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Review of eXo Platform: Pros, Cons and Pricing of Award-winning Social Collaboration Software

exoIntegrating an internal collaboration system with an enterprise social platform to engage buyers and establish deep customer relationships makes perfect sense in today’s business, where customers are made into brand advocates, while employees are encouraged to share ideas and experiences with decision-makers for greater teamwork. There’s a blurred line between internal (employees) and external customers (buyers) and the company that can harness both groups’ potential stands to be more competitive and adaptive to disruptive trends. Enter social-collaboration platforms. The idea is to create a social intranet that enhances team collaboration and customer engagement. The setup is a far cry from traditional siloed systems, as you’ll see in this detailed review of one of the top social-collaboration software: the open-source eXo Platform.

In this eXo Platform review, we’ll focus on the five most essential benefits of the app. We’ll also explain the architecture of the system and what it means to your company. eXo Platform is marketed to large enterprises with an internal IT support, but it can work for small businesses with technical capabilities to tinker with open source platforms, too. eXo Platform definitely met our expectations for a proactive social intranet with robust collaboration tools. You can also easily try out the platform on your own and see for yourself if it matches your requirements.

What are the highlights of eXo Platform?

  • Collaboration tools like wikis, calendars, documents, FAQs, forums with easy retrieval and access rules
  • Enterprise social network that uses spaces, profiles, activity streams, and more for greater collaboration and organized internal as well as external engagement
  • Powerful document management system with version history, rollback, votes, comments, etc.
  • Web CMS tools to build complex websites, multisite support and using publishing and SEO tools
  • Deep mobile integration
  • It allows standard authentication and authorization mechanism for security
  • Standards-based portal framework that allows role-based delivery of content and apps
  • Highly customizable open source platform with deep integration that includes extending business process management functions and generating multilingual versions

For a more comprehensive list of eXo Platform features check out our full review of the software.

What We Like the Most about eXo Platform

1. Rich document management

eXo offers advanced document management with central storage that helps teams to access shared files easily. The documents can be categorized based on your sorting rules and indexed using keywords for quick retrieval and keeping relevant files together. Moreover, the search function uses a single interface to include non-document files like events, tasks, and posts. This means you can quickly pull out a past comment or post that is relevant to a document, for instance.

In a collaborative environment, shared documents can be a headache if the team is working on multiple versions. eXo solves this with the Document Workflow, which tracks editing history, allowing you to roll back data where needed, while the Lifecycle Management ensures all team members are working on the latest document version.

Imagine putting all important team documents, such as minutes, action plans, and group reports, in one location for easy access and reference. At the same time, the system also allows you to set custom access rules to protect sensitive data from other users. You can also define document workflows that fit your review/edit/validation process.

Another hallmark of a powerful document management system is the ability to organize content to build an internal knowledge base featuring wikis, forums, and FAQs. Creating a knowledge base is an effective way to standardize company processes, and eXo Platform makes the task achievable. Even in the face of a high employee turnaround, the system helps the company to capture employee insights or experience to add to the knowledge base and, over time, build a rich source of standard procedures for future hires.

You can also use eXo as CMS for complex websites, extranets, and intranets by extending templates. Add content in frontend and backend and set permissions for full control over your site’s content. As a CMS, eXo features standard publishing and SEO tools for preview, metadata, sitemap generation, and robot properties, among others, that you also find in top CMS software like WordPress and Joomla.

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2. Great collaboration and social tools

Collaboration is at the heart of being competitive in today’s fast-paced business, and eXo Platform helps you build a company social intranet platform for greater team play and sharing. Your sales, marketing, IT, support, executive team, and other departments can stay close together and achieve common goals faster.

At the same time, each user has his own customizable dashboard that can be installed with gadgets to track metrics, feeds, status, and analytics. You have a wide range of these gadgets available in eXo, though you can always install a third-party app if you want.

Furthermore, one thing we really like about eXo is that you can switch between tools–wikis, forums, chats, video calls–within a collaborative workspace (called Spaces), which allows people to stay in one place during work time. This is important to maintain the collaborative culture in the company where teams are motivated to share ideas and communicate closely with each other. Think of this workspace as a conference room where people can share thoughts and feedback at once. Without this workspace, employees will remain reclusive in their own cubicles and you lose the momentum of teamwork and shared ideas. Then there’s this flexibility to make Spaces private or public, open or closed, or a subgroup of a larger project, managed by your administrators.

Likewise, you can keep tabs on updates through activity streams, social networking, and workspaces. You are connected to people that matter to your work and vice-versa. For instance, a content writer can quickly pick up ideas from a support agent when fishing for testimonials.

Exo also features shared calendars, a standard tool every top-of-the-line project management app. In our experience, shared calendars are useful to connect our regular work pipeline between teams even without someone overseeing the entire process. For example, the content team calendars its date of article submission for the week and shares it with the art team, which in turn calendars its own completion layout date that is shared with the web admin team. The whole process ensures our site is seeded with regular content even with minimal supervision or none at all, giving the team leader with more time to focus on special projects.  

