The "Cadillac" of community platforms
Our company has been using Lithium as its community platform for 2+ years. And our experience is similar to the one that my uncle got when he bought his Cadillac. It was shiny, fancy, and the most expensive car out there - and he made the foolish assumption that if you pay Cadillac prices, you get a product of superior quality and service second to none. Unfortunately my uncle found out the hard way that once you get over the plush interior, you're driving a piece of junk. And when you take it into the dealer to fix it, no one in the garage knows what the heck he's doing and all they want to do is just sell you another Cadillac.
This is Lithium Technologies. They are, by far, the most expensive community platform on the market (source: CMX). They have lots of features and beautiful looking sites to sell you on. But once you're locked into a multi-year contract, no one in tech support knows what the heck s/he's doing and all they try to do is upsell you like hell on other services.
To be specific, here are some data that I am willing to share publically about our Lithium Community experience:
I have filed 22 support tickets in the past four months with Lithium. Three are still pending with one filed 11/28/2017 (it is Jan 10, 2018). Among the 19 closed cases, one took 52 days to close, another at 37 days, three more cases took 20-30 days, three more took 10-19 days, and only nine were closed within a week. I got all sorts of excuses along the way, webconferences with children yelling in the background, and a whole lot of basically "it's not our problem but if you want us to fix it, you will need to pay for our time" etc...
Our contract with Lithium included a rather large one-time setup cost and annual fees north of $150,000. This included "Gold Service" support. Gold Service is supposed to get you a support response time of 24 hours or less. What they don't tell you is that only the FIRST response is within 24 hours, and it is often a very boilerplate thing. Here's the initial response from my 52-day marathon support case: "Hi scott. Thank you for contacting Lithium Customer Support. We have received your case and will respond once we have completed an initial investigation. Many Thanks, Thejesh." The next response was nine days later and so on. When we called Lithium on this, their response was that this was not a boilerplate/automated response. You be the judge.
I will say that the uptime of their servers is good. I have not had a single episode where my community has been down in four months. I cannot say the same for Lithium's own site and their support portal, which go down more often than you would expect.
Lithium's structure "under the hood" looks nice initially - you can drag-and-drop "components" onto your site and then test them in a sandbox called "staging" prior to going live. Nice. But you will find out VERY quickly that to do pretty much any kind of customization, you will need to either write your own CSS/HTML or again pay for their time, etc...
So as a data science company, it was important for us to export the raw Lithium data on a regular basis for analysis. Lithium does have a decent built-out API that you can access. The documentation is horrible; you will need to figure it out yourself. And if you ask support for help....well let's just say that I think I am now the recognized expert on the Lithium Bulk Data API. No one in support knows how it works.
Our company paid, as part of our exhorbitant fees, for SalesForce to be connected to Lithium. To date this has never happened. Nothing to report.
AMAZING COMPANIES THAT USE LITHIUM:
I was told on numerous occasions that amazing companies like Sony use Lithium as their platform. And it's true - Sony is a legitimate client. But please do not take the screenshots shown on their PPTs as gospel as to how the platform looks in real life. Go sign up to community.sony.com and try to find the pages they use in their deck. I did. Here's the "Find the Expert" page in real life if it's in your deck.
It's pretty easy to see which companies use Lithium. All Lithium URLs have a mysterious "/t5/" in them. Do a Google search and find your own examples.
As you can tell, we are extremely disappointed with Lithium Technologies. I think if you're company has a lot of money to burn and just wants an expensive product that you can use "out of the box" and never tinker with it, you will probably be fine. Otherwise look elsewhere. We are.