May 12 , 2020
Collaborative Technology: Five tools that kept our clients engaged during COVID-19

With all eyes firmly looking towards the road out of lock-down, we at Earth2Mars have been grateful for COVID-19 for shining the light on archaic beliefs and myths around workplace policies, autonomous collaboration, and technology. For both our clients and our own business, we have seen unprecedented growth and opportunity in this pandemic to recalibrate and evolve the human race into the Age of Digital Connectedness. In fact, last weekend for Mothers Day, I enjoyed hearing how my future mother-in-law is using Whatsapp to teach her students Japanese and how easy and intuitive the technology is for her. Although these technologies have been around for almost a decade, COVID-19 has demanded we pay attention and fully utilise the power at our fingertips to connect in ways we have never connected before.

Amidst fears of losing engagement and heart when it comes to face-to-face interactions, Earth2Mars has found that the opposite is true if technology is embraced and used in the right way. With this in mind, here are the top five tools we have used to roll out change management and coaching while keeping the energy and engagement high with our clients and stakeholder groups.

1. Zoom: Whiteboards & Breakout Rooms

Logging into zoom over the COVID-19 months has been a true experience of what cloud technology is all about. Every morning we were delighted to find the tool had shifted and evolved based on client feedback and security risk. Zoom has collaborative functionality that allows participants in a meeting to brainstorm and collaborate on a virtual whiteboard that is built into the virtual platform. The full power is when you allow participants the freedom to annotate the board collaboratively with you as the facilitator, just like you would in a real life white boarding session. Zoom also has an incredible feature called Breakout Rooms which allows you to create and manage smaller group work/activities with a simple click of a button for more focussed and deeper workshop exercises.

Pros: Native to product with no add-ons required, seamless switch over, great instructional videos, security.

Cons: Tricky menus, tools not automatically enabled, annotation permissions and user interface.

2. Trello

Originally built for agile programme management, Trello has gotten us out of the “sticky” spot of not being able to use post-its in our human-centred design workshops when we roll out change work and learning. Trello is a simple, fluid and easy to use tool which replaces flipchart headings with bucket style sections and post-its with digital cards. Because it’s a cloud tool, it updates instantly so as notes are written and moved, the board is updated in the present time. This has been a great, easy-to-use replacement for traditional post-It exercises during isolation. The tool works exactly like Microsoft Planner so you can swap this out if you are working in a Microsoft 365 environment.

Pros: Intuitive, Practice Board to help you learn, free, can be used for agile planning.

Cons: Not specifically built for HCD, may be blocked by old-school IT departments.

3. Microsoft 365

Microsoft has come leaps and bounds over the past 5 years to bring us the best of collaborative and contemporary technology that just keeps getting better and better. While many organisations are familiar with Microsoft 365, only a few have fully embraced the connected power of the full suite via Sharepoint and the tools within. Our clients who have prepared their people for the future of work and new power models have found that Microsoft 365 was their saving grace during COVID-19 with cultures that were ready to work remotely.

Pros: Full suite of collaborative tools, pick and choose your adventure, autonomous collaboration, analytics and insights, automation and easy to use workflow tools.

Cons: License fee, requires cultural and leadership maturity, investment in knowledge, under-utilised in general.

4. Slido

Mostly used by presenters and keynote speakers, COVID-19 gave us the opportunity to use this tool in new and fun ways for more collaborative and engaging webinars, giving instant, in-the-moment feedback from participants via their mobile devices. This is an incredibly slick tool with an interface with Powerpoint that makes swapping between the two magical and fluid. The free version unfortunately has many limitations and the paid version can be pricey. 

Pros: Fluid interface with powerpoint, participant feedback via mobile devices, continuously evolving and updating price and features, sexy mobile app for presenter.

Cons: Expensive, Limited Free Version, lack-lustre and old school visual feedback, limits to tailoring of slides.

5. Aha Slides

This has been a game changer for our team and our clients. AHA Slides is one powerful collaborative platform that is both easy to use and visually engaging for participants. The best part is the interface works in the same way as powerpoint, with a whole bouquet of engaging activities from word clouds, polls, leaderboard quizzes, and Q&A features all available on the free version with very little limitations. For larger audiences, the pricing plan is incredibly affordable with a cheaper option for teachers and educators. The only drawback is the integration with powerpoint is still a bit clunky so practice and testing before your workshop/webinar is key.

Pro: Free version, fun and engaging visuals, tool bag of engagement tools, similar to powerpoint and easy UX, ability to tailor the visual elements to suit the audience.

Cons: Lacking mobile app for presenter, interface with powerpoint.


Looking to up skill into the Age of Digital Connectedness?

Join our next Change Course on June 27 to learn the digital tools you need to roll out change remotely.