Vendor Profile: IBM Connections

The Intranetizen team are often asked advice about intranet vendors that supply software and hardware solutions to run your intranet. Whilst we have 35 years of blue-chip intranet experience between us, in common with many intranet practitioners, we have relatively limited experience of the 200+ software systems that companies use.

To help you, to help us and to help the vendors themselves, we’re running a series of posts of over this coming week showcasing 5 intranet companies. We’ve supplied them with the same standard set of questions and will publish their answers in their own words to ensure equity! All the images have been supplied by the company themselves and are reproduced with permission.

Today, we showcase IBM Connections.

In a brief paragraph, who are you?

International Business Machines Corporation, or IBM, is an multinational technology and consulting  corporation headquartered in Armonk, New York, United States. IBM manufactures and sells computer hardware and software, and it offers infrastructurehosting and consulting services in areas ranging from mainframe computers to nanotechnology. Main website:

Briefly describe your product’s history? Why did you start it, where does it come from?

IBM Connections is now in its 6th year in market and version 4 was released in Q3 of 2012 delivering major enhancements and new functionality. IBM Connections is the market (See IDC, Forester, Gartner) leading social software platform that enables organisations to engage the right people, drive innovation, and deliver results.

Leading companies are choosing IBM Connections, an integrated and secure platform that helps people engage with networks of experts in the context of critical business processes in order to act with confidence, and to anticipate and respond to emerging opportunities.

  • Make everything social and bring your brand to every experience – the social platform that can integrate social into your business processes across your entire employee experience.
  • Eliminate the guesswork – provides powerful social analytics and metrics to foster vital networks and communities.
  • Unlock creativity everywhere – the social platform that is ready to be delivered to any mobile device, including tablets.
  • Deploy with choice and confidence – The social business solution that offers the choice to deploy in the cloud, on premise and hybrid options.

Describe your typical customer – what kind of company, what size, what are the kinds of problems they need to solve

IBM has customers ranging in size from under 50 employees to the largest corporations in the world. These customers range across all industries and geographies  e.g. Cardiff University, Salvation Army, Bayer, BASF, Leaseplan, China Telecom to name a few.

See customer testimonial videos at:


IBM Connections Activity Feed

Integration into customers business and collaboration application landscape, open standards and architecture, analytics, leading functionality e.g. “Activities”, analytics. IBM focusses on business outcomes by applying Social Collaboration to business domains and processes to improve them e.g. Marketing, Customer Service, HR, IT etc.

                   See benefits at:

Which feature(s) of your product do your customers rave about most?

Feature Description Benefit
Activity Stream A list of recent, relevant social and integrated business process activities occurring in your personal network or community. View and take action quickly on content and events in context, without navigating to another process or application.
Embedded Experience Work in a single, familiar environment, reducing time and making users more effective. Provides access to business critical actions from a wide variety of applications, including 3rd party applications.
Integrated email and calendar Access both IBM Lotus Domino and Microsoft ® Exchange messaging services. Brings mail and calendar into your social context by integrating key messaging and calendar views and functions into your social environment.
Information about additional integration possibilities can be found in the section below.
Social Analytics Access a comprehensive set of analytics for Connections components in the form of reports and recommendations. Eliminate guesswork by discovering trends in content, social activity and expertise for better decision-making.
Mobility Access all of your Connections data from mobile browsers and free native apps. Unlock creative everywhere with anytime access to your professional network and communities.

Which feature(s) of your product do you feel are most under-used?

IBM’s customers use all of the features/functions in different roles.



IBM Connections provides out the box functionality so that on day one you can get value from the platform. Having said this it is also built on open standards and is completely extensible. Leveraging the Open Social Activity Stream customers can also take advantage of “Embedded Experiences” and surface 3rd party applications directly in the Activity Stream e.g. SAP, CRM etc.
Customer can easily customise the look and feel of the platform to deliver a corporate branded look and feel.

What advice would you give a company planning to invest in a new intranet platform? / what are the three most important factors to consider?

Companies planning to invest in a new Intranet Platform need to look at how it can deliver a consistent experience and integration into the companies existing business and collaboration tools and the ability for users to interact with it from any device (including all mobile platforms e.g. iOS, Android, Blackberry etc.). The 3 most important factors are, Open Standards, Integration capability, Mobile platform support.

What’s your cost model? Free; one-off; per seat per month charging; something else?

IBM offers the Connections platform in a variety of licensing options to suit the customers budget and preference. On Premise per seat/per Server Capacity and SaaS per user per month models.

ibm3_q5Who are your main competitors?

Jive, Microsoft (Yammer)

What do you need from *your* customers to deliver intranet success?

