How important is the desktop client?

* Desktop client anchors enterprise messaging systems

The majority of enterprise e-mail users employ Microsoft Outlook as their desktop client, but a variety of other clients are used as well - including Lotus Notes, Eudora, Novell GroupWise and so forth. When evaluating messaging systems, how important is the desktop client in making a decision about which messaging system to choose?

We have just concluded a study of messaging systems and found that what’s on the desktop is an extremely important decision factor in evaluating new messaging systems.

We asked more than 100 respondents in North America about the likelihood of replacing their back-end messaging infrastructure with one that provides significantly better performance, better server loading, lower cost of ownership or other advantages. If the desktop client had to be replaced in the new messaging system, only 11% of respondents indicated that they would very likely or definitely switch messaging systems. However, if the desktop client could be retained, the number of organizations that would very likely or definitely switch jumped to 42%. These results are similar to those that we discovered in a study that asked these questions last year.

What this means is that the desktop is an anchor of sorts for a large percentage of enterprises. While a new messaging system may offer a number of important advantages over an existing system, without the new system’s ability to support the existing desktop infrastructure it has far less chance of being sold into the enterprise. This makes sense in the context of the high cost of replacing the desktop client, the high cost of retraining users and adding more help desk staff, and so forth.

The good news for enterprises is that there is a growing number of alternative messaging systems that support Outlook, providing much or all of the functionality of Outlook’s e-mail, calendaring, task management and collaboration features to which users have become accustomed. Depending on the enterprise and its messaging and collaboration needs, some of these systems might be worth a look.

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Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.