What a year this has been, both for people around the world and for us at Endava! Such a year calls for a pause and some perspective. So, like at the end of last year, we sat down with some of our execs to listen to their thoughts on how we interact with digital solutions, Endava’s growth, and their plans for the holidays – many thanks to our CPO David Churchill, CTO Eoin Woods, and CDO Justin Marcucci for joining us!
On the brink of a new era?
Digital services, ecosystems and experiences have already become the normal way of doing business in many areas of life. Are we becoming ‘fully digital’ humans? How do you think the balance between physical and digital experiences will develop?
David: I think in some respects we already are. When was the last time we were without our phones in our hands? And think how we use that to access information and knowledge – all the things that we had to retain in our brains before are now available through technology. Not having a phone can be a bit like phantom limb syndrome, you know, where you still feel the sensation even in a limb that you’ve lost. So, we already are sort of digital humans, I think.
Eoin: Well, I think this varies by generation, but Gen Z, for example, are extremely digitally adapted humans to the point where I don’t think they can imagine life without a near-constant internet connection. Most things that are important to them are available via a smartphone. The big question for me is whether the looming option of physically merging the digital and biological domains becomes something that people find attractive. Elon Musk certainly thinks they will…
David: Absolutely, and I think the hesitation or frustration around the use of digital solutions often has to do with the interface, with the human ability and bandwidth issues that come with using thumbs and eyes. Eoin mentioned Elon Musk, and his new organisation Neuralink is about putting chips into your skull – that’s how you could maintain the human advantage because we’d be able to access the internet through thought, rather than thumbs and eyes. All kinds of technology solutions are evolving, and I think it’s about how we can catch up and use them in the best way.
Eoin: I’m not so sure. If we look at how long VR has been available, yet how long it takes to gain traction with people – including the controversial discussion around the metaverse – I think a lot of people love their digital technology but are keen to keep some boundaries between it and them.
David: So, are we fully digital humans? Well, we’re not robots, no, and I don’t think we will be – I hope we won’t be! But I still think the line between what’s digital and what’s physical will become increasingly blurred. The way in which we think about it today, this distinction won’t exist anymore – probably not in our lifetime, but in future generations.
Justin: I also don’t think we’re going to become fully digital humans. If technologies ever get to a point where they exceed their mandate, there’s a balancing reaction, right? A perfect example are digital books: we’ve had them for decades now, but people still read paper books. Digital experiences augment what we do, but they’re never going to replace those real human, tactile responses and needs – you can’t hold somebody’s hand via a digital app, you know?
I think that as we societally move through the next 10, 20, even 50 years, we’ll continue to use digital to improve areas of our life, but we’ll be selective about it and also have areas that are reserved for human face-to-face interaction.
All for one and one for all!
The uncertain landscape we currently live in is challenging for many people on an economic and personal level. How can digital solutions best support people in these daunting times?
Eoin: In the past, we worried about digital technology depersonalising life and isolating people. In fact, quite the opposite has happened: video conferencing, chat, games, collaboration spaces, and many other technologies have actually brought people together, particularly when the pandemic forced them apart physically.
Justin: Exactly, digital mainly provides more flexibility; it doesn’t replace anything. Working from home, for example, wouldn't have been possible on that scale a couple of years ago because we weren’t able to approximate interactions via phone or e-mail while maintaining the same level of productivity. Digital technology and video conferencing were certainly there before but have improved so dramatically that it became possible to fill the gap and provide that flexibility for people to be able to work from home.
And we see the balancing act here as well. While many people still work from home some, if not most of the time, it hasn’t replaced the value of going into the office, seeing your colleagues and clients, and having a conversation with them. So, digital provides flexibility that we need as a society, but it won’t replace human interactions overall.
David: Yes, it’s a challenging landscape on many levels, both economically and personally. The personal part is what I’m most concerned about as well – you know, leading a people function, it’s the thing I’m thinking about a lot of the time. There have been huge advances in caring for our mental health with online digital tools and services, for example apps like Calm and Sworkit, which we also offer to Endavans, as well as online assistance and counselling services.
The ability to access such services through technology is really important, but as Justin mentioned, I also think we should recognise that there are things digital solutions can’t do… In some respects, we probably need to rely less on technology; we need to unplug, spend time with the people we love, and rediscover those relationships if we’ve been under enormous pressure. And I think there will be pressures that we as individuals can’t immediately influence despite our best endeavours. Digital solutions are helpful here, but they can’t replace the support of our close relationships.
Eoin: On another note, there are always winners and losers in technological change, and we need to find ways of protecting those who are negatively affected. But overall, I’m a firm believer in the benefits of digital technology when considered at the macro level. In these uncertain times, I believe it can help people understand the world, connect with people they would never meet, open up new economic and personal opportunities, and provide ways of navigating problems in new ways.
Speaking of the ‘macro level’… In recent years, Endava has become an ever more global company, with us further expanding our presence in Europe and the Americas but also making real inroads in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East. With so much diversity within our people, clients, and regional culture, how can we ensure that we support everyone where they are whilst also maintaining that “one Endava” feeling?
