Collaboration is the name of the game today. As more and more of our workflows move to the cloud, businesses need tools that let teams share information, communicate, and manage projects together quickly and intuitively.
New startups are popping up to fill this need all the time, which is why the market for cloud collaboration software is expected to grow from $10.5 billion in 2014 to over $21 billion in 2019. But, at the medium business to enterprise level, the companies making two of the most popular products are old mainstays of tech: Atlassian and Microsoft.
Atlassian’s Confluence and Microsoft Sharepoint both empower companies to set up an intranet. Think of an intranet as a private version of the internet your company uses to collaborate. But beyond that, the two products are very different in size, scope, and capabilities.
Let’s dive into these two products—Confluence vs Sharepoint—and figure out which one is right for your team.
Confluence’s core functionality is the ability to create corporate wikis. Ever used Wikipedia before? If so, then you’re well on your way to getting how it works.
With Confluence, you can give each of your teams their own “space” inside the app. Think of it as their section of the wider wiki database. Within those spaces, users can create pages they and their teammates can edit, upload files to, and manage projects from. There are several possible use cases:
- Teams can create pages for technical documentation they often refer back to. They could write that information out inside a page or upload the relevant documents, which would then display in Confluence. Users could then comment on and discuss specific documents as well.
- Lots of companies use Confluence to set up internal company blogs. That’s a great way to share meeting notes and other strategic documents, which allows teams to work more transparently.
- Teams also use Confluence for project management. You can create a page for any project, list out all the required tasks, and assign them to team members. From there, people can use the page to collaborate and share their progress.
Confluence can also integrate with other Atlassian products. You can pair it with Atlassian’s team chat app, HipChat, to enable your teams to message in realtime within confluence. Or, you could pair it with Atlassian’s software project tool JIRA, giving engineers the ability to track bugs in their projects from Confluence.
Confluence’s monthly pricing with cloud hosting by Atlassian
The first important thing to note is that while pricing is based on team size, it doesn’t rise incrementally with each user. Rather, it remains stable until you hit the next threshold of users. That means pricing can suddenly increase overnight if you’re not careful.
The pricing tiers are also different if you choose to host Confluence on your own servers rather than in the cloud. Under that plan, most teams pay a one-time fee, ranging from $10 for teams of ten or fewer to $24,000 for teams of 10,000 or more. Enterprise teams who want to host themselves can also buy an expanded plan that charges $12,000 annually.
Also keep in mind that add-ons aren’t priced consistently. For instance, Atlassian will throw in its team chat app, HipChat, for free when you buy Confluence. But its Team Calendars feature, which on the face of it sounds like it could be even more essential than HipChat, costs more per month depending on the number of users. Some customers are sure to be put off by having to pay more for what’s arguably a core functionality.
Pros and Cons
Confluence does its primary job—collaborative Wikis for documentation and project management—very well. And perhaps most importantly, it makes the job easy for team members of any technical capacity. Users have several templates to choose from to set up pages and uploading documents is simple. Great usability is a must-have if you want big teams to embrace enterprise software.
The main con is the pricing. It’s not that it’s too expensive, but the possibility of an unexpected price increase is sure to put off a lot of companies. Early startup teams especially need to be aware. They’re typically small but growing quickly, which means they’re in prime position to quickly surpass the user thresholds at the low-end of the plan, right at the time they need to keep costs down.
If Confluence is one product, then Sharepoint is a whole platform.
Similar to Confluence’s wikis, Sharepoint lets users set up “sites” for teams to work together. But the customization is much more powerful on Sharepoint, to the point that several organizations use it to create robust public-facing sites.
Another area Sharepoint bests Confluence is in document collaboration, but only if you have the rest of the Microsoft Office Suite. If you do, team members can edit documents in the cloud on Word, Powerpoint, and Excel at the same time.
If you have enough data—announcements, project tasks, documents, whatever—in Sharepoint, it also becomes a powerful data warehouse. Sharepoint’s list feature makes everything that goes in Sharepoint searchable, though user feedback is mixed on how well the search function actually works.
Finally, there are more than a thousand third-party add-ons available that can give Sharepoint even more functionalities.
Sharepoint has three pricing tiers. But let’s assume you go with the Office 365 enterprise plan. Having the other Microsoft Office Suite apps is crucial to unlocking Sharepoint’s full document collaboration power.
At $20 per user per month, Sharepoint costs a lot more than Confluence. But you’re also getting a spreadsheet app, word processor, email client, and more in the Office package.
