HCL Connections Review

Provides potent document sharing with good integration with the Microsoft desktop and smartphones.

What is most valuable?

It provides very potent document sharing with very good integration with the Microsoft desktop and smart phones. It includes a good feature set with Facebook-like features. It provides a very complete feature set if used together with IBM Sametime to replace desktop sharing and meetings. The feature set gives a pretty complete and easy to use social platform. The entry barrier for business users is low with little training needed.

How has it helped my organization?

We are able to integrate global units and have hierarchy-free communication. Teams on multiple sites are able to collaborate on customer projects and internal initiatives.

What needs improvement?

The product has a pretty flat structure for communities; they are in principle a long list. This gets easily overcrowded and lacks structure/guidance. Tagging is strong, but this may deserve a little bit more.

The platform allows to create communities for collaboration. This is a central feature and very good. It also has a low barrier and is easy. In a large organization, the number of communities increases swiftly. This is like a manila folder containing important information. One after the other with a title page. How is this organized? In a large pile? This did not work in libraries and there are concepts to deal with this.

Connections has only the concept of a large pile. There is obviously good search, but that does not solve the issue as the results depend on words and tagging.

Web pages have the idea about meta data to feed the search engines and this is called SEO as a service offering. This does not work, if communities are not forced to tag our use common titles.

I would prefer if the community element would allow (out of the box) a high degree of structure to allow a navigation.

This is similar to the question, if one searches on the internet via Google 'full text search' or an 'editor list' like Yahoo used to have. Connections is the Google way and it needs to have a Yahoo directory-like component.

After all, it is an enterprise tool and enterprises have a structure with the need of structured information.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using the solution for six months.

How are customer service and technical support?

Excellent technical support and documentation. Questions raised during security audits (an unfriendly one) were answers swiftly and comprehensively.

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

We did pilot SharePoint and moved to Connections due to licensing costs, lack of features and the bad reputation of SharePoint in our market.

How was the initial setup?

Setup is straightforward and moderately complex. I would advise to get some IBM consulting (we talk about days not months).

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

Licensing price was very competitive compared to Jive or SharePoint. Open source was not feature complete and would have caused a much more complex roll out project. This is a very “cost efficient” offering. We went from zero to pilot with business within eight weeks.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated many options and IBM was initially black listed from the selection process due to fears regarding price and complexity. We specifically evaluated Jive, SharePoint, Yammer, Drupal, Bitrix, COYO and several other low key vendors.

What other advice do I have?

Use IBM Greenhouse for a test drive of Connections. This works also for Smartphones.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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