SharePoint 2013 vs IBM Connections 4.5 – Metadata, Office Integration + Mobile support – Comparison from the field


I’ve already published one blog post about a broader comparison between these products. You can read it here:

It caused some IBM people to react and that’s great since this is what I expected. They have pinpointed some items I missed (on purpose for some of them).

Now that I have some more experience with IBM Connections, I can now highlight some other major differences between both products. Again, despites of the fact that I’m a SharePoint MVP, I’ll try to make an objective comparison unlike IBM guys who tend to criticize Microsoft products all the time…I don’t know if it’s by a lach of interest/knowledge or pure dishonesty but that’s a real pity!

My comparisons are intented to shed some light in a *neutral* way, not being brain-washed by IBM or Microsoft sales guys.

Office Integration & metadata

Out of the box, IBM Connections 4.5 comes with the Files module. It lets you upload some files that you can share with colleagues & peers or that you can keep private. Except the basic system metadata information, you can’t, as in SharePoint create content types etc…The only custom metadata information you can add to you documents are tags. In SharePoint, out of the box, you can create content types with many different column types (text/number/choice/lookup/managed metadata/date…) and reuse these content types across libraries or even sites and even site collections (with the hub). So, if you plan one day to migrate a SharePoint document center “as is” in IBM Connections 4.5 out of the box, it’s going to be rock & roll!

Also, out of the box, you have no Office Integration support. Unlike with SharePoint, when you open an Office document, you don’t have a direct link to the client application. You have to download the file on your device first and then, modify it and eventually reupload it….

So, if you want to have a richer metadata experience with IBM Connections, you’ll have to setup CCM on top of it. CCM enables you to create Document Types which are similar to SharePoint Content Types. However, I said similar but not as rich as SharePoint Content Types. CCM also enables you to setup basic workflows (review) on a library. Once again here, you have more OOTB SharePoint workflows and you can easily write your own using SharePoint Designer. You have more complex business related scenarios? No problem, use SharePoint’s workflow manager APIS.

If you want to have some kind of Office Integration, you’ll have to setup IBM Connections Desktop Plug-ins for Microsoft products (video here : ), yet another product but don’t think you’ll have a similar experience as the one between SharePoint & Connections.

With SharePoint, you just visit a site and click on Open Document or Edit Document with Microsoft Word (for instance), then Word launches and then, you have your document with the DIP (Document Information Panel) exposing your custom metadata. You benefit also from the co-authoring feature, can check-in the document from within Word, can compare multiple versions of the document right from word and can even start a workflow from Word. Well, quite a in-depth integration isn’t it?

With the IBM plugin, you’ll have a new tab in Word where you’ll be able to take some Social related actions on your document but the document will be synched with your desktop and then uploaded to IBM Connections providing you don’t use a too exotic authentication mechanism…. So, a good advice from the field is please check that first 🙂 if you don’t want to have bad surprises.
So clearly, if you only deal with PDF documents, you shoudln’t worry too much about using SharePoint or Connections/CCM/Desktop Plug-in but if you massively deal with Office Documents, I’d clearly warn you about not letting you abused by IBM sales…They’re pretty strong and you’ll probably make nice dreams until you’ll wake up :).

Clearly, the Office Integration isn’t at all the same between SharePoint & IBM Connections+plug-ins. Also, always remember that even DIPs can be customized in SharePoint and that you can easily add Office Apps to have very deep integrations with SharePoint if the already very rich OOTB one wasn’t sufficient to cover your needs.

As a side note, IBM provides IBM Docs which is likely IBM’s Office Web Apps equivalent that allows you to view/edit documents from within a browser.

Mobile Support


Admitedly, SharePoint’s mobile support OOTB isn’t that sexy but it’s fully functional for document libraries with IPad, IPhones & other smartphones. If you want to edit Office Documents with your mobile device, you’ll have either to install some fancy Apps or you could just leverage Office Web Apps to view/edit/create documents right from the browser. You can easily test the mobile aspects with Office 365 if you have a tenant. You can easily test the Office Web Apps user experience with an hotmail/outlook account if you have one. Just send yourself a Word document and go read open it with your IPad.

On top of the native experience, there are plenty of free Apps such as SharePlus (there is also a paying version) that help you deal with a richer mobile support with SharePoint.

IBM Connections

Connections has a richer mobile support for Social Related activities via IBM Connections Mobile app. However, regarding document management and more particularly Office Documents, you’re likely going to be restricted to using IBM Docs.

Happy Coding!

About Stephane Eyskens

Office 365, Azure PaaS and SharePoint platform expert
This entry was posted in IBM Connections, SharePoint and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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