Connections from HCL Technologies (formerly from IBM, acquired by HCL in 2018) is a collaboration tool and employee digital workspace with key features like social analytics, blogs, document management, and a social network.
The business problems that it …
Leaving a video review helps other professionals like you evaluate products. Be the first one in your network to record a review of HCL Connections, and make your voice heard!
Connections from HCL Technologies (formerly from IBM, acquired by HCL in 2018) is a collaboration tool and employee digital workspace with key features like social analytics, blogs, document management, and a social network.
- No setup fee
- Free Trial
- Free/Freemium Version
- Premium Consulting / Integration Services
4 people also want pricing
Microsoft's SharePoint is an Intranet solution that enables users to share and manage content, knowledge, and applications to empower teamwork, quickly find information, and collaborate across the organization.
- Tech Details
- Excellent for collaboration and communication
- User friendly UI
- Easy to learn & understand
- File Version controlling
- When exporting huge volumes of data, it might be a little sluggish at times.
- It takes time and effort to install and configure.
- It's a really large product that new users may find frightening. Pricing, I believe, restricts the number of business units that can choose to compete.
- Connections has an easy to understand layout so if you are new to the tool you can catch on quickly.
- The security features are excellent, I feel comfortable that we will not get hacked.
- Connections provide a single place to store project docs, pics, emails and to collaborate real-time with your team.
- I would like to see better integration with Microsoft email.
- The virtual meeting room tool is reliable and easy to use.
- Email capability via the browser and not a client installed application.
- Calendars and meeting scheduling in IBM Connections. This is a one stop shop!
- Communities for sharing documents and knowledge has been one of the better features our company is adopting. Let's get out of file shares and Windows folders.
- Our company does not have the chat feature which would be helpful.
- The screens are not overly intuitive and require some tutorials or just plain discovery learning and trial and error.
- Browser-based so not sure all browsers are supported.
- User profiles - finding and connecting users, and showing where they fit in the organization
- Communities - providing places for user groups and departments to collect and share information
- Wikis - Makes it easy to edit and add information in various places
- Surveys and forms - lacking many features including basic ones like e-mail notification
- Search - often doesn't find things users are looking for
- Installation and maintenance - complex software is hard to install and maintain
- Connections does tagging really well. It's very easy to add tags to any given page and to sort content based on those tags. This makes it easy to find related pages.
- Connections is capable - note that I said capable, and not "does a good job at" of embedding multiple kinds of content and making it viewable. Viewing Office documents is possible within Connections.
- Connections also does permissions really well, locking down spaces depending on certain groups of users. You can view this as a positive or a negative, depending on your use case.
- Search in connections is incredibly poor. It's commonly joked that once data goes into Connections, you never find it again, unless you have a direct link. This alone kills usability for Connections.
- Embedded content in wiki pages in connections is poorly implemented. While the content displays, you can't interact with it, or edit it reasonably, and it's really slow to load.
- The "social" features in Connections are pretty lame, and no self-respecting user spends any time trying to build their profile. It's just disappointing.
Let me be clear: you should really only opt to use Connections if you have no other choice. It will get you by, but it won't make you efficient.
- Organizes your calendar events.
- Has a familiar interface to social media that is used today, such as Facebook.
- Is a good way to connect our remote workers with in office workers. Puts a face to the names.
- I like that it has the option to comment on blogs or like them.
- I can't really think of any.
- The plugin for MS Office/Explorer has made saving and sharing working documents extremely convenient for me and my close colleagues
- The newsfeed feature conveniently aggregates updates from the communities/people you follow. It's nice not to have to jump from community to community to see what's going on in the organization
- The various apps can be used for several purposes. A little creativity goes a long way when establishing what type of information the apps can be useful for communicating
- Navigating Connections is tedious and time-consuming. More times than not I find it easier to simply search for what I'm looking for rather than trying to find what I need through other means
- While file uploading and sharing files is useful enough, the browser lacks the seamless nature of Google Docs and the plugin can't hold a candle to Sharepoint. It works, but I find it clunky
- We sorely miss our one-stop homepage (The Hub) that has been replaced by IBM Connections. There is no "jump-off" page to provide ease of navigation. It would really nice to be able to provide bookmarks and/or some form of directory in the side tabs of the newsfeed.
Ex) The status feature is essentially useless without following the person posting the status. We do not follow individual staff members because it leads to a cluttered newsfeed with information irrelevant to other departments. We still use our phone chat client to communicate statuses.
