Meet our Partners: MURAL, modern tools for a modern way of working
by Gerard Oliver on 4 Nov 2019
Digital transformation is bringing many changes to the way we work. New processes and tools are required to face the challenges and make the most of the coming opportunities. Wout Hermans, enterprise transformation manager in MURAL, told us how they
Digital transformation is bringing many changes to the way we work. New processes and tools are required to face the challenges and make the most of the coming opportunities. Wout Hermans, enterprise transformation manager in MURAL, told us how they understand the future of work and how MURAL helps organisations and independent worker to improve their workflow and increase their creativity.
Hi Wout, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Let’s start with the basics… for those who may not know you yet, what is Mural? Who can use it?
MURAL is a digital whiteboard for people to collaborate in real-time. And an important aspect of it is that it is visual collaboration. So you collaborate using visual elements on a big white canvas. MURAL is totally cloud-based, so the work is on the web on any of your mobile phones. You can collaborate across devices and across time zones, no matter where you are. It’s used a lot by design teams because they already think visual and work on their projects on canvas. So it’s quite an easy transition to work digitally.
MURAL solves some problems that these teams have. Because in today’s world you see everybody working across time zones and across distances, in every meeting that you have there will be someone who is working from home or working from another office or even the other side of the world. And in those cases, it’s quite hard to collaborate if you’re not in the same room. And there you can have problems. For example, maybe you’re writing something on a whiteboard in that meeting and you’re trying to point the webcam at that so someone who is remote can follow. It never works like that, as these people will always feel like second class citizens, as we call it. Having a digital workspace like MURAL resolves that and actually empowers those people who are remote and really makes it like a level playing field for everybody, no matter where they are.
This is an interesting time for organisations and professionals alike – as digital continuously redefines what it means to do work, and how organisations can digitise and innovate their way of working. What is your vision for the future of work? And how do you see MURAL supporting it?
I see work developing in two ways. First, everything is becoming more digital. People are working from everywhere across the world. We have to accommodate for that. And I think that will be even more important in the future. You will see more and more companies looking for talent across the globe. Especially in some places it can be hard to find the exact talent that you are looking for, let’s say in Silicon Valley, or maybe even in Amsterdam. But with digital technology you don’t need to move people across the world to work with you. I think that’s going to be a very important part of the future of work.
Not only for just finding that talent, but also for retaining people just allowing them to work from wherever they feel most comfortable. If they don’t want to move to the big city because they feel comfortable in the village where they live, for example, or maybe someone who is constantly travelling around. And the same goes like this not only for your employees but also for your clients. If you’re working in a consultant-client environment, you cannot always be with your client. So it’s easy to have an online platform where you can collaborate with each other.
And I think the second part that I see changing and has been happening over the past few years is that companies are more focused on design thinking. So you see almost any company in the world transforming in that direction, where design is actually setting the strategy for the company and not being just some artefact or a theme that helps you make things pretty.They are doing all the user research, defining the problems and setting out the strategy, all based on design. I think that is like a great development that makes companies better. And I think MURAL plays a role in that since we are a platform to collaborate visually in a very natural way. And designers, who are used to work this way, are usually the ones who are adopting it easily and spreading it through the organisation.
Can you share with use any concrete case that you are especially proud of?
An important case that I am very proud of is the way that IBM has implemented MURAL across their organisation. So around four years ago, the head of design of IBM had the task to train the whole IBM workforce in design thinking. IBM is like a massive company with more than 300,000 people across the globe. How are you going to do that? So he came across MURAL and he actually thought ‘Hey, this is the tool that I’m going to use for that. This is a tool that I’m going to use to scale design thinking across the whole organization, including templates and methods and ways of working.’ And over these past four years, IBM has scaled that across the organization. And you see that in the numbers and how they actually use MURAL. More than 100,000 people have signed up for MURAL and more than 30,000 are still using it every single month. So that’s definitely a great success story of how MURAL can be used.
In your webpage, you define MURAL as digital workspaces for visual collaboration and innovation. How do you think this tool helps with innovation? And about yourselves, what processes do you use to have new ideas and do things differently in MURAL?
I think MURAL really helps you with inspiration in your workflow, no matter what you are working on, because it’s visual. I think we all know about using sticky notes on a whiteboard or on a flip chart, we usually draw and make small annotations there. We all know that this helps you in the process to generate more ideas and to come up with conclusions. MURAL basically transformed that to the digital space but actually enrich that so you can actually do more. You can easily add more content to the canvas, like pictures and videos or links to other pages. So you have everything together, a rich platform full of visual stimulants that inspire you.
And how do we get inspired ourselves? There’s a number of ways we do that. And I think the number one way is to listen to our customers. So we are very fortunate to have great customers. Our main customers are designers, innovators, people with great ideas. So they’re giving great feedback to us as well, like ‘Hey, would be even more amazing if I could do this’ or ‘Hey, I’m struggling with this. Can you help me try to try to solve that?’ And we also support and feedback channels where we try to record that voice of the customer as we call it, and we synthesize all those results and make decisions on what we want to innovate next.
We have talked about the future of work. How do you see the future of MURAL?
I’m super excited about the future of MURAL. We are scaling a lot at the moment, we are growing and ramping up all our teams, basically with the goal to empower our users even more. We are bringing in more facilitation tools to make the collaboration processes almost effortless and more powerful, and also integrating other complementary tools like video conferencing, email or task management to make that workflow even more smooth. And I think in this way we can help more and more people to run successful online sessions and getting everybody online, so levelling the playing field for everybody across the world.
What excites you more about the partnership with Riverflex? How do you see MURAL supporting our community & independents?
I think MURAL perfectly fits in the toolbox of a modern consultancy like Riverflex because it allows a new way of client-consultant collaboration. There is no need to travel for every workshop and meeting, and all online meetings will become productive and fun sessions. Also, transcribing workshop material will be a thing of the past and templates of best practices can be made available to every consultant. Next to this, I think MURAL can help bring the Riverflex community closer together. Because everybody is spread out over different countries the easiest way to connect and have collective sessions is through online meetings. MURAL can help in this as a platform for working sessions, skill-sharing or fun activities.