A new research report from INT Media Research says that the growth of enterprise IM is just now gaining traction, and sales of the business-oriented services are about to enter a steep sales cycle.
"In the next year you're going to see more implementations and you're going to see more and more innovative uses of IM in the enterprise," said Bob Woods, the INT Media Research analyst who authored the new report, "Enterprise Instant Messaging: A Baseline Study of Business Trends." Woods is also managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.com.
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"Many companies are just starting to wake up to IM in terms of enterprise use. They're seeing family members or kids using services like AOL's Instant Messenger and texting on cell phones," Woods said. "The business world is waking up not only to the fact there are enterprise-strength applications out there for internal communications, but for external communications, too, for customers, suppliers and outside consultants...You're going to see more and more companies coming out with different uses for IM that haven't been thought of yet."
According to the report, there is a large and growing interest in deploying some form of IM for corporate use. Among the report's findings:
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Woods said in many instances today, enterprise IM use is spurred by workers who download IM services from AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo! While free and easy to download, security risks associated with these IM programs leaves companies vulnerable to breaches. "A lot of these companies don't even know their employees are using this type of technology," he noted.
As a result, IT executives who recognize the benefit of IM increasingly are looking to take control by deploying commercial-grade services offering robust security and encryption, as well as other added features.
With commercial systems, IT leaders can control IM use on their own terms and monitor its use. They can also audit and archive communications, giving companies an important paper trail that could come into play for a variety of business and legal reasons, Woods said.
Keeping records of IM "conversations" -made possible with commercial-grade IM systems- will be important to businesses in the future. For instance, Woods said financial services firms already are required by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Association of Securities Dealers to maintain records of IM conversations for auditing purposes. "In the next year you're going to see more implementations and also see more and more innovative uses of IM in the enterprise," said Woods.
As evidence of new and better uses of enterprise IM, he cited the recent implementation by Communicator Inc., White Plains, N.Y., of a multi-enterprise IM service, Communicator Hub IM, linking 30,000 workers at eight of the world's largest financial institutions, as well as more than 2,000 money-management firms. The new system lets businesses build large, secure "gated" multi-company communities of IM users - unlike the less secure "public" networks used by many individuals in companies.
Among other enterprise IM findings, the report outlines IM interest and current use, industry by industry. Twenty-five percent of users are in the computer hardware or software industry, followed by 13 percent who are in media, marketing, advertising or public relations, and 13 percent in education. At the low end, IM usage appears low in real estate, engineering/architecture, wholesale and retail trade, and transportation and utilities.
The report also focuses on IM decision makers at the enterprise level. According to the report, 44 percent of those who lead IM projects in companies are C-level executives (CEO, CIO, CTO) or MIS/network officials.
The report says Microsoft currently has 33 percent of market share for commercial systems and is ready to capture a bigger share of the market. One advantage: Microsoft can work to shift users of its free MSN Messenger service to commercial-grade services that are included in its XP and .Net platforms.
Editor's note: INT Media Research and InstantMessagingPlanet are part of INT Media Group Inc., which also owns CIN.Earthweb.com.