Does IM spell the end of phone tag?

Phone tag and overflowing inboxes aren't going away anytime soon, but instant messaging (IM) can relieve some of the burden. Our resident enterprise applications expert, Sanjeev Sawai, explains how IM can improve business productivity and how it could leave an organization vulnerable.

1) The business value of instant messaging
Instant messaging (IM) is a near real-time communications technology that allows people to greatly enhance their productivity. IM effectively complements e-mail by removing time delays, and is more efficient than phone calls and voicemail, especially when coupled with presence management. Users are able to view the availability of other users and receive immediate answers to questions from their coworkers. And, IM is now accessible from anywhere, given its recent extension to several mobile devices, further increasing its utility and making it a mobile communications medium.

2) How presence plays a role
Presence management is the technology that enables users to declare their availability status and view the same information for other users. Presence management reduces the burden of e-mail and voicemail, eliminating phone tag and its e-mail equivalent. It allows users to collaborate more effectively by structuring their time and availability to communicate with other users.

3) The associated security risks of instant messaging to a network/organization
IM is a communications technology that needs to be

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managed with the same care as an e-mail system. IM is now vulnerable to the same threats as e-mail and Web clients - viruses, spyware, adware, identity management, etc. IM also suffers from a lack of control by the IT administration, since it is a peer-to-peer technology, an issue not faced by e-mail systems. Much effort and investment will be needed to ensure that IM communications meet the auditing, logging and regulatory compliance standards in place in most corporations. Today, there are several companies delivering these types of solutions to address these issues with IM systems, in the future, we're likely to see expansion within this area as more and more businesses adopt IM within their corporate culture.

About the author:
Sanjeev Sawai is the vice president of research and development at Envox Worldwide (www.envox.com), a voice solutions provider. With more than 15 years experience in the development of telecommunications and embedded systems, Sawai is responsible for investigating and evaluating new standards and emerging technologies in the voice solutions market.

This was first published in July 2005

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