Thursday, April 18, 2024

Enterprise IM Taking Three Paths

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The enterprise instant messaging (EIM) market is becoming more divided, with three distinct markets emerging, according to a new report from The Yankee Group. One of the three paths a company can take, though, can bring it irreparable harm.

EIM’s three emerging roads are consumer-based public IM like AOL Instant Messaging, AOL-owned ICQ, MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger (the harmful route); closed, proprietary IM solutions from a single provider, like Lotus Sametime or Communicator’s Hub IM; and open solutions like ones from IMlogic, Akonix and IM-Age permit the use of public IM networks with IM desktop software authorized and controlled by the enterprise; the research firm said.

A subset of the closed IM system category could consist of companies that provide internal IM systems that interface with the public IM networks, InstantMessagingPlanet notes. Such systems come from companies like Bantu, Imici and Jabber, among many others.

Public IM usage within the enterprise — sanctioned or not — has not necessarily translated into official adoption of the technology by companies, organizations and governments, the Yankee Group said. Several factors limiting the deployment of corporate IM systems include the incompatibility and lack of security in consumer IM systems, time and resource drains on corporate IT departments, the prohibitive cost of many IM solutions, and the absence of a measurable return-on-investment (ROI) on IM deployments.

With that in mind, the Yankee Group says the EIM marketplace will evolve in two distinct phases. First, enterprises must gain control over the unauthorized use of public IM networks to both minimize the potential for transferring confidential company files and to protect networks from IM-delivered viruses. The second phase is the implementation of a proprietary IM system, such as Lotus Sametime, Jabber, Hub IM, and Microsoft Exchange.

Alternatively, the implementation of an open solution will leverage all of the four primary public network IM systems, while managing its use within the enterprise. Two companies that offer products seamlessly integrated with the four leading networks are IMlogic of Boston and IM-Age of Houston, Tex.

For enterprises looking to implement IM and gain control over unauthorized IM usage, the Yankee Group has several recommendations:

  • Prevent use of free public IM services for corporate business of any kind until the deployment of a secure solution
  • Develop a detailed IM strategy immediately to evaluate needs, select vendors, implement the appropriate solution, and manage its use
  • Select an IM solution that meets the minimal requirements of secure communications, presence sensing, tracking, auditing, reporting, and archiving
  • Encourage IM for ad-hoc meetings instead of Web collaboration solutions for small workgroups. IM yields lower costs than high-end collaboration solutions that have usage fees as well as long-distance telephone charges
  • For highly secure communications and transactions, enforce authentication, data encryption, auditing of communications and transactions, and alert notifications for users’ PDAs and handheld devices.

The EIM market, made up of companies that provide different kinds of EIM solutions, will see consolidation over the next 12 months to 18 months, the research firm said. Vendors seeking a larger critical mass in the market will easily find it via the merger and acquisition route. The Yankee Group suggests that one or more EIM solution providers may be bought out by one or more of the top four leading IM networks, such as Microsoft or Yahoo acquiring IMlogic or IM-Age.

One or two other vendors, meantime, will emerge with solutions that integrate with leading IM offerings, provide a high level of security, comply with regulatory requirements, offer convenience to corporate users, and involve a minimum of additional IT resources or infrastructure. The Yankee Group says enterprises will find that they will be paying 20% to 30% lower costs in 12 months for IM solutions that meet all of its criteria.

Bob Woods is the managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.

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