Instant messaging, long considered the PC equivalent of cellphone text messaging, is moving into the corporate world and IT managers had better be ready for it, says IBM subsidiary Lotus's vice president for messaging solutions Ken Bisconti.
"A recent Gartner survey says 50 per cent of business applications will ship with some form of instant messaging [IM] component by 2005." Bisconti says many companies are faced with the dilemma of staff using instant messaging without telling IT support staff, leading to security and virus issues.
"Gartner advised businesses to turn off their instant messaging services because they're mostly not suited to a business environment." Bisconti's division has a solution, of course, in the form of Lotus Notes' Sametime IM product family - something he describes as a product for "real time collaboration for the business market".
"We've tuned Sametime for the business market". Sametime includes encrypted messages, better functionality for handling firewalls and corporate structures, like VPNs, for remote workers as well as more business-related capabilities.
"It lets you know when someone else is online, you can engage in electronic meetings and application sharing as well as data sharing." Because Sametime runs on Lotus's Notes platform, it ties in with email received by Notes users.
"If you receive an email from someone you can immediately see if they're online at that time and chose to reply in real time via Sametime."
E-meetings are rather like secure chat rooms - Bisconti says they're web based "team rooms" called Quick Places.
"General Electric in the US is one of Microsoft's biggest Exchange users but they're also an avid user of Sametime with over 200,000 users. They hold 14,000 Quick Place meetings a day."
Sametime also includes a mobile component that allows messages to be sent to SMS capable cellphones and also allows the cellphone user to see which contacts are online.
"We've also got a java applet that can be embedded into a website or an application."
This would create another medium for help desk contacts or perhaps greater communication capability in customer relationship management (CRM) packages.