The business problems that it addresses are the following:
- Document editing/sharing/versions - instead of multiple emails and versions, there is now only one.
- All staff news is shared via a community blog
- Use of VPN has decreased - easy access to information and documents anywhere, increased safety for our intellectual property and confidential documents
- Individual departments house their manuals/resources in their own community
- Individual departments and committees house documents and meeting notes - one location
- Transparency is increasing since you can view open/moderated communities
- One sign-in - previously we had multiple sign-ins for different things, now you can access email, department manuals, company resources and in-house built systems
- The Newsfeed allows you to personalize and filter the information that you most need. Puts an end to extra emails or being bombarded with irrelevant information.
- The Activities and To-Do lists allow you to organize and easily manage meeting notes, agendas, and tasks.
- The desktop plug-in for documents allows you to work within Microsoft Word/Excel/PPT but then saves it to the Cloud allowing others to view it regardless of if they have Word, etc... on their computer.
- Document versioning allows you to keep/have access to all versions instead of having multiple copies of different versions floating around.
- The actual document editing is a little clunky - it's hard to format within it - that's where the desk-top plug-in comes in handy.
- It would be nice to be able to edit/customize your own Homepage and/or customize it based on the company's needs - i.e. relevant links/documents could be accessed there instead of a separate community.
- Easier navigation - seeing more of the breadcrumbs of where you are/have been.
- It'd be nice to be able to make/nest more subcommunities. Currently there can only be the parent community and a sub/child community. Same thing with the Wikis.
- While it is nice to see what information was last updated, it be nice to be able to see the community's wiki pages in the order/manner that they make most sense.
At the moment I can't think of any scenarios where it is less appropriate.
- Integrates very well with other existing technology to make the use of IBM Connections as seamless as possible for the cleint: Integration with MS Office products and the Windows desktop / File Explorer is key.
- The ability to collaborate with all internal staff and also be able to invite outside vendors/clients/partners to access the system and collaborate around data is very important to our clients.
- The usage of IBM Connections often has a direct impact on mail volume, many users now have less "chatter" email in their in-box than before. Being one of 20 people copied on a string of emails that they do not necessarily need to be involved in becomes less and less frequent with the use of IBM Connections in the enterprise.
- A slightly more granular rights structure for files might be useful.
- A better way to deal with the data of end-users after they leave - a more simple way to re-assign data ownership to others would be beneficial.
- The web UI is very easy for most users to get around. The mobile app UI is even better, especially for Blogs and Files. It’s clear IBM has done a lot of work around the usability of Connections. Most users immediately felt at home regardless of which social network(s) they’ve used. Technically savvy users quickly discovered how to customize a Community for their own purposes. After the initial introduction, most users could use the Connections web UI and mobile app easily without IT intervention.
- Ideation Blogs are a great way to brainstorm and share ideas, then vote on those ideas. The concept is great, and hopefully as time goes on IBM refines it with additional administrative control.
- Early test groups loved the mobile app immediately with its super easy file sync capabilities and associated document editing app (even though we did not have IBM Docs).
- Profiles were a big hit right away, making it easy to find, tag (recommend), and follow other people that might not otherwise be connected with in the organization.
- The ability to Tag, #hashtag and Follow virtually anything in Connections provides users easy ways to connect with people and content.
- External collaboration, even though we never specifically tested this, appears to be very clear in Connections, providing customers etc. a secure way to share information with internal teams.
- Search functionality is very good.
- The lack of a note-taking tool became a bigger and bigger issue as time went on. Our pilot users felt Connections was a natural place to take and share meeting notes – including photos, drawings, recorded audio, etc. – and were always frustrated that there was no easy, organized way to do that. We tried using a Blog, Wiki, etc. but nothing really resonated as a good solution for this.
- The Wiki tool is weak, providing rigid structure but with few options. A Community can only have a single Wiki, for instance. Wikis are weak in the mobile app as well; they’re not even easy to navigate. Users ended up ignoring Wikis completely despite our efforts to get them to convert documents like guidelines, policies, procedures, handbooks, etc. into Wiki form.
- The Windows Explorer plug-in was useful but required a lot of manual intervention to setup. For instance, once a user joins a Community in Connections, the Community also has to be manually added to the Explorer plug-in so the user can find, open and edit files with it. We felt this process should be much more automated.
- Tagging is only relevant in the web UI and, to a lesser extent, in the mobile app. However, in the Windows Explorer plug-in, Tags are not usable at all making it difficult to find things that were easy to find in the web UI.
