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IT managers must take control of instant messaging

Feb 25, 20033 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMessaging Apps

As an IT manager, you like to think you run a tight ship. Antivirus updates come often, unsanctioned software downloads are forbidden and spam filtering is your No. 1 pastime. Then imagine your surprise to discover one day that 40% of your corporate users are doing business over consumer instant messaging products you had no idea were on their machines.

What do you do?

“Take back your networks today!,” Francis deSouza, founder and CEO of enterprise instant messaging company IMlogic, implored the attendees of the Instant Messaging Planet Spring 2003 conference in Boston this week.

“The No. 1 myth is thinking that you don’t have instant messaging in your company,” deSouza said. “Now you have to learn how to control it.”

While the wildfire speed of instant messaging adoption within businesses has caught many IT managers by surprise, there is no lack of vendors offering to help them out of their quandary.

In recent months, industry heavyweights and startups alike have announced their intention to jump into the market.

“We’ve gone through three stages,” de Souza said. “First, there was ignorance about instant messaging use, then denial, then anger because the IT department didn’t deploy it,” he said. “Now we’ve got to move to acceptance and support.”

While IT managers may want to take some time to figure out whether they need one of the corporate instant messaging products now at hand, deSouza gave some pointers for what IT managers can do today to regain control.

First, administrators should figure out who is using instant messaging within their company and what consumer product they are using. At the least, the IT department should standardize all users on one product, and manage their use, as well as take control of namespace. Companies would not like to find an employee doing business over instant messaging with an ID like “studbroker,” deSouza pointed out.

IT managers should also take the time to configure all the instant messaging clients in the same manner, he said.

Once chat-happy users have been reined in, deSouza gave IT managers other food for thought if they decide to employ a corporate instant messaging product. Administrators should map their instant messaging namespace to the corporate directory, plan network employment and perhaps charge back business units for support of their instant messaging use.

“This takes the IT department out of the policing role,” deSouza said.

While some IT departments may have been unwillingly introduced to instant messaging, according to deSouza, it’s one of the better things that could have happened to them.

Instant messaging gives companies better spam control because only people on users’ contact lists have access and it actually lowers corporate network traffic because users aren’t sending as much e-mail, he said.

So while IT managers’ ships may have sailed off course, according to deSouza, instant messaging will lead to swifter corporate sailing.

The IM Planet show runs through Tuesday afternoon.