Presence awareness will eventually be helpful in locating expertise.

Despite the difficulty in identifying quantifiable value, no one expects presence awareness to disappear. In fact, "it's quickly becoming part of the software infrastructure," says Forrester's Rugullies. She envisions a companywide presence engine that runs through all applications.

And presence tools won't be limited to internal applications—provided that vendors settle on a standard that will let presence systems interoperate. That will help companies such as Intellicare offer more services by linking other companies into the system, Forbes says.

Already, Intellicare is considering partnering with a medication-therapy management company to add pharmacists and therapists to its presence network. "That way you can leverage that expertise and get much more out of the system," he says.

It's that ability to find experts that will make presence awareness truly valuable, says Gartner's Smith. For example, a presence system could be linked to a searchable employee database that details each worker's areas of expertise. Even Rubinow of NYSE Group concedes that would be helpful. "With our newly merged company, there is a huge number of trading experts, and I don't even know who they are. So there may be an opportunity for us there."

In fact, it won't be long before coworkers can tell not only what you're doing, but where you're doing it, using GPS and sensors embedded into mobile devices that are then connected to presence systems.

At IBM, for example, location awareness not only can tell employees where their coworkers are—it also can inform them, among other things, where the nearest printer is at any given time, in any office worldwide.

But don't be too concerned about having

your whereabouts monitored just yet: According to a study cosponsored by the American Management Association and the ePolicy Institute, only 5 percent of U.S.-based companies currently use GPS to track mobile phones.

As companies deploy more and more technologies that can monitor worker activities every moment of every day, CIOs need to develop sound strategies that protect sensitive data—and employee privacy.

"The line between work and home has evaporated," says Jeremy Gruber, legal director of the National Workrights Institute, in Princeton, N.J. "People are doing more and more work on their own time. Meanwhile, we're seeing a rapid increase in employee monitoring and surveillance. It's a 20th-cen tury mentality for a 21st-century workplace."

At some point, he says, these issues will need to be resolved through legislation.

But until that day arrives, screen your calls on weekends.

This article was originally published on 04-06-2006
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