How technology enables companies to continue their activities

How technology enables companies to continue their activities

By |March 31st, 2020|0 Comments

Innovation can take many forms, from building better products, better customer experiences to creating new business models. With the rising competition across almost all industries, innovation stays a top priority on everyone’s agenda, start-ups and large companies alike. And that is no surprise – innovative businesses perform better than their competitors.

Within Co.Station we create ecosystems to foster innovation, setting the right context for companies of all sizes to build solutions for challenges across areas such as energy, clean tech, mobility, media and more.

Our current focus is launching and operating co.mobility: the ecosystem that creates solutions for Belgian mobility. 40 different actors will co-create intensely throughout the course of a year to develop practical solutions. Because of the confinement, digital technology plays a huge role in the workings of the ecosystem. In the end, we adapt ourselves and use the current situation and technology to our advantage!

During these unprecedented times we are seeing an increasing number of initiatives that aim to create solutions from scratch to address the issues generated by the pandemic, many of these initiatives being tech related and tech intensive. 

While the subject of innovation is complex, involving many different aspects, what we are interested in is understanding how technology helps businesses innovate, does technology play a role and if yes, what is that role?

1. Gain customer insights

Data provides powerful insights that firms can use to create entirely new products or improve existing ones. With the help of user analytics applications such as Mixpanel or Amplitude, companies can understand users’ behavior and learn which features are used the most and the least used or where customers hit a roadblock. Equipped with this information, businesses can decide what new products, features to invest in developing or how to make their product’s interface easier to navigate. 

Chat bots facilitate the communication of businesses with both website visitors or product users, making it easier to capture any feedback on how to improve their products. Keeping an ongoing communication with clients and potential clients ensures at the same time a great customer experience.

But don’t think that customer behavior data is available for websites and applications alone, retail businesses can use technology to track how shoppers move inside a store, in which section they do the most etc.

2. Experimentation

Another powerful way of using data is through experimentation. When building new products or features, instead of relying on their gut, firms can create and run experiments, at much lower cost and faster than in the past. 

Take LinkedIn for example. When they rolled out the publishing platform, they invited a limited number of users to try the new feature and after assessing user satisfaction, they moved on with full roll out to all users. 

With the help of experiments, innovation projects now consume less time and budget.

 

Developing programmer Development Website design and coding technologies working in software company office stock

3. Speed up product design and development

There are a number of platforms out there to help software companies build products and prototypes much faster than in the past. The likes of GitHub or Atlassian help streamline the development workflow, while InVision or Figma help speed up design, thus launching prototypes and testing how they are received by consumers is much easier today.

 

4. Gather talent worldwide

When the right talent is not available on site, firms can find and hire talent elsewhere. Video communication tools such as Zoom or Webex and onboarding tools such as CloudApp make it easier to interview, hire and onboard people remotely.

Organizing day to day activity is also facilitated through the use of communication apps, collaboration tools as well as project management tools.

 

What are the most popular tools used by Co.Station’s community?

Now that we looked at the different ways technology can impact how companies innovate, let’s see what are the most popular tools and apps used by Co.Station’s community. If you are interested in finding out what tools and apps our residents and our own team use, as well as the main features of these tools, keep on reading.

Communication

  • Slack (Windows, macOS, iOS, Android & web)

Slack is a communication tool most known for organizing conversations into channels, enabling team members to join and leave as needed. Similar to channels, the shared channels functionality allows you to communicate with your customers or partners the same way as with your colleagues. You can do video and voice calls on Slack, as well as share your screen (the latter is available to paid users only). Slack also offers a number of app integrations such as Google Drive, Calendar, Trello, Asana & many more. 

Main functionalities: instant messaging, voice and video call, screen sharing, file sharing, apps integrations

Pricing: free version, paid version starts from 6.67 USD/user monthly

 

  • Google Hangouts (Web, iOS, Android)

Hangouts is Google’s longest running messaging and video chat service, available to Gmail users. If you have a paid account (basically a Gmail business email address), you can use Hangouts Chat, Google’s answer to Slack. This app offers the same functionalities as the consumer Hangouts, and on top of that it provides rooms for ongoing chats (similar to channels in Slack), it is integrated with Google Drive, so you can share documents and manage appointments right from chat. And most importantly it provides bots that you can chat with or add to rooms to get more done right into the interface.

