At Mediacurrent we often get requests to compare Drupal to other platforms used for intranet sites and social business platforms (like https://dev.twitter.com/ for example). This is often referred to as “Social Business Software”, which has grown in popularity in recent years. I decided to do a round-up of a couple of the more well known platforms and compare their products to Drupal.
There are many other options out there, commercial and otherwise, to compare with Drupal but I want to focus on Jive and Sharepoint for a couple of reasons. I chose Jive because it is one of the leading competitors in this space in respect to market share. Next, I chose Sharepoint because I have some history with Sharepoint. This experience dates back to when I built www.adhe.edu with Sharepoint 2007 a few years ago. I subsequently wrote this blog entry about my experience shortly after joining Mediacurrent. This roundup will also act as a refresher for those who read my original “Drupal vs. Sharepoint” blog. Yammer, which was recently bought by Microsoft and is the tool we currently use for office communication will also get some mentions throughout this article.
As I went through and tested each of these tools I used three main criteria in my evaluation:
There are many other factors I could have included, but these are the factors that stand out to me the most.
I want to see the bottom line of how much does this product costs compared to it’s competitors. Drupal, being open-source, does not get a free pass as you still have to pay for the labor to produce the end product.
How flexible is this product? What can be customized? Can you extend this software using code or implementing an API? It’s possible that this is not as important to some organizations as others. For example if you use Yammer, you might be satisfied with it’s out of the box feature set and do not have a need to do any sort of customization. On the other hand, our clients are often seeking very customized solutions that can fit their specific business needs. So if a product is difficult or expensive to customize, this can be a real sticking point.
In my evaluation, I not only played around with the software, I also read up on it, looking at several reviews. I tried my best to gather the big selling points for each product. Maybe the big selling point is that the product is feature-rich and intuitive out of the box. Maybe it’s that the software easily integrates with other products. I tried to take stock of what were the biggest features that each product had to offer when I was testing each platform.
As I review each platform I will offer some advice for when I think the product is best suited for a particular use case. I do not want to give the impression that this is just a blog where I stack the deck against Jive and Sharepoint in order to declare Drupal the winner. I think most agree that some solutions work better for some organizations than they do others. Even as I acknowledge my own bias already leans towards Drupal, I will really try to be fair to the other products in this review.
To review Jive I went to the website and signed up for a free trial at https://www.jivesoftware.com/try-jive/. I must admit that I tried to see if there were multiple versions of the software, or add-ons I needed to be aware of. I was somewhat confused by the Jive product offerings. To make a long story short I decided that I would just focus on what the trial gives me, which I am assuming is Jive’s main flagship product.
The pricing is very easy to understand. It is also pretty expensive. Looking at https://www.jivesoftware.com/try-jive/ you have to pay $12 per user, per month and an annual contract is required. That is for the base package, it’s $18/mo for some extra features and ostensibly even more for large organizations (thus the “call for pricing” option). So at a minimum for a 25-person company, you will be paying $625/mo and are locked into yearly contracts. Total cost comes to $7,500 a year. Per user pricing gets very expensive very fast. When I see pricing like this my next thought is that this product really needs to blow me away with features. There are always competitors that are willing to offer similar features that are either free or much cheaper, so the bar was set pretty high from the get-go.
I was very impressed with the ability to customize Jive from within the site itself. There were some really intuitive tools for branding the site and customizing the layout/features for certain sections of the site, like project or group pages (see screenshots below).
Tool for customizing a group homepage layout
Tool to customize branding/styling of the overall Jive site
You can also add apps to the Jive platform which extends its functionality. There appeared to be at least a few dozen at the time of this writing. There is a nice developer site for creating Jive apps but I could not figure out if you can write apps just for your particular organization. This page alludes to that functionality existing but I could not figure it out.
For some organizations this level of customization will suffice. On the other hand many enterprise organizations will want more advanced customization. For those organizations I believe that Jive will accommodate, but you will run into more costs. Acquia, which created Commons, has written several articles challenging Jive and so you might want to check out this article regarding some pitfalls.
Jive really feels like the Cadillac of intranet portals. It’s feature-rich, intuitive and even enjoyable to use. In no time I was able to “get around” and figure out how to add content. There was so much inline help along the way. I had no problem adding people, creating groups and projects, blogs -- all of the social content you would expect on a platform such as this. It’s all presented in a way that is very user-friendly (as easy as Facebook to me). This is important as the idea behind a product like this is that everyone in the organization is using it. A “social business” product that’s too hard to use will not be very useful.
Homepage of my trial account
The project management tools are pretty interesting. I know for our organization we use another Drupal product (Open Atrium) which allows for a high level of detail for a particular task. This does not appear to reach that level of detail but I think would be a good choice for companies that like having a Basecamp-like feature-set within their business portal. The upside for me again and again is just how easy everything feels.
Another feature I like is the ability to download Jive as an app on your smartphone or tablet. The site itself is not responsive but the fact that there is an app mitigates that issue for me.
One feature I found lacking would be the ability to have a public facing site that is a portal. For example, let’s say you want to create a community site for your business (like https://community.jivesoftware.com/), using Jive as your platform. I could not figure out how to do this. Maybe this is an add-on or an enterprise feature. I am sure the pricing tiers would have to be different so maybe this is an enterprise solution they offer. You can invite external users to interact with you in Jive, but at least on the $12/person plan I do not believe there is any way to have public facing pages.
To me Jive looks like a solid product that is also extremely expensive. When I look at the feature-set and compare it to another popular product, Yammer, I think “can’t I do a large percentage of what I want to do with Yammer that I can do with Jive?” My feeling is that yes I can.
If I can’t do enough of what I want, I would still shop around for other products with similar features and lower pricing. The sticker price seems to demand more for the money when there are so many similar product offerings out there. This is all relative, so for enterprise organizations the costs compared to some other products might be reasonable. I will leave it up to your business to crunch the numbers to see if this product could work for you.