May 5, 2020

Visual Collaboration at Scale

Mariano Suarez-Battan

Co-founder & CEO at MURAL. Putting imagination to work. Endeavor Entrepreneur from Argentina. Working remotely from the Bay Area. Past life in video games, now bringing fun to enterprise SaaS.

How MURAL Is Evolving Its Team and Infrastructure for Exponential Growth 

In March, much of the world went home. But there is important work to do. In the midst of mind-bending changes to our realities, we are all learning new skills, tools, and patterns of online work that are likely to permanently alter how we imagine, communicate, and collaborate with each other in the future.

Before 2020, visual problem-solving techniques such as experience mapping, business model design, program increment (PI) planning, and agile retrospectives had become standard for businesses. Collaborative meetings of all types have been essential for innovation and creativity. And for some time, teams and organizations have been learning to collaborate with people distributed around the world, remote from each other, but increasingly effective at communicating while not face to face. Those are trends that many have appreciated.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic made remote collaboration skills and practices absolutely necessary – at massive scale.

Record numbers of you have sought MURAL’s help as you refactor how you work during these challenging weeks and months. Not only are you designers, agile planners, and remote facilitation experts, you are also university professors, local government officials, non-profit leaders, and innovators guiding many kinds of teams adapting to a new reality – together. Since mid-March, the number of people using the MURAL platform on a daily basis has increased 15x. In April alone, over two million of you have interacted with MURAL, by participating in our online events, by learning from our content, or by getting extra help from our team.

Activity in MURAL over time (2020)


Your team’s work is mission-critical. Your imagination and ability to execute on it is imperative to our collective ability to adapt to this environment. And we want you to know we are taking great strides to ensure your meetings, workshops, and customer engagements are in good hands.

At MURAL, we have been preparing for increased adoption of visual collaboration for some time.  Since raising $23 million in funding earlier this year, we’ve been quickly growing our teams and evolving our infrastructure to meet significantly higher demand and continue creating the most dynamic experience in our product. The exponential increase in interactions in our product due to the COVID-19 pandemic has meant we needed to accelerate that. We've learned from the bumps in the road we've encountered as we scaled and implemented new systems. We haven’t been perfect, but open communication with and feedback from our members has helped focus our efforts as we scale and fortify our platform in this time of skyrocketing use.

To continue this open communication, here’s what we have been doing to allow your team, and millions of people like you, to imagine and create together, no matter where you are or how far apart you are from each other:

Our team is getting bigger – fast

We’re expanding our team of world-class IT virtuosos, support heroes, and enterprise transformation experts to support you and the growing MURAL community. Since February 2020, we’ve grown the MURAL team overall by 66 percent and we’re continuing to hire the best and the brightest around the world.

In the last six months, we have nearly doubled the size of the support team alone, with the following results:

  • Average global response time: 9 minutes
  • Customer satisfaction: 96%
  • We're answering 2,500 tickets per week, a 900% increase from Jan 2020


A new engine to supercharge zooming and panning

We want to make your experience in the product as sleek as possible. We’ll soon roll out a major boost in performance, which is currently live with beta customers. In early testing, we're seeing incredibly smooth navigation (100x faster zooming and panning) and significant decreases in loading times.


Scaled up infrastructure capacity, power, and monitoring 

MURAL runs on a cloud-native architecture with capacity to serve 10 times our current demand without any problem. During the past weeks, we upgraded numerous internal systems and processes in order to better react to spikes in usage and to improve our performance, high availability and resilience in different ways.

  • Database Upgrade: We’ve recently quadrupled the power behind our database. As such, we have plenty of room to grow and to comfortably make changes as usage increases.
  • Kubernetes Deployment: We moved 100% of our production services to Kubernetes – an open-source system trusted at companies such as Spotify, Squarespace, Box and Capital One – for automating application deployment, scaling, and management based on containerization technologies. While some of our less-critical services had already been running on Kubernetes for a while, we went ahead and rolled out the full-fledged infrastructure change.
  • Infrastructure Change Management: We manage all infrastructure as code (IaC) with mandatory peer reviews, so we have multiple layers of oversight and quality assurance for any infrastructure change.
  • Realtime Collaboration Service Refactor: We implemented a major architectural change for delivering real-time messages across different instances of our platform. This allows us to scale this service horizontally almost infinitely.
  • Automated QA: We already have a high degree of code coverage in critical services (over 90%), but we’re currently automating our QA cycles to prevent regressions and speed up our development process.
  • Disaster Recovery Plan: We implemented and tested a Disaster Recovery Plan based on a multi-datacenter architecture. In the unlikely event of a full failure of a single datacenter, we are totally ready to failover to a different datacenter with near-zero downtime.
  • Monitoring and Alerts:  Our DevOps team monitors and manages millions of data points coming from all our systems. We have more monitors and alerts in place than ever, and these systems will trigger even on anomalies detected automatically.
A (pixelated) view of our complex infrastructure-monitoring dashboard
  • Security: We conduct regular third-party penetration tests as part of our security and compliance program in order to find weaknesses, new potential attack vectors, and vulnerabilities in our networks and apps.
  • Certifications: All our software development processes are certified under the SOC 2 standard, regularly audited by a third-party entity.


Transparency, Always.

We live by our "Make Others Successful" value that we adopted during our Start-up in Residence Program at IDEO. One key to how we operate is that we will always provide you with a high level of transparency on our status. In the event there is any disruption in our service, this information is available through numerous channels and a post-mortem is posted via our status page letting you know what happened. We care about you, and your work, and want you to be confident that our systems are at 100% before your next big meeting. Your voice is heard and your feedback is essential as we evolve our approach. For example: 

  • We recently enhanced our status page with system metrics, updated every 15 minutes. We report on even minor hiccups. Subscribe for updates so you would be the first to know if we’re experiencing any slowdowns or downtime.
  • This month, we plan to formalize Twitter as an additional support channel for real-time visibility and future support inquiries.

There’s a reason why the world’s most extensive visual collaboration transformations are powered by the MURAL product and team. Global technology, financial services, and consulting enterprises — which have up to 60,000 monthly active members each in MURAL — conduct their mission-critical meetings, workshops, and client engagements with a trusted partner.

Every action you take in MURAL is critical, and we’re dedicated to ensuring that creating and collaborating in MURAL is a smooth experience. We walk in your footsteps too; MURAL is critical to our own people. We're a remote-first team that relies on visual collaboration and uses MURAL in every meeting.

We’re all deeply grateful that you’re turning to us during this time. Your trust in us is a privilege and the prime motivator for the global MURAL team. We’re cheering for you, we’re amazed by the work you do, and we’re always here to listen and help.

Cheers,

Mariano, Pato and Agustin

MURAL Co-Founders