Darren Woods set up the IT consultancy enCircle with his business partner Tom in 2002. At that time Darren hadn’t encountered permaculture and enCircle wasn’t a permaculture business in any way. It did, however, have a strong ethical framework, as Darren and Tom were frustrated with the way that IT businesses were over-charging public sector organisations for sub-standard IT projects.
After 14 years with enCircle, he recently launched a pub with Rachel which won Nottinghamshire Village Pub of the Year 2015 (another permaculture inspired enterprise!), and moved onto a canal boat.
enCircle started out in Tom’s bedroom in Loughborough with two computers. From the beginning, they aimed to win government IT contracts.
Initially they offered to design software systems from scratch, but they found their approach was too radical; customers couldn’t relate to the open ended nature of the software on offer: “Someone likened it to trying to sell a car, but just as a big sheet of metal, saying ‘Well it can be any car you want, what do you want?’”
So, they had to develop more structured packages, aimed at helping police forces manage complex data. Today they work with small businesses, universities, and local and national government, mainly around operational support needs.
Their latest project has been configuring databases for the Diversity Team at the The Ministry of Justice, supporting female, black and state school educated legal professionals on their journeys to become judges.
Their registered address is now Nottingham. They are transitioning to a virtual enterprise, with their people working from home offices – another permaculture inspired decision.
Darren is very positive about the future of enCircle, with the new Government Digital Service seeking to get government IT services developed by small companies ‘because they work twice as hard to deliver something that works for half the cost’.
When Darren found permaculture two years after launching enCircle, he realised that the elements, functions and design systems were directly applicable to IT projects. He found it brought a strong framework rooted in the ethics and principles and key design tools, people care led to the user being placed at the centre of the software design process allowing him to create projects in a way that ensures great results.
He uses permaculture design tools to survey his clients; training them in what a system can do, then configuring the system to their needs. Getting their feedback, observing, tweaking, reconfiguring, and doing actual learning as part of the training.
Darren says: “It’s selling yourself primarily. So you need to get into eye contact with your customers… don’t try and sell them anything on the phone, just get a meeting. Look people in the eye and actually sell yourself, it doesn’t matter what else you’re selling, if they don’t buy into you as a human being they’re not going to buy into whatever you’re trying to sell them.”