All three: Our values! *laughing*
David: This is a question of leadership and understanding the simplicity of our core purpose and our values that underpin it, understanding why we exist as a company. I believe that our core purpose translates into all cultures that we’re in or could wish to operate in because, ultimately, it’s about people. It’s about humans and how they interact, what they need and desire from a career or as a customer. You know, they want to be treated as individuals; that’s the same for every person, whether you’re a client or an employee with the company. So, maintaining the “one Endava” culture regardless of our size and the speed at which we scale is about recognising and remembering why we exist.
Eoin: I’d like to echo what David said – core to creating the “one Endava” feeling is remembering, talking about, and living our Endava values. They are the reason that we have the culture we have, and they’re pretty universal; I think we can transfer these from geography to geography and culture to culture. Some things will need to be interpreted and developed at a local level, but it is the values that bind us together, set expectations for our behaviour and actions, and allow us to understand each other.
Justin: If I may butt in here… I also think it’s important that we allow the culture of each region to flourish as well; our people need to establish the culture that’s appropriate, heart-warming, and relevant to that part of the world. Because a UK culture doesn’t necessarily work everywhere; an American culture we know doesn’t work everywhere… So, we need to make sure that there’s enough of a mandate and opportunity for the local culture to thrive and fill out what makes an Endavan an Endavan: investing and trusting in people.
David: Definitely, it’s important to be open – I mean, it’s one of our values, and it's often the one that we cite first. When we go into a new part of the world or a new industry, or we merge with a company, being open to change and a different way of being is important.
Justin: And so is sharing the stories of Endava! Every Endavan I’ve talked to has stories, some funny, some inspiring, but they’re all stories of how they’ve seen the values manifest in the culture of the business and the way people interact – showing Endava is a collection of people looking to do good for the world around them, for their families, and for each other.
All’s well that ends well.
And now, a little more personal…we would love to know what kind of festivities you have planned for the end of the year. Any favourite personal or family traditions?
David: This year, we’re hosting Christmas, so we’ll have about 15 family members in our house. We alternate Christmas between my side of the family and my wife’s side because we’re both from fairly large families. I’ll be cooking – it’s my thing, I love to cook, particularly on Christmas! Really, I do love to cook, and we have a very traditional British kind of roast dinner.
We have some other traditions as well. So, my father-in-law is German, and he’s 90 years old! My hope is that on Christmas Eve, in the German tradition, we will open a few presents, I’ll play the guitar, and we’ll sing a few carols, the whole family together. I’m also hoping that we’ll bring out his accordion – he hasn’t played it for many years – because I’d love to hear some German folk music in our home this year.
Justin: My wife, our three kids, and I, we all grew up in the Northeast of the US. That usually meant snow and, you know, very traditional “American movie” kind of holidays – and we love that and have done it a lot. However, the last couple of years, we’ve tried Christmas in Florida – with a palm tree wrapped in Christmas lights and Christmas Day on the beach – just to mix it up and because we love the beach.
But then we missed some of those winter holiday traditions. So, what we’ve done now for four years in a row – and it’s quickly become the favourite thing we do as a family – is we have these fake wool snowballs. They weigh nothing, but you can still throw them with enough zip to have it feel like a snowball. So, we have these massive fake snowball fights, and it's absolutely our favourite!
Eoin: We always have a real Christmas tree in our house, so going to get the tree, bringing it home, and decorating it is an important tradition for our family – midnight mass together on Christmas Eve is another. And also bringing our extended family together on Christmas Day to spend time and cook Christmas dinner together, slightly chaotically, is something that I look forward to every year as well.
Finally, would you please share a few words for Endavans and our readers to send them off into the holidays?
Justin: I’m very grateful for being part of a business I love so much and for the people around me. I’m always amazed by how passionate, talented, and committed everybody is. And so, my wishes are for everybody to spend time in whatever holiday configuration or celebration they want to, with friends, family, those they love. We work so hard over the course of the year that now it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy what we’ve created and accomplished. Now we should recharge our batteries because it’s important to have just as much love and fun for what we do outside of work as at Endava. So, with real gratitude, all the best wishes to everybody for the holiday season!
Eoin: Yes, thank you all for everything you have done this year to make Endava the special place it is. Thank you for your hard work to make our clients successful, even when it was difficult. Thank you for living our values, even when it required a lot of effort. Thank you for working with each other to share your enthusiasm, knowledge, and our culture, even when it meant you had to go the extra mile. Thank you for being you! I hope you all have a very enjoyable break, however you spend this time of year in your part of the world and in your cultural tradition. I’m looking forward to working with you all to make the most of the opportunities that 2023 brings our way!
David: I also would like to say thank you, first and foremost, to everybody for your work, dedication, and passion in what you’ve done over the course of 2022. It’s been a challenging year, with lots of growth but also some uncertainties with regards to global recession over the last few months. My message to everyone now is Merry Christmas, may you have a wonderful time with your friends, your family, your loved ones, and I’m really excited to work with everybody in 2023. Merry Christmas!