Recap and IM Action Plan

Recap and IM Action Plan

  1. As an employer weighing the pros and cons of instant messaging, your challenge will be giving employees access to a cutting edge, productivity-enhancing tool while minimizing your organization’s exposure to risk.

  2. Your employees probably are using IM already—whether you know it or not.

  3. Instant messaging appeals to users who want to chat right now, in real time. Take it away, and you may have an employee revolt on your hands.

  4. Instant messaging matches e-mail feature by feature.

  5. The greatest IM challenges are controlling security system breaches, monitoring written content, retaining and archiving business records, ensuring employee productivity, and managing user IDs.

Chapter 2: Uncovering Unauthorized Instant Messaging Use in Your Office


Employers cannot afford to ignore IM. If employees are tapping your organization’s resources and time to engage in instant messaging, they are creating potential business, legal, regulatory, and public relations problems for your organization.

It’s not uncommon for employees to use IM without the knowledge of management. In spite of numerous risks, millions of ‘‘ renegade’’ employees are probably chatting at this moment— unencumbered by IM rules, policies, or procedures of any kind.

IM Rule # 6: Unauthorized, unrestricted instant messaging use is simply bad practice.

Responsible employers have an obligation to discover whether or not employees are using IM, under what circumstances they are using it, with whom they are chatting, and what type of content they are sending and receiving.

As an employer in the age of instant messaging, you cannot afford to wait any longer. The risks inherent in unmanaged IM use range from lawsuits and loss of confidential data, to security breaches and lost productivity—risks that are too costly to ignore.

IM Rule # 7: Act now to uncover unauthorized instant messaging use.

Go High-Tech to Uncover Employees’ Unauthorized Instant Messaging Use

To help you get a grip on unauthorized instant messaging use, you may want to take advantage of technology. A number of vendors including Akonix, FaceTime, and IMlogic provide tools that enable employers to test their networks for the presence of consumergrade IM clients. These products reveal what names employees are using and whether or not they are using IM to transfer files, and if so, what files. [1]

This is a potentially serious issue. Employees who are instant messaging files out of your system may be stealing valuable intellectual property. Or they may be planning to go into business for themselves, using your customer database as a prospecting tool.

Don’t stop with a onetime check of your system. Have your IT department conduct regular IM screenings. Your findings will help you develop a comprehensive strategic plan for effective IM management.

See Appendix G for a list of IM vendors.

[1]Dan Orzech, ‘‘Under IT’s Radar, Instant Messaging Invades Corporate Desktops,’’ InstantMessagingPlanet (July 14, 2003), .

Conduct an Internal Audit to Determine How Widespread Instant Messaging Use Is

In addition to using technology to detect the presence of personal IM, you may want to conduct an internal audit, or risk assessment survey, among employees. Your survey will reveal how many employees are accessing public IM networks, as well as provide you with valuable insights into employees’ awareness of and attitudes toward the organization’s electronic risks, rules, policies, and procedures.

Your survey findings will enable you to draft IM policy and offer employee training programs that truly meet the specific needs of your staff, organization, and industry.