It’s also worth noting that many customers turn to Sharepoint because they’ve already bought the Office package for better-known programs like Word and Excel. If your company uses those apps, check your next bill from Microsoft. You might already be paying for Sharepoint.
Pros and Cons
Sharepoint does more than Confluence. All those features mean it can be practically whatever you want it to be. When combined with the rest of Microsoft Office’s apps, you theoretically have almost every tool your business could need.
The key word there is theoretically. In reality, lots of users have found that Sharepoint doesn’t quite live up to its reputation as a “do-it-all” software. In fact, only 11% of surveyed Sharepoint users said they had ever successfully completed a project in the app.
Why is it so hard for users to get value from Sharepoint? It all comes back to usability. It can be difficult for Sharepoint users to properly tag documents and get them in the right folders, making them hard to find later. That problem only compounds the more people you have on the platform, which makes it a questionable solution for large or growing teams.
Other seemingly simple tasks are tough with Sharepoint too. David Lavenda, who runs marketing for a Sharepoint integration software, says that even “to send a document link to somebody else is a nine-step process.” Difficulties like that make it hard for teams—especially ones with a range in technical skills—to adopt a product.
The Winner of Confluence vs Sharepoint — Confluence
Confluence wins in the battle of Confluence vs Sharepoint because of its usability, intuitive design, and focus on making its core feature as accessible as possible. If you want a simple workflow tool for collaborating, sharing files, and setting up a basic intranet, it has everything you need.
Sharepoint can do a whole lot more, but the phrase, “jack of all trades, master of none” jumps to mind. Too many organizations never get the full potential of Sharepoint because of how difficult it is to use. Plus, Confluence alone is a lot cheaper than the Office 365 package, no matter how many people are on your team.
Given that, it makes a lot more sense to pick Confluence for your Intranet, and use cheaper, simpler options for things like in-document collaboration, file storage, and communication around projects.
Again I disagree. Another phrase comes equally to mind… “you get what you pay for”… or better yet “cheaper, son, isn’t always better”. There are too many limitations and shortfalls to boxing into something as restrictive and alien as Confluence. Using it effectively cuts you off from the rest of the world, AND you will end up purchasing the Microsoft Office products as well, thus doubling your expenses. And for what really? Something that doesn’t integrate with any other office products (including Email, Lync, and Office365).
And JIRA? Seriously? Have you ever seen it in use in large 10,000+ companies? Talk about complete disorganized chaos… and making any project it touches shoot way over budget and miss any deadlines… but I suppose it’s a good thing as JIRA has been the best friend of “staff reduction” since companies started using it. No other software has been as good at creating reasons to fire middle managers… go Jira!
I disagree too. Sharing has gotten so easy in 2013 and 2016. Who want’s just wiki pages? It has to have workflows, forms, repositories….. everything. I am with John R., jira? yikes…..
It is obvious that these two people who disagree have never used Confluence. SharePoint is where documents go to die, forgotten for all time. Word, Excel and PDF documents are natively searchable once attached to a page in Confluence. This means a search LOOKS INSIDE them, just not what the title of the documents are. So in Confluence, if you just know a word that a document contains, you can easily find it with a search.
Thanks for the article. It could have been better, if the Atlassian was better known. For instance,
1. Editing Excel, Word, Powerpoint documents attached to a Confluence Page is possible without having to download and save them before.
2. Like SP, Confluence (as well as JIRA) offers thousands of addons. Creating workflows is possible.
3. Confluence too can be used to create a fully customized web-site, so customized you’ll never notice the web site has been developed with Confluence (and few addons).
Regarding use of the Atlassian tools in big companies…Airbus, UNO to name a few ones…
The main drawback is the pricing, especially if you need several addons…and you will for sure!
Otherwise, try it and you’ll find it so intuitive…SP in comparison remains behind, even if the 203 ed. was a major improvement here.
I’m pretty shocked by the negative comments. I was exclusive to Sharepoint (several versions) for about 10 years before switching to Confluence last year. I find Confluence to be a breath of fresh air. For me and my team’s needs, it is by far the better choice when it comes to team collaboration and information sharing in general.
I created pretty involved team pages in Sharepoint 2013 and 2016 to track and manage a whole host of different types of documents, active work lists, project documentation, knowledge base wiki, form entry, etc. and each time it took an enormous amount of time to get everything right and even more time to teach the team how to use each function. Simple things like site navigation always ended up being a huge challenge.
This same task, setting up a team intranet, was ridiculously easy in Confluence. There is a consistency in basic concepts (hierarchy of pages, for example) and widget configuration that are both very easy to understand and very powerful. Because of the ease of use, there is no training necessary for basic tasks. Anyone with general computer literacy can jump in and start adding content.
