HCL Connections Review

Offers the ability to store and share files in the cloud with folder management and tagging.

What is most valuable?

Connections is a social business platform whose key value is the richness of the environment, all accessed in one place, including:

  • Email
  • Files
  • Communities
  • Forums
  • Instant messaging
  • Activity Stream
  • Blogs
  • Bookmarks
  • To-dos and activities
  • Built-in documents
  • Spreadsheet and presentation editors

This is where I go, first thing, to do my work. Everything is now in the cloud thanks to Connections.

Some of the most valuable features of the platform are:

  • Communities, where we can create online communities for collaboration. This feature enables us to share expertise quickly and easily, and to generate feedback and comments.
  • The new Verse email functionality, which is part of the platform, finally gives me a modern email application with a good UI.
  • I value the ability to store and share files in the cloud with folder management and tagging. This makes information easier to share and find; together with a generous allowance of 50GB of personal file storage and then an additional 50GB per community (so, effectively I have unlimited space).

How has it helped my organization?

The directors of the company no longer use email for communication with each other. Instead, we use the Activity Stream and @mentions to collaborate and interact (plus old-school phone calls and face-to-face meetings).

What needs improvement?

I would recommend the following areas for improvement:

  • The UI can always be improved. The UI for Verse is fine but some of the rest of Connections still looks a bit dated.
  • Admin functions need to be enhanced so that community managers have more information about which communities are active/inactive. The community metrics released this year have helped but there is more work needed.
  • There needs to be inter-operability between users on the IBM Connections North American Cloud and the IBM Connections European Cloud.
  • The Activity Stream needs to be enhanced to allow the user to customise what is included.
  • "Push on" and "Deliver", the much-heralded cognitive capabilities of Verse, have been talked about by IBM but so far only seen as demoware.

Generally, I believe IBM are addressing all of these issues but progress seems very slow.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have used this solution for over five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We did not encounter any stability issues. The platform has been very stable and reliable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scalability has not been an issue.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support is through IBM's standard technical support mechanism. The process can be cumbersome at times, but there are ways to escalate and community support is also valuable and helpful.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We have not used another solution.

How was the initial setup?

Setup is very easy. Take out a subscription, click the link on the activation email and you are more or less good to go.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

There are basically two subscriptions; one with email included and one without. Subscription is for a minimum of 12 months. There are some add-ons like archiving and audio meetings which you can also take out. I would strongly advise prospective customers to work with an IBM Business Partner who can help explain the licensing and pricing. Special bid pricing is always available for large customers.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We tried both Yammer and SharePoint. We liked Yammer but didn't like SharePoint. Nevertheless, neither had the breadth and depth of functionality of Connections.

What other advice do I have?

To get the most out of this product, the challenge is not technical but changing the way people work, in other words; user adoption. Get that right and Connections can genuinely transform your business

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: We're IBM Business Partners.
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