Engagement with lines of business around defining the business user cases that Social can be applied to. A clear understanding of the organisations goals and culture, the use of engaging experiences e.g. gamification to drive adoption, adoption is key.

What does the future have in store for your product?

IBM Connections will be totally embedded into the fabric of business i.e. applications, collaboration tools, processes and via any mode of access.

What does intranet 2015 look like?

Completely integrated experience, consistent across all modes of access

Who should intranetizen readers speak with to find out more about your product?

Ofer Guetta – Social Business Transformation Leader, IBM UK. / @oferguetta / +44 7725 706 894

What question should we have asked? And if we had, what would the answer have been?

What is the core design principle of your product/platform? Answer: IBM’s design philosophy is Social = People Centric therefore Connections is designed around the human profile with all social content/data/collaboration pivoting off that profile.


The full set of Intranetizen vendor profiles can be found here.

There are 4 comments

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  1. Martin White

    Connections offers some very valuable and unique capabilities. However as an internal application it runs on WebSphere, which has high licensing, implementation and support costs. If you already have a substantial investment in IBM applications then it’s well worth exploring. If you are a Microsoft enterprise licence organisation then Connections could be beyond your reach. Michael Sampson ( is in the process of writing a book on IBM Connections. It will be published in April and you might want to wait until you read it before calling your local IBM sales office. The IBM Research Labs in Haifa are doing some fascinating work on enterprise social media and it’s worth looking at some of their research papers at Paper 32 on Streamz is especially interesting.

    • Ofer Guetta

      Hi Martin thanks for your valuable comments, some great points raised. I just wanted to clear up the licensing question. IBM Connections is sold as a solution so whilst it uses various software components required to run the platform e.g. WebSphere Application Server all of the components are included in the the licence costs i.e. there is no additional cost over and above the Connections User licence costs. (There is also an option to licence Connections on a server basis where again all the components are included in the base licence).

      IBM also includes related functionality for free e.g. All client access options are free over and above the base licence cost so customers can take advantage of iPhone/Pad, Android, Blackberry and other popular mobile devices. Integration into Microsoft tools such as Outlook and Sharepoint is also free and our of the box.

      A good analogy is when buying a car, if you bought the car as individual components the total cost would be astronomical. IBM sells Connections as the “Car” not the individual components.

      For these reasons IBM offers one of the best TCO’s in the industry for an Enterprise Social Business platform/Intranet. An example of this is in the user licencing model, customers licence only the number of users they have and can deploy the SW on as many servers as they like. Many vendors will charge for associated server SW which can increase hidden costs dramatically.

      In terms of implementation and maintenance costs IBM provides high level of automation (wizard driven) making implementation relatively easy. Maintenance tools are also provided to help with the running of the environment.

  2. Jon Machtynger

    Good points Martin and Ofer.

    I have a few personal opinions to add though.

    One point to make with respect to Connections being based on WebSphere is that what you get for free with WebSphere, and the other components included with Connections is the ability scale out and up. Connections is designed for small and large companies. It’s assumed that you can start with a small number of seats, and as you grow or move from a pilot or departmental initiative to the enterprise, you simple extend your hardware and architecture to suit.

    Connections is designed to integrate into the enterprise, so it’s not surprising that such a complicated task has a more than basic environment to support that. The underlying software components within Connections are actually very simple to install. What takes time with an enterprise approach is not the installation, but the planning around how you want this to fit into the enterprise, and how the constituent parts should therefore link. For example, how might you want your enterprise directory to integrate? What other information feeds are important (e.g. HR content)? What does your backup/resilience strategy look like? What about single-sign-on? What about access to mail from within Connections? How will this affect network activity? These social capabilities are going to be available from almost anywhere (MS Office/MS Outlook/Browser/mobile) , so how should you accommodate spikes in access, and monitoring?

    These aren’t ‘problems’ with Connections. These are just healthy things to consider. A major difficulty with investing substantial effort and money into a platform that won’t scale or accommodate future requirements is that you end up with a migration requirement, which often is (too) difficult to do. One inevitable options for many organizations is to make do with what you now have (i.e. stuck with). The organization dynamics start to reflect the limitations of the underlying technology platform, when the platform should really adapt to the needs of the organization.

    I believe that IBM’s approach to designing solutions is to support enterprise requirements from the start. It’s not mandatory to have enterprise type discussions. It’s possible to simply take a click, click, click approach and you’ll end up with a fairly silo-ed system that some of IBM’s competitors and many open-source offerings already provide. IBM just provides the option to progress beyond what worked for a brief period of time. Remember that “what got you here won’t get you there”, so why not allow the change in an organization’s requirements to be reflected in the systems that the organization relies on.

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