Getting the Message: Enterprise IM Goes Mainstream

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Instant Compliance
Beyond securing the message, it is crucial for some firms, especially those in financial services, to be able to audit instant messages for compliance purposes. Reuter's Gurle says, "In the financial industry, regulatory issues are very important and we need to keep track of what's going on. I know that raw telephone and email exchanges are recorded. And the financial industry and the SEC want to include IM in that process. You need to able to log or archive information you are exchanging back and forth on your system."

The Yankee Group's Ritter says that because of the regulatory requirements of the financial services industry around tracking electronic communications, they were among the first to request a logging requirement. Ritter says, "It started in the financial services industry because IM was considered a form of electronic communication that needed to be logged and archived. That forced financial services firms to implement systems that enabled them to know what kind of IM traffic was flowing in and out of their companies and to do something about it."

FaceTime client, Pam Housely, compliance officer at San Francisco investment bank Thomas Weisel Partners, says her first reaction upon discovering widespread unauthorized use of IM at her company was to block it. "I blocked IM initially in the summer of 2001 because I didn't have any means to look at and review it, so we totally blocked IM to the entire firm," she says. "Then we started looking into programs that would enable us to use IM and be compliant with the laws. That is when we started looking at FaceTime." She says that people were not happy about her decision to block IM, "but they understood that it was in their best interest because what happens if somebody very innocently said something that wasn't completely appropriate. It could come back to bite them, but I would never have seen it to say, hey that's a problem."

Bruce Stuart, senior vice president for AOL Strategic Business Solutions, who runs the Enterprise AIM Group, says that his company's enterprise product uses technology from FaceTime to help log and archive instant messaging threads. Stuart explains that once the messages have been logged, they are easily integrated into long-term archiving solutions, which may already be in place for email. According to Housely, Thomas Weisel Partners linked FaceTime to their email compliance system so that keywords and phrases are quarantined just as they would be in an email.

Vondrick says that with FaceTime, every message can be logged and stored. "Everything is tracked in real time," he says. "Anything that goes in a session, we track and it is immediately stored in an SQL database so that you have the ability to retrieve any factor. But we also have the ability, which is very important in a compliance-related industry, to have this burned into worm drive storage and archived because what the SEC wants to know is: ‘did you modify the message, or is this really the message?'"

Making Your Presence Known
Beyond communicating in real time, the instant messaging system provides the ability to take advantage of what is called "presence awareness," which is the ability to see that someone is online and accessible. You can extend this concept, so that not only people can see who is online, but applications can do this as well. According to Jeremy Dies, offering manager, Presence and Instant Messaging for IBM Lotus software, IBM is beginning to see a movement away from simple messaging ability to more sophisticated uses that take advantage of presence awareness.

Dies says, "Over the last 12 months we're seeing a shift in where people are looking at [instant messaging] much more strategically and this is good for us, because when we first brought the product to market in 1998, our vision was not about messaging actually, it was about this concept of presence awareness." He continues saying, "We feel that presence awareness is the most important thing. That's really the killer application, not the messaging.

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