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Take time to help employees understand the importance of securing instant messages.
Nobody likes to feel they're being spied on, and analysts agree that getting employees to accept that communications that were once unmanaged are now being monitored may not be an easy task. "How you get people to do this is the $90,000 question," says Forrester's Root. The answer? Give your employees a better tool than the one they're using now.
Bushman of Rochester Public Utilities agrees, but adds that generation gaps also require tact. "The biggest cultural roadblock we faced was diversity," he says. "Our boomers outnumber the Xers, and the younger employees and customers are becoming hooked on collaborative technologies." While RPU's customers became more and more dependent on IM, some employees weren't using it at all. "It really comes down to training," Bushman says. "Our older employees had some difficulty, but we're doing a good job of getting people educated." RPU staffers now have the ability to push screens back and forth between employees through the internal IM program, or take remote control over a coworker's desktop if they need help with, say, an accounting application. And employees increasingly use IM to talk to vendors and key customers.
Allowing employees to continue using the IM of their choice reduces friction. Cannon of Thomas Weisel Partners says that since employees didn't have to switch IM clients there was little backlash. The company now provides employees with individual IM screen names. Trudeau of Amerex adds that employees don't mind that their conversations are logged because "it covers their rear ends a little bit" if customers call back with complaints.
While it may be best to let staff continue to use their IM software (so they can continue to converse easily with their customers), this presents an IT roadblockat least until IM has more universal standards. Analysts generally agree that standards will be in place by 2007, which will allow IMers the ability to chat across various networks (right now, IM clients don't interoperate, so AOL users can only speak to other AOL users). Until then, though, the Tower of Babel problem will continue. Although a gateway vendor will help you archive and manage your instant messages, it still won't allow you to send an IM from a Yahoo! account to someone who uses, say, MSN's messaging client.
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