Having said that, there is certainly some functionality you won’t get in Confluence, like integration with MS products. However, from my experience managing teams and being responsible for fostering an environment of information sharing, I’ve come to the same conclusion as this article – the simpler, the better. The documentation efforts of my staff have enormously improved with Confluence.
We also use Jira, by the way, and I similarly find it very easy to use although some of the setup can be conceptually more complex. Definitely a separate conversation but I don’t think Jira is as easy a sell as Confluence as there are other options that are comparable if not better (Microsoft Team Services, for example).
I enjoyed your article. I was actually surprised to learn that Sharepoint can be configured to be so powerful. In over two decades, all I ever saw of Sharepoint was a fancy UI on top of a filesystem. But most importantly, in 10 or more years of using Sharepoint, the search just does not work. Never has. For me and for all my peers. For me that alone kills it! On the other side though, I have been using Confluence for almost as long. Although initially I wasn’t a big fan (yet another wiki), it has grown to be quite a nice product. My only request from Atlassian would be to add full document indexing in their engine (which works quite well but is still quite lacking).
It is very interesting to do discover some comparison between SharePoint and other software/platform. Confluence seems to be a basic tools for collaboration but you should compare/consider some advanced features of SharePoint (such as Information Policy, eDiscovery, Compliance …). This kind of features does not seem to be present Confluence. In the product selection, the team maturity should be also consider.
I am looking for a solution to make ediscovery exports from my Confluence and Sharepoint. I was told about a good solution called Onna (here is their web: onna.com). Does anyone have references on them? Gartner named them Cool Vendor, but I can not find a lot of information.
I just read your comment. I’m part of the Onna team and would be happy to answer your questions.
The Onna platform offers an eDiscovery app, which connects directly with the source’s API, integrating directly with sources, like Confluence or Sharepoint. Synced data will always be indexed and searchable. Users can export relevant data and metadata in eDiscovery ready format. Load files are available in a dat file or CSV.
For Confluence, Onna supports Confluence Cloud and Server version 5.7 and up.
For more information, feel free to contact me or visit Onna’s contact page: https://onna.com/about/contact/
I am very surprised to see such a limited view of SharePoint.
Assuming one is using a version of SharePoint from this century, the pages are wiki pages. There are many templates for types of sites – and of course if you are using Word, PowerPoint, etc. you have the benefit of all their templates as well. If one only wants simple functionality such as Confluence, you get it with SharePoint.
Of course more sophisticated projects are non-trivial – that’s the consequence of trying to do complex things. SharePoint should not be thought of as a silver bullet that makes everything simple.
I find building effective presentation slide decks or complex spreadsheets with large numbers of calculations difficult – even with a powerful tool like PowerPoint.
To use a powerful tool to do development, one is going to need to be trained in a) how to do requirements gathering, design with the tool that is to be used to implement, etc.
From what I have read, if I want to do those kinds of complicated things, and I only have Confluence, then I am going to find the development process to be as complex – if not more so.
As one other commenter alluded – you get what you pay for…
Anyone sticking up for SharePoint is an IT fossil making an argument to continue their prehistoric position in an antiquated department/organization. Confluence is, by far, much easier to use without a DOUBT. SharePoint is a web-based file system that is over engineered for the masses and near impossible to customize. Cheers
Dear The Bat,
Thanks for the colorful comment! We found similar support for Confluence (and disdain for Sharepoint) with our IT audience, too.
Hmmm. Sharepoint is web-based and that’s an issue. So… I suppose Confluence works by magic?
The biggest problem with Sharepoint is that less than 1% of the users are actually trained how to use it properly! That’s an epic fail on the part of MS, but then they could care less as the adoption rate was out of the world in spite of any training avoided by adopters.
Sharepoint is perhaps the ultimate expression of free-form organization, which is ironic and to say that it has no organization in most companies. It is powerful and lets the users do whatever they pretty much want… so the real benchmark of how intelligent/organized/useful your employees are is to look at your sharepoint site. Voila. Instant indicator of the quality of your workers.
I don’t know much about Confluence, and have seen so many bad installations of Sharepoint that I am not a fan of that either. But I’d rather have total freedom than Constraint, which is what Confluence does. By making things available or not to the user, you effectively control what they can or cannot do. This is akin to the Windows vs Apple OS battles… completely different philosophies. The less you want to know the technical details of what you are doing, the more likely you will choose Apple/Confluence. The more technical (and possibly disorganized) you are… you will prefer MS/Sharepoint.
