Instant message to corporates: coming ready or not

Users already know what IT managers are just learning -- instant messaging is being widely installed inside companies whether corporate policy allows for it or not.

Seattle-based research house Osterman Research is predicting IM use within companies will rise from its current level of 84 per cent of organisations to 93 per cent in the next 12 months -- that's despite some resistance and a lack of managerial "buy-in" about the benefits.

Shaun Donaghey, Auckland manager of software developer Intergen, which last month held a seminar on corporate IM issues, says interest in the topic is high among corporates though worries continue about intrusion and duplication of services.

"I think it's similar to the kinds of things people were saying when email was being introduced -- it's unnecessary, we already have phones if something's urgent, it's intrusive and so on. You can negate all those points quite readily."

Where instant messaging really beats other forms of communication, however, is in multi-site collaboration, says Donaghey.

"When you think about the cost and trouble of setting up a voice conference compared with IM, there's just no comparison."

Donaghey says IM is an issue corporates will have to tackle, especially as their users are already deploying the software.

"Most PCs ship with IM embedded these days and users are bright enough to work out user names and so on. It's happening already, so corporates need to get involved."

He hopes more corporations will make the move from unsanctioned IM installations to enterprise-wide platforms for a number of reasons, not least of which is security.

Lotus representatives told Computerworld earlier this year that its research had found IM reduces phone use by 72 per cent, voicemail by 69 per cent, email by 85 per cent, pagers by 45 per cent and face-to-face meetings by half.

For users who argue that IM's always-on immediacy is distracting, Donaghey recommends clicking on the "do not disturb" setting. "How hard is that?" he asks.

Donaghey says financial institutions are already moving swiftly with regard to IM.

"They're not waiting because it's just too easy to send off a few comments in a message that would constitute insider trading. There's no paper trail, no email log, nothing."

Donaghey says any legal or auditing department would be alarmed at such an unmonitored, uncontrolled form of communication from individual users' desktops.

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