The most high profile case in recent months was a worm that was directed at unsuspecting fans of AOL and Yahoo´s instant messaging services. In both cases, victims reported an instant message with an apparent reference to the newly released Star Wars film.
Admittedly, such hijacking of popular themes or current affairs means that IM users can no longer afford to be complacent, even when communicating with individuals they already know and trust.
The naysayers are right to alert us to the impressive skillset of today´s phishers, but the enterprise can balance a negotiable security threat with the significant business benefits that IM brings. The potential for virus tranmission remains, but control over policy is the key, and the necessary steps in formulating policy can be taken decisively and without fear. IM is the perfect example of a useful technology where the doom-mongers should not be allowed to have the final word.
The bottom line
To quantify the bottom-line benefits of employees having immediate answers to questions and a closer, more collaborative relationship with colleagues and senior managers, is a challenge. By some analyst estimates, the transformation in workflow brought about by enterprise IM systems is equal to or more important than the superficial figures involved, because new workflows can reduce the need for administrative personnel, boost morale among employees who feel more in touch with remote teams, and accelerate response times when an emergency arises.
As with other technologies, it might be difficult to substantiate rigorous return on investment calculations for IM investments, largely because the communications needs of employees can vary so drastically.
Staff with external communications responsibilities may desire closer support in using public IM services, while employees who communicate primarily with other employees might stand to benefit more from an internally deployed and managed enterprise IM platform.
IM is like the unruly and uninvited guest at a party. It is a serious threat to the status quo on the enterprise network. However, this party crasher is getting stronger and more manageable with time. The initial disruption it can cause is well worth it – when it becomes clear how much of a good companion IM can be for your business in the long-term.