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3. Highly flexible integration and customization

As a portal framework for both employees and customers, eXo offers a flexible open source platform. This, of course, requires a degree of programming skills to fully utilize the system’s comprehensive IDE (integrated development environment), which includes: live development using a web-based code editor; template editing; and REST services and mashup development tools. Suffice to say its platform can adapt to any company setup, plus it has an active community that offers multilingual support for various languages.

The open source uses standards-based containers (certified JSR-286, WSRP, OpenSocial), so integration of external apps can be facilitated. The architecture also uses role-based delivery of content and apps, giving you more flexibility on how to display elements, such as pages, content, gadgets, apps, and portlets. Plus, you can customize the skin and layout of pages using a WYSIWYG editor. Security is also compatible with major SSO solutions to execute standard authentication and authorization mechanisms.

For added flexibility in creating highly customized business process management (BPM), eXo Platform integrates with BonitaSoft’s Open Solution. Again, you’ll need an IT talent to manage the processes and display form-based apps generated by an embedded Bonita User Experience console. If you’re familiar with or using the Bonita platform, eXo can extend your BPM while keeping your processes and documents intact. Conversely, you can extend eXo’s functionalities by incorporating the Bonita open solution. Some people are wary of over-extending an open source framework for stability issues, but with enough programming competence, you can make your BPM more powerful.

A sample customized skin using corporate colors.

A sample customized skin using corporate colors.

4. Engaged community for stronger customer relationship

Exo’s community management system facilitates customer experience sharing and product feedback using various engagement channels. You can create product spaces on your website using the web CMS tool. For example, build a fanbase around your bestselling product or merchandised goods, where customers can post user reviews, upload selfies with your product, discuss relevant issues, or share product tips with other customers. You can also enhance customers’ online experience with forums, self-help knowledge base, polls, and even amplify positive feedback and turn customers into brand advocates.

On the other hand, eXo’s social platform helps you quickly build a social media marketing channel and a support channel. Just remember to implement clear company guidelines on customer engagement to ensure employees stick to your key messages and do not contradict each other. We can think of numerous possibilities with an enterprise social network, for instance, sourcing ideas for new products or crowdsourcing for events by creating communities around products or points-of-interest or subgroups around specific topics. You can also designate company reps to engage customers in your enterprise social network and establish deeper relationships between your company and happy customers. Likewise, you can extend the collaboration tools used by your teams–chats, video calls, wikis, forums–to include customers in discussions or assign them user profiles as brand ambassadors.

Spaces allow you to group people by interest, project, team, etc.

Spaces allow you to group people by interest, project, team, etc.

5. Deep mobile integration

eXo Platform has native iOS and Android apps that let you take the social intranet on the go. The mobile extension isn’t just an add-on, but a comprehensive version of the open source platform. You can monitor your team’s activities via newsfeed and get real-time updates on wikis, pages, forums, calendars, and other shared files for extended collaboration even when you’re out in the field. You also get to access documents and view them through the mobile device’s native viewer. Likewise, the mobile app gives you the ability to synchronize user permissions across the social intranet. You can even access additional apps and gadgets in the mobile app (you need to install them using a computer, however) to enhance your mobile collaboration software experience. 

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eXo Platform price plans

eXo Platform offers two editions: Cloud and Enterprise. You may also want to check out for more details in our eXo Platform pricing section in our review.

Cloud Plan: $3/user (monthly), $30/user (annually), or $72/user (3 years)

This plan gives 1 GB storage per user. In this plan the app is hosted in the cloud by eXo, therefore there is no maintenance cost. Subscribers get access to a ready-to-use social intranet and user help desk. Features include social collaboration, web content management, mobile apps, video calls, and Level 1 support (help desk).

Enterprise Plan: from $1,200

This package is suitable for companies looking for flexibility and easy customization options. In this plan you install the app on your servers. Prices depend on the number of users: up to 25 users – $1,200, up to 50 users – $2,200, up to 100 users – $4,000, up to 250 users – $8,000, for more than 250 users request a quote from the company directly. This plan gives access to unlimited storage, technical support, software updates, and a ready-to-use social intranet. It includes all the features of the Cloud plan plus chat, directory integration, clustering, single sign-on, development environment, and other add-ons.  

What customers say about eXo Platform

We scoured the Internet for user reviews and feedback about eXo Platform and we noted three recurring comments about their services. First, many users find it to be a “complete” social and collaboration platform. “It has a rich combination of intranet, enterprise social network, and self-service portal,” a user in Chicago revealed. “But the same robust features can bog down processing speed and tinkering its open source architecture can overwhelm a novice programmer.”

Second, they like the integration and customization capabilities of the software. Users like the active eXo community, which provides multilingual support and third-party apps to enhance some functionalities like collaboration space and self-portal service. “It’s highly reliable because it has numerous add-ons and features that match our needs,” one user said. Because it’s designed for enterprise users, eXo requires substantial competence to handle integration, “but once you get the hang of it, you’ll love the possibilities.”

