Gartner backs IM for business use

IT managers should start to provide instant messaging before their employees beat them to the punch, according to the analyst firm

Instant messaging is ready for businesses to use -- and if IT directors don't pick it up quickly, end users will adopt it in spite of them. This is one of the ten resolutions chief information officers (CIOs) should set themselves for 2003, according to analyst firm the Gartner Group. "IM is a technique that clearly allows people to collaborate more quickly," said Gartner vice president and research director John Mahoney. "There is a set of vendors that is ready to offer safe IM for corporates." The technology is going in through the back door, he pointed out: "In some call centres, intelligent staff install IM themselves -- if their PCs aren't locked down -- in order to do their job better, sharing information while on a call." Although Gartner believes the current IT recession will last into 2004, IT directors or CIOs should treat it as an opportunity to make their companies more efficient and raise their profile in the company, said Mahoney. IT should help management make decisions more quickly, moving towards what Gartner is currently calling the "real time enterprise", he said. The suggestion to adopt IM was one of ten recommended "new year's resolutions" which Gartner will be issuing in January. Others include switching off ten percent of legacy systems, launching pilots of Web services, and marketing the IT department within the organisation -- presumably raising the CIO's profile to keep his job. "Management has 'e-'d procurement, it has 'e-'d the sales force," said Mark Raskino, Gartner research director. "The one thing it didn't do is 'e-' itself. Management is still a messy email 'adhocracy'. A fat wasteful layer of people doing mundane work unsuited to their calibre and pay." Collaboration tools like IM could be used to cut the waste here, and reduce cycle times in management decisions, he said. "This is not a recommendation to replace email with IM," said Mahoney, "but IM traffic will exceed email within the next few years." IM is a viral technology he said, coming in via home users. For CIOs to dismiss it and try and stamp it out would merely encourage users to find ways to get round any ban.

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