IM Gaining Popularity in the Enterprise

Instant messaging (IM) — whether it be in the form of enterprise IM (EIM) packages or one of the public IM networks — is definitely making its presence known in corporations and organizations, according to a new study from Osterman Research.

The just-published survey found that 42% of those responding now use some kind of IM software in the enterprise, up from 29% in March 2002.

That figure includes both forms of IM, public and enterprise, said Michael D. Osterman, president and founder of Osterman Research. “It (IM) really does come in the back door in a lot of organizations, where people start using consumer-grade client, and it spreads to a department and a function,” he said.

Twenty-eight percent of companies surveyed don’t currently use IM software, but they may do so in the future, the study also said. That’s down from 31% in March 2002. Eight percent said they’re not using it but will do so in the future (down from 11% in March), and 22% said they have no plans to use any kind of IM (31% in March).

The average IM penetration in small companies that have less than 100 e-mail users is 36%, Osterman said. Those numbers drop, though, as the organization gets bigger — medium-sized companies with 101 to 1000 e-mail users are at 15.1% penetration, while more than 1000 is at 14.8%. This tends to imply that in large organizations IM is not widely deployed, and used in more of a point-to-point scenario, Osterman said — a situation he expects to change over the next few years.

When it comes to companies’ IT organizations’ current attitude towards IM, 34% of those responding said their IT departments’ support it, up from 30% in March. Thirty-four percent are “neutral” towards it (down from 36% in March), while 12% each either opposes it but doesn’t prevent its use (14% in March) or hasn’t really thought about it (unchanged from March). Only 8% of IT departments actively oppose the use of IM in their environments, down from 10% in March.

Osterman Research also found that IM is being used, either officially or unofficially, in 84% of the organizations we surveyed — unchanged from March. This percentage is expected to climb to 93% during the next 12 months, from 89% in March.

As is the case in the consumer side of the IM market, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) is the big dog in enterprise IM, with 59% using it in September — down from 68% in March 2002, according to the survey. Microsoft’s MSN Messenger was second at 49% (50% in March), followed by Yahoo Messenger at 44% (unchanged), Lotus Sametime at 30% (26% in March). ICQ and Microsoft Windows Messenger (23% in March) tied at 21% each, while the “other” category came in at 17%.

“Other” decreased from 27% in March 2002, but that drop-off had a lot to do with the fact that ICQ was spun out of the “other” category after the March study, Osterman said.

While Sametime saw its presence increase a bit in all organizations, it actually dropped among all companies that have adopted a corporate standard to 61% from 64% in March. Among those organizations with more than 1,000 e-mail users, 73% have adopted Lotus Sametime, down from 82% in March.

Osterman attributes the decline in Sametime market share to Microsoft and its stable of IM products. “Microsoft is really addressing IM on a number of fronts,” he said. “They’ve got the Windows Messenger client that ships with Windows XP, they’ve got the consumer-grade MSN Messenger client, they’ve got the Exchange IM client. They’re really attacking it from several fronts. The nice thing is they all have the same basic interface.”

As of now, many of the EIM solutions available, including WiredRed, Jabber and Ikimbo, as well as the popular Trillian cross-network client, are in the “other” category, Osterman said. He expects the share of the EIM clients to go up, although he doesn’t have enough data to attach specific numbers to that prediction. EIM is “still a very fragmented market,” he said. “If you take a look at the solutions offered by WiredRed or Ikimbo or what have you, there’s still lots of room for growth.”

Overall, just 29% of companies have settled on one or more products for an IM standard. While that number seems low, it is actually up from the 24% Osterman Research found last March.

One statistic that hasn’t changed is the number of companies actively blocking IM. The study found that 23% of those responding do prohibit IM access, while 77% do not — those numbers are exactly the same compared to the March 2002 survey.

Of those companies that don’t block IM, many feel that IM has improved communication with remote employees. Others felt IM helped to improve overall communications within the company, while others said IM helped to reduce telephone use and expenses.

The latest survey was conducted between Sept. 10 and 18, with just under 200 responses. Osterman said the majority of people in the survey are IT professionals below the CIO level, because “IT managers and people like that tend to have a better feel for what’s going on in their organization than people in senior management,” Osterman said. These surveys are done via the Web, which gives the company a better and faster response rate, he added.

Osterman Research tries to get a good cross-section of all organization types, including companies and government agencies. Universities were not included in this study because they’re “a special breed,” Osterman added. Information was gathered from those institutions of higher learning, but it was not included in this survey.

Osterman Research will conduct this survey twice a year to develop trend data. The company is also coming out with a more-detailed report based on data for this survey, as well as an end-user survey of IM in the enterprise.

Bob Woods is the managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.

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