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IM: Time waster or valuable tool?

Jun 17, 20032 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMessaging Apps

* The pros and the cons of instant messaging

An individual on our survey panel recently raised some interesting points about the value of instant messaging. He believes that instant messaging is, in essence, nothing more than an electronic “water cooler” through which users can waste time on personal communication. Further, he says that since virtually all users have a telephone and an e-mail account, instant messaging is simply an unnecessary replacement of these technologies.

In one sense, he is correct: instant messaging can be a time waster if it is used simply to discuss personal business or if it adds to the workload of a user without a corresponding benefit that more than offsets the cost of the technology. However, there are two important ways in which instant messaging can benefit the typical enterprise, regardless of its size:

* First, instant messaging can provide value to an enterprise by replacing toll telephone calls, faxes and other fee-based communications methods. Our research has demonstrated that instant messaging reduces the use of these communications tools. Plus, instant messaging may actually slow the growth of e-mail storage and bandwidth requirements. If instant messaging is used in a call center application as a replacement for telephone-based support, the return can be substantial.

* Second, and perhaps more importantly, instant messaging is an enabling technology that provides an enterprise with the ability to create synergies that otherwise would not exist. For example, an instant messaging interface to a corporate directory or an inventory control system can provide faster and better access to those systems than traditional interfaces, offering an additional benefit from the deployment of the instant messaging system that might not have originally been envisioned when the instant messaging system was first deployed.

In short, instant messaging can permit an organization to obtain more value from its investments in people and backend systems than would be possible without the use of IM. Although IM can definitely be a waste of time if not implemented or used properly, its long-term benefits are likely to provide significant value to an enterprise. Please let me know what you think – whether you’re for or against the use of instant messaging in your enterprise.