But EIM Isn't for Everyone at This Point
Still, 30 percent of companies surveyed by Radicati say they're not using IM at all right now. Another 44 percent are implementing IM, but have not yet standardized on a solution. Only 26 percent have standardized on a particular product.
In terms of concerns, 31 percent of Radicati's respondents listed security. A total of 27 percent said they are "skeptical of added value," while 21 percent fret over "lack of productivity due to personal use." Other worries include lack of interoperability (12 percent), cost (12 percent), and complicated administration (10 percent).
On the other hand, IM advocates cite advantages ranging from speedier service to lower phone bills. "Over the past 12 to 18 months, [the combination of] IM and 'presence' has emerged as a new medium of communications over the Internet," according to Radicati's report. Radicati defines presence as "a means for finding, retrieving, and subscribing to changes in the presence information (e.g. 'online' or 'offline') for other users."
"IM is now slowly making its way into the corporate world. What used to be an effective tool for keeping in touch with 'buddies' on various 'buddy lists' is now finding its way into corporate communications for increased efficiency and aiding time-critical applications," the researchers maintain.
One IBM customer, an international bank, is now using the IM and presence features in Lotus Sametime to reduce international phone calling. Before placing calls to colleagues at overseas branches, the bank's employees are required to use Sametime to make sure the co-workers are onsite and available, said Stephen R. Londergan, a senior marketing manager for IBM, during a recent Webcast. According to Londergan, more than 60 percent of the Fortune 100 are now using Sametime, a product that provides Web conferencing in addition to EIM.
Customer Service and Out-of-Band Communications
Robin Gareiss, an analyst at Nemertes, perceives particular benefits for IM/EIM in customer service, out-of-band communications, and project collaboration. Dell Computer, for instance, has substantially boosted its help desk efficiency by letting service reps conduct IM with technical experts while simultaneously talking on the phone with customers, according to Gareiss.
Along similar lines, software maker Avnet has added Sametime IM to its Web site. This gives tech support users an alternative channel for direct communications with Avnet beyond e-mail and phone calling, says IBM's Londergan.
Preventing Loss of Productivity
"What is the business case for using Enterprise IM? This is what companies have to explore," Ignatius noted during his talk at CeBIT. "[It's] easy to deploy IM in the enterprise environment. [It] could be a powerful and effective real-time tool. Software applications could be layered on top of [the] IM infrastructure, capitalizing on the IM features."
Ignatius, though, also pointed to a possible drop in productivity from EIM, "as employees spend time chatting with family and friends." As a result, workers need to be trained in "how to use enterprise IM effectively," he advised.
"Due diligence should be similar to other IT initiatives. Buyers should look at all competitive vendors. Run a pilot program and phase in the technology," he recommended.
"Make sure your company's IT infrastructure is reviewed before a platform is selected. Choose a vendor that meets your needs and requirements -- a vendor that can support [its] applications on your infrastructure. If you plan to develop software which would use the IM features, make sure your vendor will be able to provide you with an API and support."