Part One: What Every Employer Needs to Know About Workplace Instant Messaging

Part One: What Every Employer Needs to Know About Workplace Instant Messaging

Chapter List

Introduction: Why Instant Messaging Management?
Chapter 1: Instant Messaging Is Used by Someone in Nearly Every U.S. Company
Chapter 2: Uncovering Unauthorized Instant Messaging Use in Your Office
Chapter 3: What’s the Best Way to Manage Employees’ Instant Messaging Use?
Chapter 4: Establishing an E-Risk Management, Compliance, and Litigation Response Team
Chapter 5: Instant Messaging Pros and Cons

Introduction: Why Instant Messaging Management?


This book addresses the potentially costly business and legal challenges instant messaging (IM) brings to the workplace. Thanks to IM, employers (many of whom remain challenged by e-mail rules and risks) now face even greater electronic communications’ problems, as IM brings to the workplace new legal and regulatory issues, and challenges management to reevaluate security, technology, and employee productivity.

Long popular with Internet-savvy American teenagers, one-fifth of whom use IM as the primary means of communicating with friends, [1] and widely used by businesspeople abroad, instant messaging is now gaining a solid foothold in the U.S. workplace. It is estimated that about 40 percent of organizations now authorize IMuse for business, with another 9 percent planning to begin using IM in the future. [2]

As IM gains popularity as the best way to communicate urgent messages, industry analyst Gartner Group predicts e-mail usage will drop 40 percent by 2006.[3]

[1]Jake Wagman, ‘‘Instant Mess,’’ St. Louis Post-Dispatch (May 25, 2003), B1, citing a 2001 Pew Internet and American Life Project report.

[2]Michael Osterman, ‘‘More IT Departments Turning Against IM,’’ Network World Messaging Newsletter (April 1, 2003),

[3]Brian Deagon, ‘‘Top Brass Slow to Embrace InstantMessaging Technology—Explaining IM Benefits,’’ Investor’s Business Daily (July 2, 2003).

Exactly What Is Instant Messaging? Business Struggles to Define Instant Messaging

As instant messaging sweeps through the American workplace, employers, lawyers, compliance officers, and information technology professionals wrestle to define and manage it in light of myriad business, legal, and regulatory concerns.

Think of instant messaging as a combination of the telephone, which facilitates conversations with multiple people in real time, and of e-mail, which combines the speed of online communication with a written record of your conversation.

The hybrid nature of IM has created confusion among organizations that can’t decide whether to interpret IM traffic as e-mail or phone chat. Some organizations and industries prefer to think of IM chat as an extension of a casual telephone call—a conversation that ends when all parties hang up. Others define IM more formally as a type of e-mail—an electronic communication that produces a written record that may be discoverable in the course of an audit, an investigation, or a litigation.

When the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) in 2003 joined the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in announcing new IM retention regulations, the definition of instant messaging was clarified for broker-dealers, investment bankers, and those who choose to follow the lead of the financial services industry—arguably the earliest, most enthusiastic adopter of IM technology. Industry and government regulators helped the financial services industry clarify that, from the standpoint of content and retention, IM is a form of written correspondence that creates a written business record, just as e-mail does.

IM Rule # 1: Instant messaging is a form of e-mail—written correspondence that creates a written record.