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STUDY: Gartner predicts Instant Messaging will be de facto tool by End of 2011
Posted by Arne Hess - on Friday, 22.06.07 - 16:58:31 CET under 01 - General News - Viewed 12230x
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Garnter is always good for interesting studies - with some I agree, with others I disagree but the latest one about Instant Messaging in corporate environments is definitely worth to read and think about. For many knowledge workers, instant messaging (IM) is as critical as having access to a telephone or to E-Mail and enterprises that haven't already done so should start incorporating IM into their critical business processes immediately, Gartner said today. Gartner predicts that by the end of 2011, IM will be the de facto tool for voice, video and text chat with 95 percent of workers in leading global organizations using it as their primary interface for real-time communications by 2013. The worldwide market for enterprise IM is forecast to grow from US$ 267 million in 2005 to US$ 688 million in 2010.

Instant messaging systems have moved from the fringe to become a key part of an enterprise's collaboration infrastructure and are increasingly displacing existing forms of communications from ad hoc telephone calls and E-Mails to pre-planned meetings and video conferences. Enterprises are beginning to invest in IM and associated technologies accordingly.

"Although consumer IM use has been predominant in business, we expect penetration levels for enterprise grade IM to rise from around 25 percent currently to nearly 100 percent by the end of the decade," said David Mario Smith, research analyst at Gartner.

Gartner advocates the use of enterprise grade IM from vendors including IBM and Microsoft to ensure that IM traffic is secure behind the firewall. Connections with external partners or customers via federation to public service IM such as AOL/AIM, Yahoo or MSN, should be protected by the use of IM hygiene or security services provided by vendors such as Facetime, Akonix or Symantec/IMLogic.

Just as the deployment of E-Mail in corporations in the early 1990s proved an unparalleled success for businesses, analysts said that a similar phenomenon is occurring with IM.

"The business benefits that IM can bring are considerable," Smith added. "The ability to connect people in disparate locations by text, voice and video in one application is incredibly powerful and is equally well suited to an informal 'water cooler' atmosphere as well as more formal group communications."

Smith also added that IM is increasingly being used as a vehicle for rapidly disseminating critical information to the entire enterprise, groups of users or individuals in cases such as natural catastrophes, health issues, network outages or schedule changes. In some cases, the IM network remains operational when phone or E-Mail systems are down. He highlighted IM's growing importance to customer relations departments and call centers where IM is being used to foster closer relationships by providing faster and easier access to the most relevant part of the organisation.

Although IM is displacing existing communications channels, such as E-Mail, in many instances, Smith is clear that there is no danger of it actually replacing E-Mail in the enterprise outright.

"Rather than replacing E-Mail, IM will augment and complement the use of E-Mail," he said. "E-Mail is an excellent and unique tool that has, in recent years, been misused and above all overused. It was never intended for real-time, snappy communications but for the conveyance of more detailed, less transitory content. IM excels at real-time communication and this why it sits so happily alongside E-Mail at the core of the communications and collaboration architecture of the future."

Where E-Mail still has an advantage over IM is when it comes to archiving. At present vendors such as IBM and Microsoft allow server side archiving of IM records for compliance. However, the issue is that users can save their text chat information at the client side and this could be tampered with. Until this issue is effectively resolved it could lead to huge legal headaches. Crucial to the future success of enterprise IM therefore will be determining how to effectively capture IM records and how to develop a concrete IM policy. Most organizations have developed similar policies for E-Mail on both of these issues in recent years.

E-Mail and IM are so closely allied in the minds of many enterprises that Gartner foresees that the vast majority will chose IM systems that complement their E-Mails systems. According to Smith, this is leading to tremendous consolidation in the marketplace.

"Stand-alone enterprise vendors face increasing pressure from strategic platform vendors like IBM and Microsoft, which are positioned to leverage their E-Mail and collaboration infrastructures to dominate the enterprise IM Market. What we are now seeing from these players is the morphing of the IM system into more than it was originally intended for, that is a fully converged unified communications platform with presence at its centre."

Presence technology allows people to establish the availability of others for real-time communications regardless of their location. It also enables users to cut through desktop clutter, resulting in immediate responses. This has proved invaluable in time-sensitive business processes such as customer service, regulatory issues, crisis management and problem resolution.

"What makes IM work has always been presence technology, and business users are beginning to see the benefit of using presence across multiple applications," said Smith. "To-date, the options for integrating presence with other applications have been limited. What organizations need is a real-time collaboration architecture, which makes presence information available beyond the confines of an IM application."

As a result, Gartner predicts that by 2012, presence technology will be offered independently of IM and E-Mail products. Smith urged vendors and enterprises alike to recognize this and develop a real-time architecture with presence as the key ingredient.

Cheers ~ Arne

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