Savings are largely intangible, even for companies with dispersed workforces.

For some companies, presence awareness can provide obvious value. At Intellicare, a South Portland, Maine-based medical-services outsourcer, presence awareness is key to its operations, says Jeff Forbes, the company's CIO. Intellicare (recently acquired by PolyMedica Corp.) serves more than 250 hospitals, healthcare providers and employers nationwide, providing call-center services such as remote disease-management and telephone triage for chronically ill patients. Nearly all of its 250 nurses work remotely from home offices, monitoring patients and answering urgent customer calls.

Using presence tools from IBM, "a shift leader can see who is online without having to call anyone or send e-mails," says Forbes, "and we can see who's logged in throughout the shift."

Presence also helps nurses answer patient questions more quickly and accurately. "Some nurses have strong expertise in cardiology, others in pediatrics," Forbes says. So if a nurse has a suspicion about a symptom, he or she can IM a peer and ask a question. Forbes can't tie any hard metrics to the presence software, though he does say that "the value to [Intellicare] is to provide a higher level of quality to the consumer."

Still, presence awareness isn't suited for every company—at least not yet. "In the trading business, every millisecond counts,"

says Steve Rubinow, CTO of NYSE Group Inc., which operates the New York Stock Exchange and NYSE Arca (formerly the Archipelago Exchange and Pacific Exchange). Even though traders use IM with basic presence capabilities, Rubinow doesn't see the need to expand presence awareness beyond that.

"I haven't heard anyone tell me how presence awareness could provide value for us," he says. "Trading people are always at their desks, and our people know what's expected of them in terms of response times. So it probably wouldn't be much of an enhancement."

This article was originally published on 04-06-2006
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