Main functionalities: messaging and video chatting, phone calls, document sharing, bots integration

Pricing: free version, paid plans start at 4.68 EUR/user monthly (G suit package)

 

  • Microsoft Teams (Windows, macOS, iOS, Android & web)

Teams is Microsoft’s chat and collaboration tool for Office 365 users, enabling them to communicate through text, video and voice. Teams also provides the possibility to create chat rooms with threaded conversations. Because Teams is integrated with the Office 365 suite, users have access to other Microsoft Office services such as Excel, Word or cloud storage. You can edit shared documents right inside Teams, with the latest version being saved in real time.

Main functionalities: instant messaging, voice and video call, file sharing, file editing

Pricing: paid plans start at 12.50 USD/user monthly (Office 365 package)

 

 

Video Conferencing

  • Zoom (Windows, macOS, iOS, Android & web)

Zoom is a video platform that enables teams to host video meetings, webinars, instant messaging, as well as screen sharing. The recording functionality is a useful one, as you can then send the reconfing to coworkers or webinar attendees. One functionality you will love is breakout rooms, that allow you to split your Zoom meeting in up to 50 separate sessions, so you can let participants interact with each other. The meeting host can choose to split the participants of the meeting into these separate sessions and can switch between sessions at any time.

Main functionalities: video meeting, voice call, webinars, messaging, screen sharing, meeting recording with searchable transcripts

Pricing: free version, paid plans start at 14.99 USD/host monthly

 

  • Hangouts Meet (Web, iOS, Android)

Hangouts Meet is Google’s response to Zoom, available to G suite users. The enterprise video conferencing app is similar to Hangouts, the free consumer version, with a few extra features like real-time captions and support for up to 250 participants.

Main functionalities: video and voice conferencing, screen sharing, instant messaging

Pricing: free version, paid plans start at 4.68 EUR/user monthly (G suit package)

 

 

  • Webex (Windows, macOS, iOS, Android & web)

Cisco’s Webex solution is a robust video conferencing tool that can host meetings with up to 200 participants at a time, plus includes a collaboration tool, Webex Teams. Webex includes all the essential video conference features like screen sharing and meeting recording, phone dial in. Webex Teams enables users to chat with each other, host group meetings, share files or brainstorm ideas using the app’s whiteboard.

Main functionalities: video and voice conferencing, screen sharing, meeting recording

Pricing: free plan, paid plans start at 12,85 EUR/host monthly

 

  • Skype (Windows, macOS, iOS, Android & web)

Unlike Zoom or Webex, Skype can host video or audio conferences with up to 50 people, making it suitable mainly for small and medium businesses. Skype also has file-sharing capabilities, screen share,  a split view mode to keep conversations separate.

Main functionalities: video and voice conferencing, phone calls, screen sharing, file sharing, meeting recording

Pricing: free, several pricing options for calling mobiles and landlines

 

 

  • Whereby (Web, iOS, Android)

Whereby is a newcomer to the world of video conferencing apps, priding itself with ease of use and flexibility. Meetings are hosted in browser, so there is no download, and guests don’t need to login. Another way that Whereby is different is that you can create a custom link and use it over again, instead of creating a one-time link for each meeting.

Main functionalities: video and voice conferencing, phone calls, screen sharing, file sharing, meeting recording

Pricing: free plan, paid plans start at 9.99 USD monthly

 

 

 

Project Management

  • Monday (iOS, Android, web)

Monday.com is a powerful project management app helping teams plan, execute and track progress of their work. Monday is designed around boards, essentially a customizable table to manage
 projects, workflows, and everyday work. There are multiple views available, so you can visualize your team’s workload, projects’ timeline or individual workflows. The most exciting feature is workflow automation, so you can for example assign a task to a certain team member once its status changes.

Main functionalities: project management, task management, track progress, weekly tasks load, file sharing, workflow automation

Pricing: plans start at 39 USD/month for 5 users

  • Trello (Web, iOS, Android)

Trello is built around Kanban like boards, with boards, lists, and cards that enable its users to organize and prioritize projects in a flexible and visual way. You can add comments, attachments and more directly to Trello cards. Trello has also added workflow automation to help you eliminate repetitive tasks such as calendar commands.

