Recap and IM Action Plan

Recap and IM Action Plan

  1. Once you uncover the extent of your employees’ IM use, it’s time to get to work developing a strategic IM management plan.

  2. Form a comprehensive IM risk management, compliance, and litigation response team to evaluate workplace risks; to structure policy so it meets the organization’s legal, regulatory, technological, and security needs; and to coordinate this policy with human resources, records management, and employee training needs.

  3. Have a senior executive champion your organization’s IM risk management program.

Chapter 5: Instant Messaging Pros and Cons


When it comes to instant messaging, employers have a lot to consider:

  • Is there already an IM presence in your office?

  • How are employees currently using it?

  • Do you want to legitimize and authorize IM use?

  • Do you prefer to ban its use completely?

  • Does your organization have the IT expertise, budget, and tools necessary to ensure a secure IM solution?

  • Do you have a thorough understanding of the legal, regulatory, and business challenges IM brings to the workplace?

  • Are you prepared to meet IM-related regulatory requirements?

  • Is your organization prepared to commit the financial and human resources necessary to develop, implement, and enforce IM rules, policies, and training?

  • In what ways does (or would) IM benefit your organization?

  • How does (or might) it harm your business or employees?

  • Will IM deliver a favorable enough return on investment to justify the expense of installing, maintaining, and managing the technology for it and controlling problems related to it?

The following list of instant messaging pros and cons is offered to help employers who are undecided about the role it should play as a workplace communications tool.

Ten Reasons Why Instant Messaging Belongs in Your Office

  1. Instant Real-Time Communication. IM users can communicate instantaneously with colleagues, clients, and other third parties. Delayed responses are a thing of the past as your IM colleagues can get immediate responses to client questions— right now in real time. Your ability to deliver immediate, personalized service is likely to increase customer loyalty.

  2. Enhanced Customer Service. Increasingly, retailers and other businesses are turning to IM to help enhance customer-service capabilities, much to the delight of a growing number of consumers. Forrester Research reports that the number of online shoppers who prefer IM for customer service jumped to 9 percent in 2001, up from 3 percent in 1999.[1]

    Alaska Airlines allows customers to use IM to get quick answers to questions about flights. Lands’ End lets online shoppers use IM to contact customer-service reps for immediate answers—a capability that beats holding on the phone or waiting for an e-mail reply. According to Lands’ End, customers who use IM are 70 percent more likely to buy than users who simply browse the company Web site or call its 800 number with questions. [2]

  3. Improved Employee Productivity. IM provides presence detection. When users log on, they can tell whether or not their colleagues and clients are online and open to chat. Users also determine whether or not they want to be available to incoming IM transmissions. A user can reflect availability through IM settings that include ‘‘away’’ and ‘‘do not disturb.’’

    Thanks to IM presence detection, managers can quickly check to see who is online at the office at any given time. The need to wander the halls checking on employee productivity is eliminated.

  4. Multitasking Made Easy. IM is less intrusive than dropping everything to make a phone call. With it, an employee can chat on the phone, hold an in-person conversation, e-mail, and engage in multiple IM conversations simultaneously.

    Lotus research reveals that IM reduces phone use by 72 percent; voice mail by 69 percent; e-mail by 85 percent; pagers by 45 percent; and face-to-face meetings by 50 percent. [3]

  5. Greater Accountability for Off-Site Employees. With IM, managers can quickly check to see if off-site employees are online (and available for a conversation) at any given time.

  6. Comprehensive Features. IM can do anything e-mail can do, including transmitting text, images, and files. Current capabilities include IM chat rooms, conferencing, screen sharing, whiteboards, video, and broadcasts.

    Sun One’s IM software has a polling feature that allows sales reps to receive quick feedback from a team of managers. The rep learns instantly, for example, whether or not to offer a discount to a client. [4]

    As IM technology evolves, expect its capabilities and features to grow, too.

  7. Cost Savings on Long Distance and Travel. With IM, multiple people can join in on a real-time conversation minus the expense of air travel and group conference calls—both of which can cost hundreds of dollars or more.

    Instant messaging saves Big Blue big dollars: IM enterprise vendor IBM reports that the Web-conferencing component of its Sametime IM product has saved the company $4 million a month on airfare since the company began using it internally. The company says phone costs have decreased 4 percent since Sametime IM was introduced internally to IBM’s own employees. [5]

  8. Elimination of Phone Tag. With IM, you know when your contacts are available. As long as an IM buddy is online and receptive to chat, you can communicate instantly. Time spent retrieving and responding to voice mail messages is saved as well.

  9. Works with Wireless Handhelds and Other Portable Devices. Road warriors can indicate their presence and engage in IM chat with clients and coworkers from rental cars, hotels, airplanes, airports, conferences, or wherever.

  10. More Responsive Conversations. Because of the effort involved in typing questions and answers, IM conversations tend to be on target (depending on the user, of course). Because typing takes more effort than talking, IM may be more productive than a phone call, where it’s easy to get caught up in a long-winded conversation.

[1]Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, ‘‘A Swarm of Little Notes,’’ (September 9, 2002), .


[3]Paul Brislen, ‘‘InstantMessage to Corporates—Coming Ready or Not,’’ IDG Data (July 7, 2003).

[4]Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, ‘‘A Swarm of Little Notes,’’ (September 9, 2002), .

[5]Christine Y. Chen, ‘‘The IM Invasion; Instant-Messaging Providers Are Targeting Corporations in a Big Way. Does Using IM Make Sense?’’ Fortune (May 26, 2003), 135.