Instant messaging can be a useful business tool, but the right infrastructure must be in place
Electronic mail: convenient, fast and efficient. Remember how you felt about the technology just five years ago?
The sad reality is that what was once seen as a step-change in communications networking has now become something of an information burden.
Email’s downfall has not just been as a result of the viral and malware infections it brings to the organisation, as serious a problem as that is.
The openness and ubiquity of the system has become a bigger issue, as spam and unsolicited messages clog up in-boxes. According to researcher IDC, email is one of the biggest contributors to poor productivity, gobbling up 14.5 hours of the average worker’s week.
But the ability to exchange written information easily and quickly using internet protocol (IP) networks remains a useful concept. So as public email systems grind ever so surely to a halt, many users have switched to instant messaging (IM).
Such a transformation in networking habits is not necessarily good news for the chief information officer (CIO). IM is by definition an open access method – the free public versions such as AOL, MSN, Yahoo, Google Talk and Skype are almost always picked by individuals – and there is usually no central control, meaning businesses have no idea how it is being used or what data is being transferred.
However, like it or not, IM is almost certainly already with you. According to analyst the Radicati Group, the number of worldwide IM accounts will increase from 944 million in 2006 to more than 1.4 billion by 2010.
Software giant Microsoft says 50 per cent of individuals use IM, mostly at work, with 58 per cent of those using the tool to communicate with co-workers in the same office. IDC, meanwhile, estimates that almost 12 billion instant messages are sent every day.
Apart from speed and convenience, IM users cite presence as a major benefit of message-based communications. Within an IM network, users can detect who is available right now, as well as who may be travelling, in a meeting or at lunch – and when they will be back online.
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