Main functionalities: task management, workflow automation

Pricing: free forever plan, paid plans start at 9.99 USD/user monthly

 

  • Asana (Web, iOS, Android)

Asana is another robust project management tool if you need something more complex than Trello. There are multiple views available, boards (similar to Trello), lists, timeline (Gantt chart) and calendar. With the Forms functionality, you can standardize how your team receives work requests and automatically turn them into tasks. What sets Asana apart from the pack are project templates, in short Asana mapped out standard workflows for marketing, design, HR, IT, and other departments. So for example you can create a marketing content calendar right into the app.

Main functionalities: project management, task management, track progress, workflow automation

Pricing: free forever plan, paid plans start at 10.99 EUR/user monthly

 

Collaboration

  • Notion (Windows, macOS, iOS, Android & web)

Notion advertises itself as an all-in-one workplace that replaces 50+ apps such as Google Docs and Sheets, Trello or Confluence. You can create notes and spreadsheets, plan tasks and projects in a Kanban-like view, as well as build a knowledge base.

Main functionalities: task management, project management, notes 

Pricing: free plan, paid plans start at 4 USD/user monthly

 

 

  • Mural

MURAL is a visual collaboration workspace based in the cloud. MURAL provides shared, digital whiteboards where teams visually explore complex challenges, facilitate design thinking methods, and organize Agile processes across any device. In brief, with MURAL you can put what’s on your mind on sticky notes and then organize in lists, flowcharts, diagrams, frameworks, methods and drawings to activate and align your team. Workshop facilitators or team leaders in particular may find MURAL enticing, as they can create a visual support to guide their audiences. To get you started, MURAL offers templates for various use cases such as planning, learning, evaluating, brainstorming.

Main functionalities: UI/UX design, prototyping, wireframing, graphic design

Pricing: 12 USD/member monthly

Design

  • Figma (Web, Windows, macOS)

Figma is a UI/UX design tool with code-generation, high-fidelity mockup and interactive prototyping capabilities that’s used to design apps, screens and vector illustrations. You can use Figma in browser or download the app. Regardless of where you work, all changes to your designs will always be synced and up-to-date, making it a great choice for regular and distributed teams that want to collaborate on designs in real-time.

Main functionalities: UI/UX design, prototyping, wireframing, graphic design

Pricing: free plan, paid plans start at 12 USD/editor monthly

 

  • InVision Studio (Windows, macOS)

InVision Studio is a comprehensive prototyping and animation software that has become a major player in its market. InVision allows users to create advanced, vector-based designs fast, gather feedback on your designs, brainstorm ideas using a digital whiteboard and even create mood boards. InVision Studio is part of the InVision suite of tools, which also includes InVision Cloud, where you can connect, store and share your complete product design workflow, and InVision DSM, a design system manager and library where you can store and control all of your brand and UX components. An exciting tool the suite is Inspect, which turns InVision, Sketch and Photoshop files into development specifications.

Main functionalities: UI/UX design, prototyping, wireframing, graphic design

Pricing: free plan available, paid plans start at 15 USD/month

 

 

 

  • Sketch (macOS)

Sketch is a Mac-only vector-based design tool used for desktop and mobile UI design, mockups and prototypes. Sketch is user-friendly and has a strong focus on creating interactive prototypes of web and app designs, as you can preview what happens when you click, swipe, or tap your design. On top of the application, users can go to Sketch Cloud to organize designs into projects, share it with team members or clients, get feedback via comments and test out your ideas by sharing links to browser-based prototypes, as well as keep a full track of changes .

Main functionalities: UI/UX design, prototyping, wireframing, graphic design 

Pricing: 9 USD/ contributor monthly; 99 USD forever, for individuals

 

Development 

  • GitHub

GitHub is a cloud-based service that helps both local and distributed teams store and manage their code, as well as track and control changes to their code. GitHub is also described as a social network for programmers, as users can upload pictures and biographies, follow other users and “favorite” their projects, form teams, or “organizations”, whose leaders can exert very specific control over the access of the individual members collaborating on a project.

Main functionalities: code review, hosting, team management, project management, security 

Pricing: free plan, paid plans start at 7 USD/month

 

  • Bitbucket

BitBucket is a version control repository hosting service from Atlassian. It is tightly integrated with other Atlassian project management tools like Jira, HipChat, and Confluence. You can also track your repositories in Mercurial, another popular version control management system.

