The coronavirus pandemic has made the demand for digital productivity tools even greater than before and to some extent, it has also made workers more aware of the burden of unproductive meetings.
As teams were forced into remote work overnight, many realised the need to create digital spaces for informal project planning and idea exchanges ahead or outside of meetings. Meanwhile, the risks of experiencing information gaps and miscommunication increased, especially in companies that had not set up a digital infrastructure for work-from-home (WFH) before the lockdown.
All these factors have led employees to view digital productivity solutions as a necessity rather than a nice to have. Some of these new tools address an important part of work-life: meeting organisation.
Poorly organised meetings or the bane of modern work
Chances are we all, at some of point(s) in our career, have had to sit through a meeting that didn’t directly concern us or that we didn’t have much to contribute to. The occasional unproductive session might not seem like a big deal but on a company level, it can amount to significant time, motivation and productivity losses.
A study published by Doodle estimated the cost of poorly organized meetings in 2019 at nearly $399 billion in the U.S. and $58 billion in the U.K. Moreover, 44% of participants in the study stated that badly organised meetings meant they didn’t have enough time to do the rest of their work and 38% said this led to a loss of focus in projects.
Thankfully a number of technology startups have entered the market with tools and resources to facilitate the organisation of meetings and to improve their efficiency.
The digital assistant to vanquish unproductive meetings
Among these newcomers is the French startup Aster (formerly Entrup) which has created a digital assistant for improving meeting organisation.
Aster allows users to plan the agenda, collect and share documents relevant to the meeting as well as create meeting minutes to be sent directly to the participants – all in one place. Moreover, this solution enables employees to track different meetings and to consult notes from past meetings that covered the same topic (preventing employees from having to sift through confusing email threads).
It is accessible via a SaaS platform or directly through the popular collaboration tools Google Suite and Microsoft 365.
All these features help ensure that all the participants of a meeting know the goal of the session, are fully prepared for it ahead of time and are able to walk away from the meeting with clear next steps in mind. The startup’s solution may not sound revolutionary but it can make a big difference in terms of productivity and can prevent gaps in knowledge or understanding.
If teams can take better decisions and improve internal communication, these positive effects can lead to time saved and improved outputs which can trickle down to reduced costs and increased revenue. After all, the abolition of unproductive meetings is a quiet revolution in itself.
Reaching for the asters
Aster (“star” in Latin) has been shining quite brilliantly in the constellation of productivity startups out there. Indeed, it has been gaining good traction, signing several large companies such as Engie. In February 2020, it also closed a second funding round of €1,2 million with the participation of Kreaxi and Crédit Agricole Création, among others.
When Early Metrics rated the startup, in November 2019, the assessment highlighted that one of Aster’s key strengths resides in the management team’s technical expertise and solid knowledge of the digital workplace market, which are in line with the project’s needs. The founders also demonstrated that they had a lucid understanding of their strengths and weaknesses as well as of their position compared to the competition. All these qualities, complemented with their solid commercial development and a huge addressable market, contributed to placing Aster in the top 10% of over 3000 rated startups in terms of its growth potential.
All in all, Aster is a great example of a technology that allows people to spend less time on menial tasks and more time on meaningful work. Far from replacing workers or ways of working, this productivity tool empowers people to have meetings that serve their projects rather than hinder them. As the digital transformation of companies of all sizes and sectors accelerates, there’s hope that ways of working will evolve for the better and poorly organised meetings will soon be a thing of the past.