Viewpoint: Nate Root
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CIO Insight: How many companies are formally using IM?
Root: Less than half of those who use IM at work use a system mandated by their employer's IT department. About 35 percent of all North American companies are considering or piloting an IM management product in 2004. But about half have no plans, which is alarming because unmanaged IM creates vulnerabilities that most big public companies can't afford to ignore.
Why are they ignoring it?
For the most part, the vendors that offer the best featuresthe gateway vendors like IMlogic, Akonix Systems and FaceTime Com-municationsare small companies, so the large buyers are shying away because they've been burned by the tech startups of the dot-com era. On the other side, you have huge vendors like AOL, MSN and Yahoo! that provide a corporate version of their service, but they're still in the technological dark ages because they don't interoperate. The goal is to send messages from one network to another, and not have to build a new buddy list in each service. And interoperability is not a technical problem. That was solved a year ago. It's completely a political problem.
Any idea when all the major IM services will be able to communicate with one another?
It's driving everybody nuts, and at the end of the day, business simply won't tolerate it. There are companies that have tens of thousands of partners communicating with them, such as Procter & Gamble, Wal-Martcompanies that have a history of going to their vendors and saying, 'Look, you can't do this, you need to give us a better solution.' Even-tually, these big networks are going to be forced to cooperate, hopefully by 2007.
Three years is a long time. What are companies supposed to do until then?
Pick the lesser of evils. By and large the companies I talk to that are looking for some kind of IM monitoring software aren't considering the big playersAOL, Yahoo!, MSNbecause you can't force your people or your partners to use only one network. Ditto the in-house package vendors like Microsoft's Live Com-munications Server or IBM's Lotus Workplace IM, because they have the same problem. So the best solution for now is the gateway vendors; they allow you to archive instant messages and mitigate the risk of viruses and possible data loss.