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Question time

Anybody out there using IM at work? What do you use it for? Is it "sanctioned" by the powers that be in your organization? If yes, are your IMs archived for FOI/DOJ/SEC type purposes? And, generally, what are your thoughts on IM in the workplace?

...The topic came up today in a planning session, and I would love to hear what the rest of the world is doing.



( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 6th, 2006 01:43 am (UTC)
We use Sametime. I like it. It's quick and easy to add contacts (it hooks up to our Outlook system). Instant meetings are easy (click on the people you want to add and poof a virtual meeting window opens).

I find it absolutely invaluable. Sometimes I just need a BRIEF answer from a client about a training program and it's easy to shoot a message to them and multitask on other things (or if they're in another phone meeting but can spare the brain cells/attention for the IM).

Before we had Sametime I used (and still do) NetMeeting to share documents with my clients to review materials we were creating. Sametime has the same "meeting" functionality too.

It is sanctioned because it's an official company product. Rollout has been sporadic - they tried to roll it out dept. by dept. but now everyone in the CT office has it.

It CAN be intrusive (say, when I'm facilitating a session on the phone and my boss decides now is the time to start spamming me with PMs), but that can be managed by remembering to put it in "don't bother me status". I'd say that the trick is to train people how to use it to its best efficacy and implement policies that anticipate misuse.
Dec. 6th, 2006 02:03 am (UTC)
The public IM services that my team had come to depend on for communication were turned off (without warning, by overzealous security goons) inside our office firewall. That day, I built an IRC server as a short-term solution. We also have access to a client-hosted Bantu Messenger solution, and my IRC server never really took off as we pretty much migrated to that instead, but the client was very buggy Java and rather a pain to deal with. More recently, they've put up a Microsoft Office Communicator server that only works inside the firewall, and it's much nicer than yelling down the hall.

Generally, my thoughts on IM in the workplace are this: if'n we got this zillion-dollar computer network, it seems stupid that I have to walk down to somebody else's office and interrupt whatever they're doing to tell them something. Ever since Windows Messaging and Novell 'NET SEND', there's been an easy way to throw up a short text message on somebody else's screen, and that's just so much more elegant than having to stop what I'm doing, get up, physically go somewhere, stop what THEY'RE doing, and relay it to them. Much nicer to just go tappity-tappity-POIT-> message on their screen.
Dec. 6th, 2006 03:28 am (UTC)
We use a local Jabber server, mostly for the IT folks but open to the rest of our site's users. We don't have any archiving requirements, so we don't.

It works nicely, especially since we're spread between multiple buildings about 10 minutes apart by foot, and Boston weather is getting more annoying, and phone calls are much more intrusive while email isn't quick enough turnaround for a fast question/answer.

PS: your userpic appears to have a typo in it. Either that, or a thoousand is a new number that I was previously unaware of.
Dec. 6th, 2006 04:34 am (UTC)
We pretty much all use IM. . .
It's so we can avoid operating in 'interrupt mode' where you have to stop because someone's over your shoulder or on your phone, the non-real time aspect of it makes information transmission much easier to gate. Everyone in the office uses either AIM or MSN (some of us also use Yahoo) and many people use GAIM and are connected to both (or more) at once.

We don't have any archiving requirements, it's strictly a convenience.
Dec. 6th, 2006 01:55 pm (UTC)
Here via matociquala.

At the Comma Mines, a small, open-concept editorial services company, we used IM both within the office to communicate with each other (it kept the noise levels down, and it was really handy to be able to IM someone a convoluted passage for help) and to communicate with clients. Microsoft was a client, and they did all their 'net meeting using MSN.

Nothing was archived at our end, unless the individual users wanted it to be.

Here, I use IM within the office, because once again, we're open concept, and it keeps the chatter down. We use Bonjour, and I have no problem with my editors having other iChat clients and chatting with friends: we don't have quite enough outgoing phone lines, so if people can IM their sweeties about whatever homestuff they'd be using the phone for, that keeps the phone lines open for work stuff. As long as the work gets done, I don't care if they're also chatting off and on.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 6th, 2006 02:17 pm (UTC)
Another university employee, and also here via matociquala.

Our department uses AIM extensively. As far as I know there's no official university policy on this, though. We are scattered throughout several buildings so it's come to be pretty essential for us as a way to communicate. There would be some very loud screaming if they ever tried to take it away from us.
Dec. 6th, 2006 02:09 pm (UTC)
Here via matociquala (but I also know you, so *waves* hi!).

