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Adding Web conferencing to IM opens possibilities

Oct 09, 20032 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMessaging Apps

* The combination of Web conferencing and IM could save you money

Instant messaging continues to evolve from a tool designed allow teenagers to share snippets of text with their friends to a tool that allows enterprise users to collaborate with other users inside or outside of their organization. One of the key enablers for instant messaging in this regard is the addition of Web conferencing capabilities.

For example, IBM Lotus Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing (Sametime) provides the ability to share presentations, whiteboards and other information interactively on a one-to-one or one-to-many basis. Microsoft’s Live Meeting, which resulted from the company’s acquisition of PlaceWare, gives Microsoft a similar capability. More recently, Yahoo and WebEx have established a relationship that will provide capabilities similar to those offered by Lotus and Microsoft.

So what’s the value of Web conferencing? From an organizational perspective, the ability to conduct ad hoc or even regularly scheduled meetings electronically can be dramatically more efficient and cost effective than travel. For example, one retailer with which I’m familiar used to fly its Spokane-area store managers to Portland every week for a company meeting, while their Seattle-area managers used to drive three hours each way to attend. Clearly, Web conferencing might have been used in this situation to dramatically lower personnel and travel costs.

Why tie Web conferencing into instant messaging? One of the fundamental advantages is the ability to expand a simple instant messaging conversation into a full-blown Web conference within the same basic communications infrastructure. For example, let’s say you’re a purchasing manager having an instant messaging conversation with a vendor about changes to your company’s purchasing procedures, and the vendor needs more information. Using a Web conferencing capability built into your company’s instant messaging infrastructure, you could easily create a Web conference on the fly to run through a presentation you had created about the changes, add your co-worker to the conference, and so forth, all without having to switch out of instant messaging and into a separate tool.

Clearly, Web conferencing is a part of the collaborative direction into which instant messaging is being directed by vendors and the market. I’d appreciate your thoughts on the practical utility of these tools for your day-to-day work activities. Please drop me a line at