Third, the learning curve is not that simple. Users find the software’s IDE rich enough to develop their own add-ons, but “the learning curve is a little stiff,” a San Francisco-based user admitted. However, if you have substantive experience in open source coding, you’ll find the standards-based architecture familiar. “The infrastructure is quite easy to follow,” a New York City-based system developer said, praising how eXo allowed him to create communication tools across distributed systems.

Awards and Quality Certificates won by eXo Platform

Exceptional Customer Support Award for 2015

supportThis award was granted to eXo Platform for offering an exceptionally high-quality level of customer support. We evaluated the quality of feedback and response time by sending queries to the vendor. eXo support was very responsive–we got a reply on the same day–with concise and clear explanations on how we could solve our problem. Likewise, vendor support was proactive in giving us a complete product tutorial in case we encounter other problems. We believe future customers of eXo will also get the same impressive quality of support

Best Add-ons & Integration Award

addonslThis award is given to products that provide their users with a wide range of add-ons and integrations with other types of software and effectively expand the capabilities of their tools. eXo Platform’s open source architecture allows for deep integration around open standards, such as Java EE, WEBDAV, and JCR. Similarly, the software offers video calls and chat add-ons to boost collaboration and capture information right away, and integrates with other business apps like Box, JasperSoft, Exchange, and BonitaSoft.

Budget-Friendly Award

budgetThis certificate is granted to products that offer friendly pricing options and are especially recommended to smaller companies that don’t have significant budget to spend. The certificate guarantees you’ll get a good product for a reasonable price. As an open-source system, eXo offers scalable cloud features at monthly plans (from $3 per user/month) that small companies can easily afford. Businesses with tight budgets can immediately enjoy social collaboration, web content management, mobile apps, and video calls even with the basic plan.

 Great User Experience Award

userexperienceThis certificate is granted to products that offer especially high-quality user experience. We evaluated how well-designed eXo Platform interface and features are and how well they facilitate the work process. Company teams will find eXo capable truly capable to enhance teamwork and sharing of ideas as well as very adaptive to different collaborative scenarios.

 

An Interview with eXo CEO

Benjamin Mestrallet, CEO at eXo Platform

Benjamin Mestrallet,
CEO at eXo Platform

We interviewed Benjamin Mestrallet, CEO at eXo Platform and asked him what he thinks makes eXo unique among its competitors. Here’s what he told us:

eXo Platform offers a large set of collaboration tools uniquely integrated around a social layer. It has a user-centric design that generates spontaneous engagement. In addition, eXo Platform is open source software and favors open standards for better integration to existing IT systems such as a user directory, single sign-on systems or business-specific applications.” He also pointed out that eXo is an applicative platform coming with APIs and high customizability that can be leveraged by developers for social-enabling your business.

We also asked about typical problems companies face today, and how eXo can actually help them solve these problems. Mestrallet replied with describing three cases:

First of all, companies willing to improve internal communication, employee productivity, satisfaction, and engagement can use eXo as a social intranet. You can connect with colleagues, find experts in the directory based on their skills and interests. It’s also possible to create project spaces for cross-departmental initiatives and capture expert knowledge with forums and wikis. eXo allows you to hear the unheard with an open conversation model  promoted by our activity streams.

He also mentioned that there are a lot of companies that want to improve customer satisfaction or partners engagement, and eXo social extranet allows them to do that. “You can build a searchable knowledge base with the wiki, support customers with forums, provide private spaces for your partners or customers for discrete collaboration or open spaces for communities of interest”, he added.

Mestrallet also told us that companies that need to have an easy tool for publishing websites will find eXo Platform an excellent fit. “With its built-in web content management features, and ready-to-use templates, eXo Platform lets you build and publish websites,” he said.

Finally, we asked him about plans for future development of eXo and any new features to come. He revealed that they plan to introduce a new responsive layout for smartphone and tablets as well as a new, redesigned mobile app for iOS. “We also work on a new application for task and project management, a new social API and support for native video calls,” he added. eXo Platform also wants to expand its already wide scope of integrations with a new add-on for Salesforce.

Exo Platform SmartScore and Customer Satisfaction

Our B2B experts prepared a thorough eXo Platform review testing its functionalities, user experience, customer support and other key elements of the service. Final results as summarized by the SmartScore that resulted in an excellent score of 9.4/10 for eXo. The results provided by our Customer Satisfaction Algorithm show the overall user satisfaction with this software is 99%.

Stephanie Seymour

By Stephanie Seymour

Stephanie Seymour is a senior business analyst and one of the crucial members of the FinancesOnline research team. She is a leading expert in the field of business intelligence and data science. She specializes in visual data discovery, cloud-based BI solutions, and big data analytics. She’s fascinated by how companies dealing with big data are increasingly embracing cloud business intelligence. In her software reviews, she always focuses on the aspects that let users share analytics and enhance findings with context.

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