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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,, 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.

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