There is a wide selection of digital tools available for sharing ideas and know-how, planning together, or discussing and reviewing plans together. Many of them are reasonably priced or even free. These so-called collaboration platforms can be used to support the work of different teams, the sharing of learning and expertise, the facilitation of remote meetings, or they can replace the use of traditional flipcharts and notepads with new digital working methods.
In our recent Digital work environment 2022 report collaboration platforms Miro, Mural, Trello, and Howspace showed to be the most popular in Finland.
Miro and Mural – for design work and visualizing ideas
Whiteboard tool Miro is used by one third (31%) of people answering the study. These days, Miro is quite popular for different design and collaboration needs. It is being used more and more for collaboration, project work, and managing work with stakeholders and partners. Originally known by the name RealtimeBoard, Miro is a product of RealtimeBoard Inc that employs over 1700 people. The sales, development, and admin of Miro, which has been available on the market since 2011, is led from the company headquarters in Amsterdam and in San Francisco.
Mural, which has pretty similar functions as Miro, is being used by organizations of about one tenth of those who took part in the study (9%). Like Miro, Mural was released in 2011, and it is a product of Tactivos Inc having its headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and San Francisco.
Both Miro and Mural are being used by millions of users around the world. Both offer whiteboards that can be expanded limitlessly and that can be worked on in realtime by different users. Users can illustrate their work with different visual elements such as notepads, graphs and charts as well as write their ideas, notes or observations using various text tools. Both Miro and Mural boards support importing images or other documents. Some of the boards that are being worked on together can be hidden from other users and shown later once the work progresses. The user that created a board can also lock parts of the content, which blocks other users from editing these parts.
Both Miro and Mural offer hundreds of templates which users can utilize in their work. Also, own boards that work well can be saved as templates for others in the organization to use. Both platforms offer scheduling and polling functions that support virtual cooperation and facilitating the design work. Commenting and chat functions offered by both platforms help collaboration. Unlike Mural, Miro also serves as a platform for video meetings.
Image: Miro can be utilized as a platform for brainstorming, iterating, designing and sharing information (source: http://www.miro.com).
Both tools offer good integrations with popular platforms such as Google and Microsoft environments and apps like Teams.
Both Miro and Mural are being continuously developed and new functions and features are added regularly. For example, to help work, Miro has recently added a feature to automatically group notepads by their color or tag information.
The ever-growing list of functionalities and increasingly versatile features of both tools might make the tools feel difficult to approach at times. When it comes to basic functions however, both tools are pretty easy to implement. Finding the right working methods for your needs requires some experience with the platforms. Fortunately, there are several good tutorials and instructions to support the use of these tools, which allow users to get to know the features of the platforms and find the best way to use them.
We at North Patrol use Miro or Mural in almost all our projects. Collaboration platforms serve perfectly in the facilitation of hybrid meetings and also offer a functional platform for, for example, pre-tasks when preparing for workshops. At North Patrol, Miro is used a lot for internal planning.
Both Miro and Mural offer a free version that covers basic functions. The paid versions have different licenses from so-called team licenses that cost less than 10 dollars per user per month to enterprise licenses that are quoted separately.
The Data in Mural is stored either in data centers in the USA or Argentina. Miro says that it stores the data in a data center in Ireland by default and backs it up in Virginia, USA. Miro is on a schedule to bringing the possibility to limit data storage within the EU for the widest Enterprise-level customers. According to Miro´s current releases though, some user data and data related to third-party integrations, for example, will continue to be processed in data centers outside the EU.
Trello – a modern option for physical kanban boards
One fifth (19%) of respondents use Trello, which was said to, for example, replace physical kanban boards. The research shows that Trello is being used especially for internal communication and information sharing within groups and teams, for project work and project management, as well as for innovation and development.
