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Know thy user, IM management expert says

Author and tech exec Sanjiv Gossain talks about on how companies are dealing with issues such as IM archiving and building "presence" into enterprise applications.

Instant messaging management is still new to most enterprise customers. But as more laws call for companies to keep a tight grip on information flowing in and out of a corporation, the ability to manage these messages is pushing to the fore of IT management agendas. Sanjiv Gossain, noted author and technology expert, recently joined IMLogic Inc., Cambridge, Mass., as its chief technology officer. Gossain, who has held positions in management consulting at NerveWire Inc. and Cambridge Technology Partners Inc., weighed in on the future of IM.

What is your vision for how IM should evolve within the enterprise?

Sanjiv Gossain: Today, organizations are just trying to get it under control and understand and manage it. People are trying to conduct business over IM. In some cases, people don't understand how it's being used.

As it evolves, and people start realizing that [IM], once you understand and manage it, can be an effective part of how you do business.

The notion of IM or presence can be inserted [into applications] at some point as part of a broader business process.

What do IT administrators need to care about at this point?

Gossain: They need to understand the extent of what people are doing with IM. We are finding a lot of clients looking at logging and archiving [messages]. It's a complex situation. There are multiple networks -- AOL, Yahoo, etc. -- and there are enterprise solutions. End users are exchanging text messages and they are doing file transfers. As information goes in and out of a company, you want to make sure you're not opening up security risks. If you don't want people sending files out, you can block it.

Who is buying most of the IM management software today? Is it the service providers or enterprises?

Gossain: We've got a blue-chip client base. People who are in the financial world need archiving and logging. [Expenditures] are on the upswing.

Do you think any flavor of IM has an advantage over another?

Gossain: From where I'm sitting, I don't know if there is an advantage. But there is a lot of use of public IM right now that has rich client functionality. From an IT perspective, you already have a lot of users with AOL, MSN and Yahoo. From an IT management perspective, you might want to use the same one internally as well as externally, but that's not realistic. The real challenge will be to support a heterogeneous world.

How will IM change applications?

Gossain: That's the real opportunity for businesses, as they look beyond using it as an individual desktop tool. In some ways, IM is a perfect way to complement the way business is done today. Today, the opportunities are in customer service, in supply chain management and in collaboration. Businesses should look at the way they can speed things up -- get access to a supplier or customer.

Do you think IM is affecting relationships in the same way that e-mail did when it first became popular?

Gossain: Superficially, it is connecting people quickly. But I think it will change the way people have dialogs. Time and distance go away. You can have a quick question. But if 'Bob' is busy, he can make himself unavailable. There is an opportunity to change the way people think about interacting across distance.


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