers since I was 9 or 10 – primarily to play games on. I went into an IT environment when I left college and someone there was a friend of Jamie’s at Cromwell and he suggested I apply for a job here.

Q. What do you most enjoy about working here?
A. The project management side of my Support role. I also relish being able to give customers solutions that save them money in the long run.

Q. What have been the biggest challenges at Cromwell?
A. Coming from my last company where I was 100% on top of my job to having a steep learning curve in some areas of my role here. I really enjoy challenges, though, so I worked hard to learn the software and how the business operates.

Q. If you weren’t in your current role what would you choose to do?
A. I’d like to do more project management or maybe business consultancy on an IT infrastructure and services basis.

Q. How would you describe yourself?
A. Very hard working. Self-controlled and rather driven. A bit of a pain in the neck! I do set high standards for myself and expect a lot from others as well, and that can rub people up the wrong way sometimes. Strangely, I am much more laid back at home and I’m trying to chill more at work.

Q. Who, or what, makes you laugh?
A. Slightly off-the-wall humour like the Black Books sitcom with Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey and Tamsin Greig; Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead; Jimmy Carr. I particularly love Dylan Moran’s stand-up–monster and frequent the website theoatmeal.com.

Q. Anything about yourself you’d like to change?
A. Not really. I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. I suppose it could be an advantage to look a bit older than I do now!

Q. Favourite food and drink?
A. Curries, anything really spicy especially Indian and Thai.

Q. Biggest regret?
A. Probably not going to University as it would have given me more in-depth knowledge in some areas such as coding. It’s not clear-cut, though, as I think I had to mature faster because I went straight into work from college at the age of 17. Now I’m studying different areas for my own interest – such as Ruby on Rails, the open source web application framework.

Q. If you ruled the world for a day what would you do?
A. Wipe out debt, create a unified global currency and see if we can get economics working for the benefit of the planet instead of just enriching a few.

Q. What’s your pet hate?
A. Mowing the lawn! I prefer nature to do its own thing and not be too tidy.

Q. What’s your greatest achievement to date?
A. Moving away from my parent’s home and really gaining my independence.

Q. Who has had the biggest influence on your life?
A. Several professional people who had been working in this environment for years, who mentored me when I was fresh out of college. They really showed me how to behave in a professional environment and encouraged my ambition and desire to succeed.

Q. Who or what would you consign to Room 101?
A. The flawed global financial system.

Q. All-time favourite TV programme?
A. House – brilliant on all fronts.

Q. What’s your favourite piece of kit?
A. My Intel i7-2600K processor. It’s in a different league to anything I’ve used before.

Q. Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
A. Ideally, doing project management or IT consultancy.

Q. Surfing or Safari?
A. Surfing. Well, snorkelling is more my thing. I had an amazing holiday in Egypt where I went snorkelling in the Red Sea. Apart from the warmth and clarity of the water I had a fantastic experience watching a Turtle descending into the depths. I’d love to dive properly on some of the wrecks like the Thistlegorm.

Q. What surprises you?
A. Text alerts at 3 a.m.

Q. Do you have any secret ambitions?
A. To replace my Fiesta with a MK1 Mazda MX-5. I’m a closet racing driver who thinks he can corner faster than anyone else.

Q. If you were stranded on a desert island who would you most want to land on the beach?
A. Bear Grylls. He’d be really useful if it came to eating insects and drinking animal urine.

IER Award Winners

Two Cromwell customers have won categories in the prestigious Independent Business Awards run by The Independent Electrical Retailer (IER) magazine. This was the 20th year of the awards and the ceremony was held at the Forest of Arden hotel in Birmingham on 21st June.

PRC Home Entertainment Specialists won the “Best Large Independent Retailer – Consumer Electronics / Domestic Appliances” category.

Richer Sounds won the “Best Regional Multiple Retailer” category. Many congratulations to them both.

Full details of all the awards are on http://www.independentbusinessawards.com/news/categoryfront.php/id/14/Winners.html.