- IBM Docs was not included in the on-premises deployment; it was an additional license so we did not test it. Documents, mainly Microsoft Office files, are still the single most common way our user community creates, shares, edits and presents information. That proved to be a major gap for our users, and slowed user adoption considerably. We considered testing it, but IBM Docs would only work for about half of our users so we found ourselves wondering if we really wanted to support two document editing platforms. IBM Docs also offers no way to work offline as far as we could tell. This also meant we would need to keep licensing Microsoft Office which is not cheap.
- Consulting costs are high because the back-end environment is complex. Installing, administrating and even patching Connections is a fairly complex process. We needed to hire consultants to install our test environment and any major upgrades would’ve required additional consulting fees. Any 3rd party add-ons we looked at were highly technical in nature meaning…you guessed it, more consulting costs.
- Administrating IBM Connections requires editing XML files in a specific, secure way that is typically done in a console. I love consoles as much as the next admin, but when you only use a console once every 2 months it means looking up all the documentation and re-educating yourself. A single change could take me 2 hours to implement. 3rd party admin dashboards do exist, at an additional cost, but IBM really should provide a much easier way to manage the environment.
- The lack of in-person or online training courses, materials, videos, etc. really discouraged a lot of users. The only decent training we could find (marketing videos aside) was a single video series on Lynda.com which, of course, was an additional cost. In the end that video didn’t really help our users much beyond introductory concepts.
- IBM includes reporting, but it’s a massive Cognos system requiring some serious hardware and Cognos expertise. We had neither, and would have ultimately opted for a 3rd party add-on for reporting and statistics.
- An often overlooked concern is eDiscovery. Our contracted eDiscovery service extensively works with various ECMs, but had no idea how they would handle Connections data. The cloud version of Connections offers an add-on for eDiscovery, but as far as we could tell IBM offered nothing for on-premises deployments.
If you work in a large company with lots of IT resources experienced with IBM tech such as WebSphere, DB2, etc., then I’d change the recommendation to an 8 for IBM Connections on-premises. Users really loved working in IBM Connections despite various gaps they found, and it seems that IBM is very responsive to customer feedback. Many new features in the last few releases were first suggested by customers.
Similarly, if you work in an SMB and are looking at IBM Connections online (or SmartCloud or whatever IBM calls it these days), then I’d probably also say 8 assuming the cloud version is at least as good as the on-premises version. My guess is that the cloud version is probably better, given IBM’s cloud-first strategy, and don’t forget that the cloud version includes IBM Docs.
If, however, you are in an SMB with a budget-constrained IT staff who are mostly familiar with Microsoft and who find it difficult to work with anything non-Microsoft, then IBM Connections on-premises is probably not going to work well in your organization. I’d score it a 4 in that case. Even if it works well for end-users today, as time goes on it seems users discover more gaps with the software. IBM is not quick to put out new versions of their on-premises software, either. The primary reasons I think on-premises is a tough sell in this scenario are the high cost of consulting (which has a side effect of further delaying the introduction of new features), the lack of an office document editor built-in, and the lack of training for both IT and end-users alike.
- IBM Connections provides anytime, anywhere access. Whether from a browser, mobile device, desktop plugins, or IBM Notes, you can access IBM Connections in the way that is convenient for you.
- The search functionality is extremely powerful! You can search across everything in the system or just specific sections.
- If you are unsure of WHO to ask about something in your organization, the Directory Tags and Search can put you in touch with just the right person.
- As one who not only uses but also implements the software, IBM could still do further streamlining of the product's installation routines. I have been working with the product since Version 1, and it has gotten somewhat better in general. But new add-on packages pose more problems with installations and upgrades.
- It would be nice to be able to more easily customize the interface. I would like it if IBM would provide less complicated CSS.
- There is also a common request from systems administrators to have a consistent web interface for managing the various parts of the environment.
- User Interface is consistent enough for people to figure out most apps
- Integration with other IBM services is excellent
- Price points are competitive
- User interface is IBM-centric and could be more intuitive for people used to an Apple or Microsoft UX
- Security for Files folders
- Better data import/export tools
- The Mobile consummation of IBM Connections is very good and is rapidly improving over time. Every month a new version of the Mobile app for IBM Connections is being delivered which fixes bugs but also adds new functionality over time.
- Stability is very high of the product as it runs on IBM WebSphere (which has proved itself already in the MidMarket segment completely) and is very important for us as a customer because this keeps the day to day management costs for the environment very low.
