IM is part of our life, part of our business.
Like any other technology, it can make us more efficient or less productive. It’s all up to how we use it and what we’re using it for.
My company has branches around the globe. For us IM is a money saver and a bridge over time zones and languages. Many people find it easier to communicate via IM where your accent is not an obstacle and so is your co-worked whose accent you can’t understand. And who’s the native English speaker is not the issue here.
The other side of the same story is all the friends and relatives that contact you once you’re logged in. yes, it is nice to chat with mom while working and your wife just want to ask something but not only you spend the time, it is taking your focus off real work. There is one more aspect, even worse: co-workers using IM to chat so their cube neighbors won’t hear them on the phone all day. This way 2 employees are not working…
While those issues are important, they are not for us to worry about. These are management policies and the way of life is that most organizations, specially the small to medium where we, OneManITShop guys work, will keep IM open for all users.
So what is our take on this?
We control the installation which let us have a say about the type of programs we allow.
One example would be AIM users. There are few versions for AOL. AIM stream ads and has the potential to cause problems. AIMPro is much better and it’s more stable. http://www.trillian-messenger.net/gives some extra features. And there are more options.
Microsoft’s MSN messenger has the same issues where old versions do not stream ads but also block many features.
Another aspect is regulation. Many companies must monitor and archive all chats and that requires a 3rd party program that support the IM clients we use. One more headache… more on this aspect, make sure you block web access to IM clients if your 3rd party tool doesn’t capture it.
So what should we use?
My policy is, especially when users run more then one IM account is to use multi-vendor clients. Personally I use Pidgin and it’s awesome. we also use POD - a MessageLabs tool that also capture and archive (for some $$$)
You get all major IM accounts in one place, one window with tabs and most important – no ads. Surprisingly is has a smaller footprint on the desktop which add to it’s clear advantage.
I always keep the latest updates on my file server but make sure my firewall block those updates that each client initiate – it consume bandwidth and make users update on their own, which usually make me work harder.
One more advantage is achieved when the compliance officer check his monitoring systems - he can see one program per user, not 2 or 3 which make it easier and faster and when his work is more efficient it’s an extra benefit for the company.