On Not | Mo Chit

November 12, 2004

Personal IM in the workplace eWeek's "Instant Messaging Get Personal at Work" article is filed under their Messaging & Collaboration category, but I'm gonna have to file it under the So What? category.

According to the META Group survey sited by the article, 57% of respondents use IM for personal reasons. OK, so if you're a bone-headed manager this is alarming, but if you're a reasonable person you realize that this statistic is meaningless. Here are a couple of questions that would help clarify that statistic for us:
  • If you're one of the 57% that use IM for personal reasons, do you also use it for work purposes?
  • If you use it for personal reasons, how much time does it consume? Any more time than phone conversations and email?
  • Are you substituting calling, email, and walking over to a neighboring cubicle for IM?
I think it's hard to prove that a person who uses IM for personal reasons would spend on average more time on IM than they would if they could only call, email, or lounge around the water cooler. If the person has so much time that they can spend dangerous number of hours sending personal IMs, then IM is not the problem, the employee is the problem. The reality is that the problem is probably a time or staff management problem. I'll goes as far to say that aside from controlling IM for viruses and making sure that people aren't sending out confidential material over IM, any other excuse for regulating IM is just a poor substitute for good management.

The fact that people are using IM for either personal or business is a validation of the medium inside companies. And so with some companies getting large benefits for using IM, it implies that if you don't its probably a sign of some other problem in your company aside from a technology issue.

PS. You should read the entire article for other useless statistics.

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