Trello, which was created in 2010 for managing projects, workflows and to-do lists, became part of the Australian software giant Atlassian’s product range in a deal worth more than $400 million in 2017. Atlanssian employs 7000 workers in 13 countries and has products like Jira, Confluence and Bitbucket in their product portfolio. Trello consists of boards, lists created on the boards, and task cards that can be attached and moved between different lists. Trello can be effectively used for flexible management of various projects, workflows, processes or other to-do lists.
Image: Trello board consists of lists of task cards (source: http://www.trello.com).
The cards on Trello boards can include information related to the task in question, such as title, description, users responsible for the task, and deadline for the task. The cards can be grouped with labels and they can include attachments as additional information for the task. The task on a Trello card can be divided into subtasks with target schedules by utilizing check lists, which helps keeping on track with what is going on related to the task.
Various automatic functions can also be created to manage Trello boards and cards. The cards can include shortcut buttons that allow assigning and marking the task as done. Users can also be automatically reminded of approaching deadlines. An automatic process can also include a notification for the project in charge of the next phase once a task is marked as done.
At North Patrol, Trello has been used for years for planning marketing actions among other things. For example, ideas about the topics of future blogs, articles or webinars are collected on Trello boards. As the plans progress, ideas are refined, content writers and publication dates are assigned for the articles, and the pieces of content are grouped and put together, e.g. into the contents of newsletters.
Trello´s pricing allows users to start with the free version. As usage and users increase and new additional functionalities become necessary, the Trello plan can be upgraded by choosing one of the licenses with more extensive features. All Trello user and usage data is stored in the USA on Amazon Web Services (AWS) servers.
Howspace – a shared playground and learning platform for teams
Howspace is an easily customizable platform for teamwork and online learning, allowing guided work of groups, teams and communities of different sizes. In our digital work report, it emerged as one of the most used platforms for working together. A total of 13% of respondents mentioned that Howspace is used in their own organization.
Howspace can be used to publish content for the community including text documents, videos, and photos. The content can be targeted to smaller groups of users. The users can be involved in cooperation in many ways. They can have discussions as themselves or anonymously, give scores or vote on timely topics. Different surveys can be published for users and also so-called reaction buttons can be used to gather users’ thoughts or opinions. The platform also supports creating to-do lists for projects and it can be used to book meetings or to hold video meetings. Howspace also includes built-in AI-based features that are said to enable automatic analysis of comments and discussions on the platform. The analysis is shown as a summary, word cloud or theme/emotional analysis of the most important topics that have emerged in the discussions.
Image: Howspace supports flexible coworking and information sharing between different groups (source: http://www.howspace.com/)
At North Patrol, Howspace is often used for staff training and onboarding. It is also a great platform for cooperation between different units and organizations since Howspace offers an easily approachable and a secure environment for working with shared contents and discussions.
Howspace’s pricing model for under 50 users is a fixed 10 € per user per month. The monthly cost per user decreases gradually when the number of users increases. Tailor made contracts can be made for e.g. bigger organizations, educational institutions, or associations.
In its information security statement Howspace promises to meet all the requirements related to GDPR. All the information that the customers save in their work space is stored in servers in Sweden.
Howspace is the only sold product by a Finnish company Howspace Oy that employs approximately 40 people. The product is said to be used by over 1000 organizations around the world. The company has offices and staff in Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Stockholm and Toronto.
Digital work environment 2022 report
Already a fifth time in a row, the digital work environment 2022 report dived deep into the digital working environments and tools used by Finnish organizations. We examined what the role of a communicative Intranet is and what are the roles of other tools? What kind of challenges organizations face with remote and hybrid work and in what ways are these challenges solved?
For the report, we carried out a wide online survey and interviewed representatives from the organizations in five different fields.
More information about the results:
- Data review: Digital work environment 2022 survey
- Order a printed results report (Webropol form, in Finnish)
- Webinar recording: Results of the Digital Workplace 2022 report (Vimeo 60 min, in Finnish)
(This article has been translated from the Finnish original. Visit our Finnish blog Intranet-ostajan opas to read the original article.)
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