- The open design of the product. It's fairly easy to extend the product but also the end user working and feeling is open. What I mean by that is that the product supports self serviceability so no costs at the IT department regarding of creating FileShares and so on.
- Out of the box IBM Connections delivers a complete solution which can be used as a base to extend on. Connections to already existing LDAP/SAP/Domiono or other HR systems can easily be build via the delivered license of IBM Security Directory Integrator product with IBM Connections which is almost limitless in connecting different resources together.
- The UI of the activities component really needs a redesign. Currently this component was there already from the beginning of IBM Connections and never got a UI overhaul. Currently the functionality is working exceptionally good but the UI is too much based on Text instead of a graphical UI.
- Better integration with PIM (Personal Information Manager like (domino and/or exchange)) environments.
- Currently for the admin side of IBM Connections a lot is done on the command line. It would be a improvement if we get a special designed ADMIN UI. Where 95% of the management of the product can be handled.
- Easy to set up communities
- Easy to customize communities and add/delete different widgets
- Easy to navigate
- We have had some difficulty in bridging IBM Connections with several other applications (security mainly)
- I would like to be able to customize and name the widgets to match up with our member-facing tool (ie. IBM Connections calls it a "blog," whereas our member-facing application calls this area "news."
- IBM Connections really keep users connected and makes them united.
- It is easy to use blogs in IBM Connections
- The statuses available in IBM Connections are very handy. It is really convenient to know what is going on with your collegues at this very moment.
- Basic security is provided within IBM Connections tools.
- I wish IBM would improve how IBM Connections works with pictures and media. This is the area to improve the product. Simply speaking IBM Connections is a corporate Facebook, so some media functionality similar to Facebook would be helpful. One of the groups I was working with was a training department, where video materials were used, but there was no convenient way to keep and to use them with IBM Connections or Quickr.
- I think IBM has to discover an exciting way of keeping the corporate Facebook mood. I would suggest something like internal recommendations, which might also be connected to external ( LInkedIn) connections, then people would be motivated to use it. It is going to be there if they leave the company.
During the selection process I would ask what the primary type of information the users work with: text documents or images/media. I would also ask how many users are planned to participate in the system. The bigger the organization is the more sense it is to use IBM Connections.
- Notifications - easily notifying users of changes in content whether it be blogs, forums or files.
- Discussions - easily and quickly set up discussion topics so communities can exchange ideas on a variety of topics.
- Quick set up - being able to rapidly set up a community in order to get a group collaborating.
- Increased security schemes.
- Community centric configurations
- Displays of textual type content (web pages)
- File sharing is easy to upload.
- Can glance at your home screen for quick looks at everyone's status updates to see where people are and what's going on.
- Can be emailed notifications of new posts to click and immediately go there.
- Learning the site can be overwhelming with all the options it provides. I still don't feel like I know 100% of everything offered and how to get to it.
- A lot of information overload and can be hard trying to navigate where you want to go at first.
- Files app - Excellent for a replacement of shared drives. Using a cloud based system is the way of the future.
- Communities - We use this in our department for an easy to access centralized hub of information. For the company, we have used this to start a Couch to 5K which has increased efficiency and morale.
- Search function - Fast way to find what you're looking for! A task that could sometimes take hours tracking down through traditional methods, finding what you're looking for has never been easier!
- Files - It would be nice to have an option of folders within folders for easier organization.
- Iphone App - Would love to see a chat function on the app (love the chat function through the website with Sametime)
- Blogging is easy and useful. For any company above a certain size, it is impractical to share things via email, particularly as an email chain with comments quickly gets out of control. Using a public social platform has obvious problems. Connections blogs makes it all easy.
- Using and creating Wikis, and even structuring related Wikis, is easy and intuitive. Before Wikis, institutuional knowledge, product documentation, etc. was spread all over. Wikis solved that.
- Searching is the key to it all. Connections search results were quick and more easily useful than competing platforms.
- Though we don't use the latest version of Connections, my only real complaint has been the lack of "hot" links in Blog comments.
- The management interface could be easier to use, or a bit better documented, particularly when dealing with error logs.
- I use the Activities feature extensively to manage tasks and statues of my projects.
- I also use Forum feature to gain participation and sharing of information from members of my communities.
- The Wiki features is also very nice for reference information.
- I would like to have the capability to create groups of members within my communities. This is so that I can send communication to a group instead of having to select individual members.
- I would also like to be able to have subcommunities within subcommunities.
- Having the Wiki feature support more html would also be helpful.
- Better integration with Microsoft Office suite products would be a plus.