We've been using AIM for years. We standardized on AIM and only AIM several years back, and we use Facetime as our archival method. Each user must be authorized by Compliance to use AIM, must use a specific ID, and can only connect through our Facetime server. This is a regulatory compliance due to our industry. Thus all conversations are recorded for posterity, and I believe there is an interface supplied to review conversations and search for certain keywords.

We use AIM within the company regularly, although I know mostly about the use within IT. I do know other business units use it as well (but they've got other methods for communication they use more).

If you've got any other questions about it, feel free to drop me an email (this id at gmail).
Dec. 6th, 2006 02:14 pm (UTC)
Referred here from matociquala's lj.

We have an official internal IM solution. It's meant for internal communication, and it has some advantages in a company that's spread out geopgraphically like mine is. Many conversations are either not immediate enough to require a phone call (which in theory could cost more if you aren't all in the same location) or are simple enough that it helps. I work in IT as second tier support for many products, and our first tier support often are on the phone, and are able to ask me questions without having to place the customer on hold.

Officially, I believe we do not allow IM connectivity to the outside world. There are concerns of security, transmission of viruses, knowledge, not to mention questions on productivity. There are some measures in place to hinder its use.

With our current version, I'm not sure it supports archiving. When we upgrade, that might be an option.

I think it's yet another means of communication. There is a learning curve involved, not in the sense of how to IM, but when it's appropriate, and when it's just plain easier to put in an email or phone call. IM can be somewhat frustrating. Waitng for someone to reply, especially if they are a slow typist, can add to frustration. But as the form of talk becomes more ubiquitous, I see it as inevitable to pervade corporation world wide.
Dec. 6th, 2006 02:20 pm (UTC)
Poking over here due to a post from matociquala.

Yes, my company makes extensive use of IM internally. Having departments and cross-departmental teams spread across multiple offices, it makes for an easy and informal way to collaborate.

While the corporate standard is MSN, this is not enforced and almost everyone runs multiple system software as many people are on AIM or YIM instead of MSN.

And, so far as I know, the IMs are not archived except for what the local software does.

Also, non-work IMing is encouraged, as an alternative to phone calls.
Dec. 6th, 2006 02:28 pm (UTC)
Another here via matociquala.

My boss requires her direct reports to use AIM, and to be logged on when we're in. One development group I work with uses Skype, while the other uses Microsoft's IM. Both of them have people working remotely, and they swear by IM -- and won't use AIM because the IT people occasionally cut off AIM to fix a security hole or block viruses. Within my own group, we use it occasionally amongst ourselves -- I think I've gotten three IMs total from my boss (that weren't sent by viruses).

Result: I mostly use AIM to chat with my wife through the day. :-P

As far as anyone knows, there's no IM archiving.

Dec. 6th, 2006 02:40 pm (UTC)
Use of IM at the Corporate Behemoth I work at is sporadic. I started using it while I was on our SAP implementation team and that's the main work reason I use it--much easier to shoot a quick question to someone via IM than to call them (a lot of times, people aren't by their phones).

Other people, however, don't use IM and I have to use other methods to communicate with them.

We have a dedicated IM proxy server, and I expect that what is said over IM is monitored just like other internet use, but there's no official policy about the use of IM services. The IM capability in our LotusNotes client is turned off, which seems silly--and I expect at some point they'll turn it on and require that everyone use it instead of AIM which does allow communication outside the Behemoth.
Dec. 6th, 2006 02:54 pm (UTC)
Here via matociquala.

There is an internal IM program (with its own servers) that we use. As most of the people in my department are remote (only one works at the office with my boss) we're all required to login to the IM service when we start work for the day. This IM program also provides desktop sharing capabilities, phone capabilities (VoIP), instant conferencing and file sharing. I've used all of these.

However, most days I connect to our internal IM servers using GAIM. This way I can access my other IM programs, and as a result, spend most of the day chatting with friends.

I assume that it's all monitored, and that someday they might come and slap my hands, but for now, this is how it is.
Dec. 6th, 2006 02:58 pm (UTC)
By way of the bear
We actually have our own version of windows messenger at work, that only allows employees to IM each other. And boy do we IM each other. I would say on average I receive and send over a hundred IMs a day, and of those about 80% are directly related to work, either a project I am on, or a project I have worked on, or an expertise that I am seeking or that I have. It is just an easy way to bounce ideas.

Due to the nature of the business I am involved in (SEC engagement types)retention can be key. We do archive our IMs if they include a conclusion or significant documentation matters but those are included in a whole policy that covers everything from post-it notes to email memos.

Honestly, I feel that IM works well for this type of job. I have to communicate with a great many people everyday, sometimes across the country, and a few times the world, and IM makes this a lot faster and enables a sort of proxy phone conversation when calling is not feasible.

