Wasn’t Corporate IM Supposed to be Here by Now?


Between my recent joy in playing with the MSN Messenger 6.0 Beta and a recent Byte and Swtich article on IM archiving I have one question — wasn’t corporate IM supposed to be here by now?

There are two reasons why I think that instant messaging is in a better position to “go corporate” than it was as recently as 12 months ago:

Corporate Quality Instant Messaging Products are Available – The three service providers currently offering consumer instant messaging products, http://enterprise.yahoo.com/products/msg/, AOL, and MSN, have launched or are on the verge of relaunching corporate instant messaging products that will include support for behind-the-firewall instant messaging capabilities, complete with auditing, security, and authentication. There are also third-party audit/security server vendors (FaceTime and IMLogic) that can help enterprises move more quickly to adopt enterprise IM.

Regulatory Requirements – As the Byte and Switch article pointed out, regulators are beginning to treat and think of instant messaging traffic in the same way that they treat email traffic. For heavily-regulated industries (particularly financial services and healthcare), this should either drive organizations to implement corporate-friendly versions of IM or to simply outlaw it altogether.

Those issues aside, are there non-monetary reasons that IM is not being deployed in the commercial market?

Is IM too intrusive? – There is a real difference between synchronous and asynchronous communications. Whereas asynchronous communications (email) allow the recipient to respond to a message at his/her convenience, synchronous communications (such as IM) are intrusive — they almost demand that you reply when the person reaching out to you makes contact. This might be a fine dynamic for peer communications, but I am not sure that it is a good idea for executive to subordinate (or vice versa) communications.

Is IM a “toy” or a waste of time? – Also, because the success of IM has largely been built on the back of teenage adoption, there are certainly businesspeople who look at IM as a toy, a “virtual water cooler”, or simply a waste of time.

As someone who gets a lot of value out of IM, I hope to see it move into the corporate world with more force.