Back when Instant Messaging was new, it was a viral tool used mostly for personal and social messaging. Now it has become more commonplace, though, and entered even the corporate world without stigma. It now has some people wondering if it will ever replace email as a quick and easy method of communication. Given the increase of mobile apps for instant messaging (IM) communication, many for the enterprise, the answer could be yes.
Some estimates show that by 2016, roughly 4.3 billion people have access to at least one, if not more email accounts. The same number of people should have one or more IM accounts. Even given these statistics, though, it is difficult to say if mobile IM will ever completely overtake mobile email.
But why is the enterprise’s IT department so concerned about the ascent of instant messaging, especially the mobile kind? It’s because any sort of written communication may open the organization to not only the risk of losing data, but to legal risks as well. And simply due to the sheer number of options for IM communications, the vast majority of them free, it’s easy to see why IT is concerned that it can’t exercise any control over company-related conversations that might be happening on mobile devices.
So who are providing the IM programs?
Mobile IM programs fit into four categories: Company infrastructure tools, Enterprise Mobility Management, native messaging, and third-party apps, which are free or mostly free.
Company infrastructure tools often have mobile apps to work alongside of them. Tools such as IBM Sometime, Lync, and Yammer have apps that support their individualized IM infrastructure. Traditionally, these types of apps have offered an experience much less usable than the desktop complement, yet they are getting better all the time.
Enterprise mobility management tools are similar to third party apps, but are more focused on enterprise communications. They keep company chat, or instant messaging sessions distinct from the device’s native IM sessions, and they encrypt their IM streams as well. Examples in this category are Cotap and Tigertext.
Native Messaging apps are those that come with your device, such as Google Talk for Android, Messages for iOS devices, and BBM for BlackBerry.
The raft of free, third-party apps includes the offerings from WhatsApp, Viber, Snapchat, and Facebook, each of which is slightly different than the next. There are also the aforementioned enterprise-oriented offerings – Cotap and Tigertext.
Do Users Need Mobile IM Capability?
There are far too many IM clients to discount users’ desire for mobile IM. That said, they might not need it all the time. Just as we use our tablets in some situations, we use our smartphones and our laptops in other situations. Disparate communication methods have different purposes. For quick communications that need fast and short responses, IM is a good option. If you need a more formal communication that can reach out to more people, can hold attachments and where the recipient can read the message at their leisure, then email is what you want. Given that in a few years, between thirty and fifty percent of your workforce will be born after 2000, mobile IM may well be a standard form of communications in the near future.
But will your employees even use the IM option provided by your enterprise, or will they continue using another?
They’ll use whatever they’re most comfortable with, and what’s most easy to use. If, as an enterprise, you offer one tool that’s easily used, and you make sure people know how to use it, then your employee will be more likely to use those tools.