Hope this helped!
Dec. 6th, 2006 02:59 pm (UTC)
Here via eBear.

I use IM at work quite a bit -- it's a handy way for my manager and I to keep in touch about things going on in the shop. No, it's not sanctioned -- in fact, it's verboten by corporate. No, we don't officially log, though I do log all conversations on IM as a rule. But it is the most convenient and least impactful way for either of us to be asked questions about work when we're not actually working.
Dec. 6th, 2006 03:15 pm (UTC)
here via matociquala.
I work at a privately owned company with 4 offices 3 in the US, one in Canada. We are call centers doing emergency roadside service. We use just about all forms of IM with no form of logging. It is invaluable for communication, all of the remote offices have only one person who handles telecom and network, knowing if the person is at their desk and being able to say "hey, have you got a minute?" leads to far better workflow than phone calls. The ability to cut and paste bits of PBX code to have the other person check it before its live in the system means fewer calls stuck in a broken hold loop. We do lock call center agent systems down so that they are not able to IM or access much of the net.
Dec. 6th, 2006 03:19 pm (UTC)
Here via matociquala
I use Trillian and Google Talk at work, to chat with friends and family. So far as I know, the practice is not officially sanctioned, but nobody talks about it. I archive my own IMs, but my job has nothing to do with Freedom Of Information, Department Of Justice, or Securities and Trade Commission, and the IMs aren't about work anyway.
Dec. 6th, 2006 03:19 pm (UTC)
At my old job - I worked as a background checker - almost all of the conversation was carried through the email and IM.

In my experience, IM is not the best method of communication for anything but the simpliest of issues. Generally, the more complicated the question, the more personal connection needs to be. If I had to put it in order, it would go: phone -> email -> IM. The more complicated, the higher up the chain one should start.

The problem with IM is that 1) It leads to misunderstanding, 2) It sometimes leads to break down of the professional setting relationships. It's fine between peers or people who are on good terms. I have gotten IM's that started with, "Give me a new listing!"

What the trainee meant to say is, "Hey, my name is so-so, and I really would like some help with this file." And of course, they meant to include the file head so I will know what file and they meant to specify the problem. And they meant to treat me as a mentor. If I called them on the phone 9 out of 10 times they would be respectful and tell me what the problem was without me having to type 200 words into IM window.

But for short issues, IM is invaluable.
Dec. 6th, 2006 03:24 pm (UTC)
We use a customized, encrypted version of Jabber, with corporate-provided gateways to a couple of the free public services.

The IM stuff is wonderful and I think it helps productivity within the company. It defaults to logging everything LOCALLY (not sure about on the server) but the logs are encrypted (not sure how well).

The gateways are a bit scary, because I'm figuring they're logging everything that goes through.
Dec. 6th, 2006 03:38 pm (UTC)
Referred here from matociquala's lj.

We use Sametime and everybody loves it. It's great for productivity: you never waste time making phone calls for quick questions or to confirm meetings, etc. We use it company wide, across the globe. I love it. I don't know how I managed without it.

I'm pretty sure that our IMs are archived. They'd have to be: we're a bank and all our communications are tracked and archived.
Dec. 6th, 2006 05:19 pm (UTC)
Via Bear...
We use an internal Jabber server, which can also interface with and relay IMs from some of the external providers (AIM, Yahoo, MSN). Direct access to any of the external providers is locked out by network security.

I work for a giant, global IT services company. I am the only member of my team in the United States; everyone else is in the UK, Belgium, Germany, and Hungary. We use Jabber a LOT. It's wonderful in emergency situations, or when you just need a quick answer, and I can only imagine how much it's cut down on phone bills!

I am not sure if the IMs are archived on the server. I assume there is. I know that message histories can be saved on your hard drive (handy feature, that!), but if the allocated space fills up, no history is saved.

Our whole company has access to Jabber. Depending on what their job is, it is more or less mission-critical. For my team, we have come to rely on it very heavily (you can usually hear a collective global groan when the Jabber servers goes down!). For others who work on other teams, they use it only to chat with friends and keep in touch.

I will say I am glad that Jabber has a "Do Not Disturb" function. There are times when the ability for someone to just pop you a question is extremely distracting. IMs have a sort of "well, this is quick, let me just answer this question and I'll get back to what I was doing" quality, and then before you know it, you've been sucked into a two hour project and you're hopelessly behind on what you were originally doing!

IM definitely has a place in the workplace, but I think it depends on the type of work the company does as to whether or not it is very helpful or just mildly convenient.
Dec. 6th, 2006 06:47 pm (UTC)
Also here via matociquala.