Main functionalities: code review, hosting, security

Pricing: free plan, paid plans start at 3 USD/user monthly

 

 

No code development

  • Webflow

Webflow lets you design and develop your website at the same time, without coding. Regardless if it’s a business website or online shop. Once your website is ready, it allows you to connect a custom domain and host your HTML site, and for an additional fee, you can use the Webflow CMS. Although it’s a website builder, Webflow allows a level of customization and power usually reserved for the likes of WordPress.

Main functionalities: website development & design, hosting, built-in SEO tools

Pricing: free plans, paid plans start at 12 USD/month

 

 

  • Tilda

Tilda is a website builder that can be used to create websites, landing pages or online stores. To help you speed up the design process, Tilda team created blocks, which are commonly used modules. This modular editing mechanism is at the core of the platform. When you create a website, you don’t need to use a hardcoded template; all you need to do is choose predesigned blocks that satisfy your requirements. You can host a website built with Tilda on your own server or have Tilda host it. Additionally Tilda integrates with several systems from MailChimp, Zapier, GetResponse and more, so that you can do email marketing, get feedback, or capture leads. 

Main functionalities: website development & design, hosting, built-in SEO tools

Pricing: free plan, paid plans start at 10 USD/month

 

User behavior analytics

  • Mixpanel

Mixpanel is a veteran in its space and, not surprisingly, one of the most popular user behavior analytics platforms out there. Mixpanel is a complex tool offering in-depth user analytics across mobile and websites. The behavioral analytics feature helps you find out how different segments of users are interacting with your website or mobile app, go deeper over a single user’s profile and activity feed to understand who they are or visualize what paths users take to reach a given goal. Mixpanel can use data to create models, to identify behavioral correlations. One differentiator for Mixpanel is the ability to send notifications to users through email, SMS, push notifications and in-app. You can also create A/B tests on mobile apps (no web A/B testing available). One great aspect of Mixpanel is that pricing is based on usage, making it accessible to smaller companies as well.

 

Main functionalities: website analytics, mobile analytics, A/B testing, data modeling

Pricing: free plan, paid plan starts at 89 USD/month

 

  • Amplitude 

Amplitude is a serious competitor to Mixpanel and they present themselves as the “#1 product intelligence platform helping companies build better products”. Amplitude offers two products: the Behavioural Analytics Platform, tracking user behaviour and Amplitude Engage, which allows you to use your first-party behavioral data to power targeted campaigns  in the marketing tools you use. On top of these products Amplitude offers several add-on such as Accounts, so you can organize your users under “Accounts” and see their activity (helpful for B2B companies doing account based marketing), Insight, to automatically surface insights, Taxonomy, to maintain data integrity by renaming, blocking or deleting data, or Portofolio, so you can view user activity across multiple products in your organization.

 

Main functionalities: website analytics, mobile analytics

Pricing: free and paid plan (pricing available on demand)

 

  • Oribi.io

Oribi is an analytics platform that allows you to track your website’s user behaviour, being a direct alternative to Google Analytics. With Oribi, you can track pretty much any event on your website from signups, purchases, leads to subscriptions. Some of the main features Oribi offers: Insights & Trends – learn actionable insight about your users, such as where do they get lost in the sign up process or which media channel brings the most purchases. Event Tracking – allows you to define conversion goals without needing any code (such as with custom events in Google Analytics), Funnels & Correlations – understand what events drive conversions and where you lose prospects, Marketing Channel Analysis – Oribi helps you identify your best channels in terms of user acquisition and conversions, Visitor Journeys – follow single visitors across different sessions and multiple domains and Marketing Attribution – to let you uncover all touchpoints your customers go through before a conversion.

Main functionalities: website analytics, mobile analytics, A/B testing, data modelling

Pricing: custom pricing based on number of users

 

We asked our residents to vote on what they struggle with the most, when working from home. Turns out that most of us have a hard time unplugging after work, with the second and third issues being a reliable wifi connection and handling interruptions.

What productivity and collaboration apps do you use day to day? And did you adopt any new tool since working from home due to the pandemic?

Let us know!