Matthew Hunt, CTO of Omnipod, a maker of a communications platform that combines IM and file sharing technology, said the technical due dilligence should be similar to that of other IT initiatives.
"(Buyers) should look at competitive landscape, run a pilot program and phase-in the technology," Hunt said during a panel discussion at Instant Messaging Planet Conference and Expo, which took place in Boston this week.
Other panelists concured with Hunt's recommendations and added to them. Lewis Knopf, managing Director, collaborative services for Reuters, said to be sure your system can adapt to your industry's requirements. For example, financial services companies must keep logs of internal communications under Securities and Exchange Commission rules.
Jeff Pedigo, director of technical sales for Yahoo! Enterprise Solutions, said a company's IT infrastructure must also be reviewed before a platform is selected.
IM is still in the early stages of its development, Pedigo said. For example, future collaboration features will likely include videoconferencing which could strain low-bandwidth systems.
Any IM offering should also be extensible to other mobile phones and PDAs in order to gain the maximum benefit from the "presence" functionality -- the ability to see whether a user is online or available and what device they are using.
Finally, IT managers must determine their return-on-investment for IM, something that can be difficult to calculate since it is such a new field. The exercise is important, however, said Val Babajov, president CEO & Founder, Webmessenger, both in justifing the purchase to CEOs and CFOs, but also to use as a benchmark against actual results.