The library I work at uses a (slightly clunky; we're working on it) IM system to provide a virtual reference service. It's not officially used for other purposes though some people might use (another system) unofficially. There has been sporadic resistance on the part of some staff who think IM is unsuitable for a proper reference interview, but we continue to use it on the theory that different people are more comfortable with different methods of communication. The transcripts are kept for statistical and training purposes, but as far as I'm aware my country still retains some basic civil liberties and the government doesn't get a look in.
Dec. 6th, 2006 07:58 pm (UTC)
I'm in a large federal agency (ON MY LUNCH! TAKING A QUICK PEAK!) We use Sametime, within the Lotus Notes environment.

Some general info on IM & records records management (archived is not really the complete necessary concept they are a subset of electronic records issues) can be found here:

and here on electronic records for federal agencies generally

Here is a good beginning article

Google on "records management" and "instant messaging" to get an overview on what I think the underlying issue is likely to be for you.

Short bottom line -- have policy, communicate the policy, document that you communicated it, enforce it.
A general intro by a serious RM

Dec. 6th, 2006 09:05 pm (UTC)
I don't at my current job, but at my last one--a defense contractor outside of D.C.--we used Yahoo! Messenger to conduct meetings with folks across several buildings. My boss believed it was more secure than the others that were available at the time, and we put it to use at least a couple of times every week.
Dec. 6th, 2006 09:22 pm (UTC)
Company type - small private software developer
Client/Service - Windows Live Messenger
Principal uses - communication with offshore developers
Secondary uses - communication with coworkers especially when one or both parties are not in the office.
Archived? - Ask M$ :/ I personally have logging turned on locally.

General thoughts. Someone else said the spectrum was Phone - Email - IM, for me, it's Phone - IM - Email, depending on whether I need to refer back to what was said. I like being able to see if someone is likely to receive my message without having to interrupt them by calling them.
Dec. 6th, 2006 10:03 pm (UTC)
We use Sametime. And since we're a sister department to the part of the organization that documents it, its use is not only sanctioned, but mandated. :-)

We rely on it heavily. It's the best way to ask a quick question of someone, and lets you send them a snippet of your screen to *show* them what you're talking about, which you just can't do over the phone. (It's also faster and easier to send them a link to a web site than to try and read the website over the phone.)

With the new Sametime 7.5, all the IM's are archived on your pc, so you can go back and find notes about what people said. But they're not archived anywhere centrally, for a document trail as you seem to be indicating.

I know in previous versions, you could include AIM and other external IM systems. At the moment, we only have access to internal contacts, but I'm not sure if that's because we're on a different version or what.

As far as my thoughts on IM's... if people understand how to use them, they're useful. If people are idiots, then they're less than useless. (One of my coworkers has a teammember who frequently IM's her to say that she's calling her...as the phone is ringing. Other people seem to feel that if they IM you with their question, you'll answer it faster than if they email it to you, even if it's something that could and should be handled by email, because it's part of a process.)
Dec. 8th, 2006 10:53 pm (UTC)
My company uses Lotus Sametime (in fact, I think the previous commenter works for the same company -- Hi Jennifer, I'm in SWG).

There are times when I think Sametime is very useful -- it's a handy way of asking someone a quick question -- or of being available to answer a question they may have. For more complex questions, Sametime provides an easy way to ask "Is this a good time to call you? Are you working from home or are you in the office?"

Having provided a bit of praise for it, I have to add that I really hate having it. This is probably because I used to have a manager who announced to everyone in his department that his assumption was that anyone he didn't see logged into Sametime he would consider as taking an unannounced vacation day (and almost all of us actually worked in offices then). This made most of us look at Sametime with distaste.

The company -- for some reason that I cannot fathom -- also seems to believe that Second Life can be useful for meetings or some such nonsense. Let's see -- we have telephone conference calls where we can actually talk with each other. (Want people to see graphics? E-mail them a PowerPoint file.) And if we would rather type, we could use the group meeting option in Sametime. So what do we gain in Second Life? It's like a 1994 AOL chat room except with avatars. Whoopee.
Dec. 11th, 2006 05:59 pm (UTC)
I work for a Very Large Financial Company (I'm in Scotland, the company is based in the US, but has offices worldwide). We use Sametime with Notes - as far as I know, conversations are not centrally archived - so if I want some sort of "paper trail" I ask people to e-mail me with details (usually when they're requesting work). Of course, people also use it for random chatting, sending images (most of us use the "Notes Buddy" client, which allows images and a wide variety of smilies), keeping chat logs, etc.
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