IT departments must have an IM strategy

IT departments must begin planning a strategy for how, not whether, instant messaging (IM) will be used within their...

IT departments must begin planning a strategy for how, not whether, instant messaging (IM) will be used within their organisation, AMR Research has warned.

The analyst firm said IM, like handheld PCs in the late 1990s, is a viral technology. It provides immediate benefits to users but can spread out of control if the IT department does not regulate its use.

The main problem with existing use of IM is the lack of security, said Dennis Gaughan, analyst at AMR.

"Most users are using a free IM service, like those from Yahoo, AOL or MSN, which are not secure and are completely unregulated," he said. "Additionally, most IM deployments are departmental and there is no clear sense of how to scale it, as there is little or no integration with existing applications."

While security remains the first hurdle to clear, it is important that IT departments do not lock down the use of the technology so much that IM loses its appeal, Gaughan warned.

"For many, IM's unregulated, ad hoc nature is its biggest selling point," he said. "If IT control makes it too difficult to use, then it will not be long before someone will develop the next ad hoc collaboration technology delivered free on the Net."

Earlier this month, information services group Reuters attempted to address some of these issues with the launch of its own corporate IM service for the financial services industry.

"The reality is that IM is being used a lot within financial services but the consumer version has a lot of limitations," said Mike Sayers, chief technology officer at Reuters. "The corporate version is free and has all the facets necessary for financial services such as encryption and SEC compliance [regulatory requirements to store and audit messages]."

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