In my past experiences in large, corporate environments Sharepoint sucked. It was little more than another directory tree hell with ineffective search and a step-child, add-on wiki that was hardly useable. Hopefully it’s been ‘improved’, but it is fundamentally flawed by its underlying paradigm of being a repository of discrete, file documents, as opposed to fully integrative hypermedia.
Despite recent missteps by Atlassian, making some unfortunate changes to the UI, Confluence paired with a selection of it’s plugins remains a very powerful collaborative environment for everything from the ad-hoc, minimally formatted, ‘traditional’ wiki use case – in the spirit of Ward Cunningham’s original idea! – to formally CM’ed enterprise documentation (e.g. using Comala Workflows). With Draw.io (or others), powerful diagramming can be embedded and versioned with the page with elements easily hyperlinked to other content. Search is fast, powerful and fluid (for native content).
If you are using it primarily for ‘document’ management of attached Office and other files, you are using it wrong. Attachments have their place, but using native Confluence pages and spaces for content should largely replace Word (and can replace Powerpoint and Visio with the right plugin).
Confluence also has a REST API that can be used to get/set virtually anything, including attachments. I’ve implemented several automations in Python that we use with that.
All that said, depending on your needs, if the Confluence cost is an issue and you have some dev chops, take a look at XWiki. It’s not as comprehensive, ‘out of the box’, but is highly scriptable in a number of languages.
Confluence is also quite easy to install and administer, so the IT and site administration load is reasonable.
I’ve been involved with SharePoint as an Admin and SME since 2001, 3 big organisations, often with consultants to help set it up…. Confluence within a matter of 3 months I was able to configure to be more than SharePoint ever could be…and users loved it..SharePoint literally sucks and users hate it…the excuse of being a Microsoft shop just doesn’t wash anymore.
I know this is an old article, but I’m known to give my 2 cents. 😉
1.) I love Confluence and much prefer it over Sharepoint for styling and customization of pages. Sorry, Sharepoint loses the battle on the one basic fundamental of page formatting.
2.) Sharepoint offers one huge feature over Confluence in that you can access your documentation just by logging in with your secure Microsoft account. No need to VPN to retrieve your content.
Still, I prefer Confluence. It’s easy to use, your pages look fantastic, and the searching capabilities are awesome.
I’ve used both on and off for approx 10 years and I have found SharePoint in most organizations used as just a file repository. And most often the I.T. or services group doesn’t have the bandwidth to “own” or assist users on creating elaborate pages or sites in SharePoint. SharePoint as mentioned in this article is difficult to use and if MS wants to really get into more than just a file repo in my opinion, will need to do a major initiative on the experience to get a page out that can be constructed easily. True “real-time” collaboration. Confluence, which is much simpler, is very effective in my opinion. The article does speak of that Confluence has the same capability to allow public access. I used it for client user story sign off as an example. The client also participated in the user story construction, via page changes and comments. I found that indispensable in the process. On a call we could update the page content quickly and painlessly. SharePoint can do it but most won’t venture into that realm as it’s too difficult or requires tech services or other resources to assist.
SharePoint does document management better, but when did collaboration require better document mgmt. 🙂
Really appreciate your approach and completely agree that Confluence wins! It’s really simple tool. The one thing that can be challenging is its installation. It’s better to turn to a specialists’ team, like https://polontech.com/atlassian-consulting-support/confluence-consulting/confluence-installation/ .
They offer quick and high-quality Jira installation on Linux or Windows, and also Confluence training courses
Have they every use SharePoint. Confluence does not have a lot of capabilities SharePoint has.
Unless you’re a huge corporation Confluence is a much smarter, efficient choice. SharePoint is a beast and only 5-10% of companies who invest in SharePoint/Office 365 truly get the usefulness out of it that Confluence has right out of the box.
Thank you for the very interesting article and the lively contribution. I fully agree with several commentators, that Sharepoint is a mighty beast. But in our roughly 2K employee company, it mainly serves as document repository. We started to collaborate on documents in Sharepoint cloud for approx. one year. Searching in SP vault for us functions quite well.
Some colleagues of mine composed, more sophisticated SP content, but with limited IT support of 1.5 persons, this can never fly in general. In same timeframe of 3 year SP usage, Confluence, being initially used by one acquired company, has grown in usage to half of all staff as software development & project documentation tool.
Thanks to Atlassian current Licensing strategy, we are now all able to use Confluence. For us as late comers, it gives new hope of more dynamic content / documentation creation and collaboration in updating of the same.