MURAL’s Year in Review — and What’s Next for Visual Collaboration in 2021?
December 18, 2020
Looking back at how we powered up visual collaboration in 2020
It’s been a year of dramatic change and adaptation, both at MURAL and the world at large. To reflect on what’s new and what’s next, I joined MURAL’s VP of product design, Kit Unger, to wrap up this season of MURAL Imagine.
In this session, we reflected on how the pandemic has accelerated the future of work and visual collaboration. Watch our conversation here, or read on for a recap with details about some exciting feature releases you may have missed this year.
Winter 2020: Early adopters lead the way
Before COVID-19 was even on most of the world’s radar, MURAL was lucky enough to be seeing growth with a devoted community of innovators and changemakers. We announced our Series A round of funding in January and were already planning to double in size by the end of the year. Although it feels like ages ago to remember, our growth was powered by teams’ frustrations with in-person collaboration that continued into the “suddenly remote” phase of work.
Teams that were familiar with design thinking or focused on digital transformation were coming to MURAL wanting to accomplish the following:
📣 Make everyone’s voice heard, not just the loudest in the room
⚡ Power up innovation and solve hard problems
⌚ Speed up decision making
🤝 Improve collaboration, both in person and remote
💰 Reduce travel costs for in-person meetings
Okay, so the travel costs did become less relevant. But many of the problems we were solving in January remained important after the pandemic hit. Many of our feature releases during this time were about connecting digital innovation with more traditional workshops: sending MURAL to a touchscreen device, for example, or the MURAL Scan beta that digitized content from in-person whiteboarding.
During this time, many people still believed that distributed collaboration could never be as good as (or better than) in-person collaboration. Of course, all that was about to change...
Spring 2020: Supporting the suddenly remote
It was over these months that many people and organizations had to adjust to being suddenly remote in a rapidly shifting world. If teams had what some people refer to as a weak collaboration stack before COVID, it might not have been a top priority. But now, being able to effectively bring together all the amazing voices and minds on your teams became a survival strategy.
At this point in the year, MURAL began seeing 15X above our normal demand. Because we were fortunate enough to be equipped with the technology and mindset to thrive in a remote work world, we quickly launched many initiatives and features during this time to support communities struggling to adapt.
We temporarily extended our free trial to 90 days during the start of the pandemic, so businesses depending on collaboration could maintain revenue streams (we've since launched a free plan).
We expanded our support of the education and nonprofit sectors with discounted or free plans and more ready-to-use templates.
We launched a series of resources to educate workers on running more effective remote meetings.
Our product roadmap at this time was designed to support two core groups: our early adopters, who have visual collaboration embedded in their cultures, and the teams now needing to rapidly catch up. We scaled up our shipping of new features to support these teams, prioritizing Facilitation Superpowers for remote meetings and even easier-to-use collaboration features.
More teams collaborating remotely meant people needed a little bit of guidance and structure to unlock productivity and connect with each other visually, regardless of whether they had design thinking experience. We’ve always predicted that facilitation would be a critical skill for leaders, but this really turbocharged the need to find ways to make meetings more productive.
We also invested heavily in our performance infrastructure to support the huge increase in active members.
Summer 2020 and beyond: Adapting to thrive
One of our company values is “adapt to thrive,” and it also applies to our inspiring community of changemakers. Teams that were dealt the blow of being suddenly remote were now realizing the opportunities of remote and asynchronous working.
We heard example after example of consultants sharing how they’ve been able to help even more teams because of the effectiveness of digital workshops.
We were inspired by stories of hours saved with more efficient and effective OKR planning.
We saw MURAL put to work everywhere from MIT D-Lab to the Never Done Before festival.
Looking ahead to 2021 and the future of visual collaboration
It’s been a whirlwind year of both highs and lows for me, my colleagues, and our community. We’re so grateful to be able to help with your digital and cultural transformations, and our teams are working hard to continue to deliver value that will give you a competitive advantage in 2021.
To give a quick teaser of some of our focus areas for the next quarter, we’re thinking more and more about how asynchronous work will play a big part in more productive teams and reducing our reliance on real-time meetings. Simple-to-use diagramming, drawing, and communication features will be vital for creating the documentation needed to clear up calendars.
When meetings do happen, we will continue leading the way with facilitation features (including increased customization) and the best experience for collaborators. More innovation and better problem solving happen when everyone has a voice. We’re also bringing our community of expert practitioners even deeper into our product experience, building a robust learning platform for all levels of practice. Expect to hear a lot more from us on this topic in the coming weeks.
Our success is because of all of you in our amazing community. We’re so grateful to be part of your digital and cultural transformations. See you in the new year.