Indifferent to Instant Messaging

The primary reason companies don’t like IM is because most managers see it as yet another distraction from “real” work. If you think about it, it makes sense. When they come home, what do they see? Their teenage kids yammering away on AIM or ICQ.

Unlike telephones or email, the early adopter of IM (and blogs, wikis and SMS “texting” for that matter) was the Internet-saavy Generation Y. Ergo, for many businesspeople, IM = idle chitchat.

The second reason is a company’s obsession with controlling communication. I remember talking to the president of a small firm a few years ago about upgrading his single 56K Internet connection that was struggling to serve over ten employees. His response? The 56K stays: all the better to keep staff off eBay or career sites. In the same way, managers don’t trust IM.

The third reason is plain computer ineptitude. Most workers can barely use email and Office. It doesn’t help that instant messengers are often have very non-standard GUIs compared to typical Windows apps; it still throws my mom in a loop that she has to double-click the ICQ icon in the system tray to open the contact list, while all other programs are only one click away on the TaskBar.

My company used to employ Lotus Sametime, but that effort faded from lack of use. A new initiative has sprung up, this time using Windows Messenger and MS Live Communication Server. This way, employees can talk to each other within the encrypted internal IM network, and talk to outsiders using the public .Net Messenger Service (although IT will not support it). It is still a small movement, but hopefully it will gain momentum.

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