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From Global Pandemic to Holiday Spirit – a Q&A With Some of Our Senior Execs

 
 

The Endava Experience | Helena Nimmo |
14 December 2021

The end of the year is always a busy time, and this year being the second of the global pandemic was especially challenging. That’s why we were very much looking forward to changing tack and sitting down with our CIO Helena Nimmo, CCO Julian Bull, and COO Rob Machin and listen to their perspective on this extraordinary year, their outlook on the future of digital and physical, and their thoughts for the upcoming holidays.

Great to have the three of you here! Let’s dive in. So, most people and businesses worldwide had to adapt quickly to cope with the new circumstances caused by the pandemic, and many have established new routines and setups by now.

What do you think will stay and what will change when societies move out of pandemic restrictions?

Helena: What will stay is an appreciation of the person. We have had our kids, pets, and chipped coffee mugs paraded on screen by those who moved to working from home. We now know the names of our neighbours and appreciate the importance of social contact. It’s very difficult to see the “segregation” of home and work re-establishing as it was. And I’d like to think we are better for it.

Julian: In my opinion, the pandemic has been the catalyst to think about the way we work. I think rather than just coming into an office and sitting at a desk, offices will be places to collaborate with team members. That means the way we design offices will change with the need for greater flexibility and working in teams. People are also now used to working from home and, where possible, will perhaps work from there when they need to work by themselves and concentrate on certain tasks.

Rob: At Endava, we were really well set up to work remotely because we already were such a distributed business. I’m with Julian in that task-oriented work where you put your head down and need focus is absolutely fine to do remotely, and that will continue, I think. What’s not as good remotely is relationship-building, creativity, and collaboration. When you are trying to do some sort of creative task, come up with a solution or product strategy, you know, solve a complex problem, doing that face to face is really powerful. So, for me, one of the things I’m looking forward to getting back to once the pandemic is over, or at least under control, is more community and collaboration.

Incidentally, some of our US colleagues feel that the pandemic has in some ways democratised meetings because, in the past, they had often felt like the ‘remote people’ when dialling into a meeting where most people were physically present. In that sense, they now feel more included because everyone is working under the same conditions.

Digital has obviously played a key part in adapting to these circumstances but has also created a kind of ‘digital fatigue’, with many people wanting real-life experiences again as soon as they are possible.

How do you think the relationship between digital and physical experiences will evolve, and which will become most important in the different areas of our lives, like working, shopping, meeting friends and family, travelling, cultural events and participation?

Rob: I think people are fatigued by bad digital experiences. All businesses that want to be competitive need to create good digital experiences without little bits of friction that will cause people to feel that fatigue. In terms of Endava’s business, this is great news because you can’t build these services in the way people used to build software. It can’t be a ‘here’s a spec, go build it, tell us when you’re done’. People had realised that before Covid, but it was still happening, and I think now people want more collaboration. They want more innovation; they expect more from their partners in terms of building digital systems.

In the next 10 years, there is going to be this surge of activity to build out the Metaverse and other types of immersive digital experiences, which is going to change everything – from a completely new transaction and payment model to insurance or work, everything. And the physical world will also change in that people will use services in different ways. Ownership of assets will change. Travel will change, the automotive industry, the cultural sector.

Julian: Yeah, as Rob mentioned, the relationship between physical and digital is something that was already evolving pre-pandemic. Covid just accelerated some of the plans. For me personally, I also enjoy returning to the in-person interaction of everyday life. Zoom drinks never quite landed for me…at the end of the day, I’m just sitting at my desk alone, drinking wine, which was never a life goal!

Helena: Because real-life experiences are vital to our health, within reason. FOMO (fear of missing out) caused a lot of stress, as is now FOGO (fear of going out). Such extremes of feeling the pressure of physical experiences can be alleviated using technology. Certain formats of online events gain a more engaged audience – take 45 min round table conversations on a specific work topic. Also, live events, such as concerts, can be enjoyed both online and in person in real time. VR tourism or VR shopping gives you an opportunity to try before you buy. Digital is not a substitute for in-person experiences; it is here to augment the experience and open it to a wider audience.

Rob: To give a personal example of what Helena just mentioned, there’s a festival I used to go to every year, Hay Festival, which was forced to go online in the last couple of years. And I’m sure when that comes back as a physical festival, there will still be digital elements because it provides much more inclusion for people globally. I’m sure a lot of these things will become a mix of physical and digital.

