IM Challenges Corp Productivity

Employees are often using their instant messaging (IM) powers for evil, instead of good, according to research from Blue Coat Systems. Among the nearly 400 firms that were surveyed in the U.S. and Britain, a majority of users were found IMing [define] about topics that didn’t include work issues.

The August 2003 survey revealed that just 27 percent of U.S. workers and 11 percent of UK workers used instant messaging for legitimate business purposes, while more than 65 percent of those in the UK and 39 percent of U.S. participants used IM for personal conversations during working hours.

Does your company allow the use of IM?
Yes, for business and personal use 65.5% 39%
Yes, for business purposes 11% 27%
Yes, only at lunchtime/free time 14% 3%
No 9% 31%
Source: Blue Coat Systems

An overwhelming 78 percent of UK respondents admitted to gossiping via IM, while nearly 30 percent used the app to make sexual advances. The real-time nature of the application often acts as a “virtual water-cooler,” and Nigel Hawthorn, European marketing director for Blue Coat Systems, thought that UK users may liken IM to SMS [ define], which is most often used for personal communication.

Have you ever done any of the following
in an IM conversation?
Gossiped about a colleague 77.8%
Commented on senior management 63.9%
Made a negative comment about a customer 51.7%
Shared work files 51.7%
Spoken about wanting to leave your job 48.9%
Discussed your pay 48.3%
Used abusive language 42.8%
Used IM to conspire with a colleague whilst on a conference call 37.8%
Shared music or video files 35.6%
Made sexual advances 29.4%
Invited the wrong person to a conversation by mistake 27.2%
Masqueraded as someone else 21.7%
Shared pornographic materials or Web links to them 13.3%
Base: 180 UK respondents
Source: Blue Coat

How much time do you spend IMing per day?
Less than 5 minutes 15% 41.5%
5-15 minutes 16% 24%
15-30 minutes 37% 18%
30 minutes to 1 hour 22% 7%
More than 1 hour 10% 8%
Source: Blue Coat Systems

The report advises companies to be concerned about compliance issues that arise in unmonitored workplace conversations, as confidential company documents could be shared discreetly. Blue Coat found that nearly 40 percent of U.S. survey participants claimed that their employers did not allow unsupervised downloads, and 12 percent UK and 9 percent U.S. workers said that their employers only allowed them to download certain types of IM applications.

Hawthorn said that since IM is a relatively new phenomenon in the UK, organizations might not be aware of messaging applications on the network, and therefore corporate policies may not be set yet. Enterprises are advised to establish IM policies sooner, rather than later, as The Radicati Group, Inc. estimates that by 2007 there will be a total of 1,439 million IM accounts worldwide, with 349 million attributed to corporations.

Number of Instant Messages Sent Worldwide per Day (in billions)
Consumer IMs Corporate IMs Total IMs
2003 530 52 582
2004 642 63 705
2005 770 131 901
2006 916 204 1,120
2007 1,090 290 1,380
Source: The Radicati Group, Inc.

The Radicati Group found that security was the chief concern to companies regarding instant messaging (31 percent); followed by some skepticism of added value (27 percent); lack of productivity due to personal usage (21 percent); cost (12 percent); lack of interoperability (12 percent); and complicated administration (10 percent). The firm also found that only 26 percent of the global companies that were surveyed had standardized an IM solution, while 44 percent did not.

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