Use Your Risk Assessment to Uncover - Then Fill - Pockets of Non-Use

Use Your Risk Assessment to Uncover—Then Fill—Pockets of Non-Use

IM Rule # 8: Ignoring instant messaging may cost you more than using it.

In spite of the inherent risks, IM delivers productivity-enhancing features and capabilities that cannot be denied. Many organizations have found that it reduces costs to communicate with clients and to deliver products, services, and solutions on time and within budget. Employees who have rushed to bring IM in behind the boss’s back have often done so precisely because it is such a valuable tool for business communication.

Savvy employers may want to use screening technology and internal surveys to uncover pockets of nonuse as well as to discover unauthorized use. Determine which employees and departments are not currently using IM. Identify which nonusers would benefit most from its use. Educate targeted nonusers about the ways in which IM can help enhance productivity and communications. Then roll out your strategic IM program to ensure that all employees, including former nonusers, are accessing the organization’s authorized IM system according to clearly written rules and policies.

See Chapter 3 for details on determining the IM system that is right for your organization and employees.

Recap and IM Action Plan

  1. Instant messaging is here, and it’s here to stay. Unfortunately, it also is creating an increasingly risky environment for workplace e-communications.

  2. No organization—public or private, for-profit or not-for-profit, international giant or small business—can afford to allow employees to engage in unmanaged IM. The potential risks and costs are too great. Take strategic, preventive action now.

  3. Combine screening technology with an internal audit to uncover your organization’s electronic liabilities and the extent and nature of your employees’ IM use, abuse, and misuse.

  4. Use the information gleaned from IM screening tools and your internal survey to shape IM rules, policies, and training programs to meet the specific risks and needs of your organization and employees.

  5. Be on the lookout for nonusers who would benefit from IM, in terms of enhanced productivity and improved communications. Don’t allow those employees to be left behind by colleagues who were early IM adopters.

Chapter 3: What’s the Best Way to Manage Employees’ Instant Messaging Use?


Once you’ve screened your computer system and surveyed staff to determine the extent of your employees’ IM use (and misuse), it’s time to decide how to manage all that IM activity. Like it or not, you must take control of IM now, or risk getting blindsided by it in the future.

Between AOL, Yahoo!, and MSN, huge numbers of employees (probably including many of yours) are instant messaging at work. Thanks to unauthorized use, your organization’s valuable intellectual property could leave the system in an instant. Courtesy of inappropriate content, an IM-happy employee could trigger a lawsuit that costs your organization its priceless reputation and six figures in legal fees. A group of ‘‘trusted’’ managers could use IM to strategize their business plan, woo your clients, and instant message you right out of business. And thanks to IM attachments, documents are circumventing your e-mail attachment antivirus checks and possibly infecting your organization from the inside!

Responsible employers owe it to their employees, clients, shareholders, and corporate friends to manage employee IM use and keep liabilities to a minimum.

When it comes to IM management, you have four choices:

  1. Ban workplace use altogether.

  2. Exercise control over the situation by installing an in-house enterprise-grade solution to replace users’ personal IM software.

  3. Take a middle-ground approach and support employees’ use of personal IM clients with technology that helps control content, monitor use, retain business records, purge nonrecords, enhance security, and reduce risks.

  4. Limit access to employees who really need the technology to perform their jobs.