In 2021, Endava has put an even greater focus on being a sustainable business through our comprehensive We Care approach, including the launch of our first sustainability report.

Do you have certain parts of our diverse sustainability activities that are especially important to you or that you are particularly proud of?

Julian: A lot of what we are doing in this space is something we have been doing for a long time, as demonstrated through our values. Recently, we have really brought it to life through We Care, and I must say the team have done an amazing job. I think all of it is incredibly important for the way we and future generations live and work, and I’m supportive of it all. I have particularly enjoyed what we are doing in the area of diversity and inclusion. There is no doubt in my mind that our continued investment in diversity will make us an even stronger team, providing rewarding career opportunities and delivering creative and valuable solutions to our clients.

Rob: The aspect I’m most passionate about is also inclusion and diversity in our business, particularly in relation to the LGBTQ community. It’s great that there’s been a bigger focus on that, and it's really positive to see that there’s a new generation coming through for whom a lot of the prejudices that were faced by my generation are incomprehensible. It’s a different conversation. They don’t start from the same place of, you know, needing to say, ‘this is okay’. For them, it’s a matter of course, no need to ask these questions. We also had our inclusion week recently, and I really enjoyed it. Those events are important to me, and I’m really passionate about them.

Helena: For me, sustainability is something we should all be thinking about in both our personal and professional lives. Running IT has a big carbon footprint, and there are two key areas that require our focus as a business: e-waste we generate with all the equipment we use, and the power consumption of developing and running IT. We actively look to maximise the lifespan of our equipment, based on the manufacturers’ recommendations. And we look to dispose of our laptops, monitors, peripherals, etc., in a responsible way by recycling as much as we can. We also look to our suppliers to ensure they source materials used in the equipment in a responsible way.

Also, running and developing our systems consumes power – most Cloud providers are reducing their environmental footprint by using renewable energy to heat or cool their data centres. In addition to this, we look to reduce our data storage footprint wherever we can. We might not print out as much as we used to, and thus save trees, but storing multiple copies of the same document or picture still consumes energy, and we need to actively find ways to improve this.

And now, a little more personal…looking towards the end of the year, we are curious about how you will be spending the holidays. Do you plan to do everything ‘as usual’, or will there be any particular changes compared to your traditional festivities?

Rob: Well, it’s hard to predict, isn’t it? I mean, we have started going to the theatre again in person – I used to go to the theatre quite a lot, not so much in the last two years, of course. So, we’ve got a bit of theatre booked in London, and I’m looking forward to all that, and hopefully going to restaurants. But who knows what will happen with omicron, you know? Also, we used to spend Christmas with a lot more family members and travelling, and obviously this has been reduced. This year, my mother-in-law is coming over Christmas Day, which is nice. So, yeah, things should be good.

Helena: This year is likely to be anything but usual for us as a family. Our eldest is due with twins days before Christmas, and her little girl is not yet two. The freezer is bulging with various meals of various portion sizes to be distributed when needed. All presents have been bought; nothing has been left to the last minute this year! We will still celebrate Finnish Christmas on Christmas Eve and British Christmas on Christmas Day, but I suspect the timings of everything will be rather fluid.

Julian: The plan is to spend a quiet Christmas Day and Boxing Day with Jacqui, Phoebe, and Aaron, and I’m hoping those plans are Boris-proof!

Finally, would you please share a few words for Endavans and our readers to send them off into the holidays?

Helena: Thank you for all your hard work during 2021. Enjoy the festive period, relax, and enjoy time away from your desk with your loved ones and friends. Looking forward to seeing you all in 2022!

Rob: I also want to thank everybody for their hard work in the last year. It has been the second year of disruptive work, and it’s amazing how strong the Endava community still is. I was lucky enough to visit some of our locations recently, and it was so great that people were talking about their colleagues and looking forward to seeing people. My only message, really, for this Christmas is just to enjoy Christmas. Take some time out away from work, recharge your batteries and come back in the new year refreshed!

Julian: Yes, to everyone in the Endava family, thank you for your support, hard work, and creativity during a challenging and successful 2021. I hope you get to enjoy the holiday season where you want and with the people you want. And if you can’t, there’s always Zoom! Happy Holidays!

Helena Nimmo

Chief Information Officer

Helena is a technologist with over 20 years of experience in change and organisational design through product development, data management and technology transformation. Prior to joining Endava, Helena has worked in multiple sectors and started her technology career with Nokia. She is also a keen mountain biker and enjoys spending time with her husband, their 5 children and their first grandchild.

 

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