In the past year or so my office installed and rolled out an internal messaging system called Office Communicator (yes, by Microsoft). There are a total of… three of our 45 or so employees who use it. I’m not sure why! I think it can be quite convenient, much more than email for some types of communications.
The perfect usage for instant messaging in a work environment? Well, for me it’s usually in place of a phone call when I have something else going on. The advantage to using IM instead of telephone is that you don’t have to worry whether or not the recipient is actively waiting for your message/phone call/email. Just like email the recipient gets to respond when it’s convenient or whenever they have an appropriate response.
When won’t I use IM? Well, for one, whenever I need to keep a response. Sometimes you just know that the response you’ll get from your recipient you should actually be saving because you’ll need to refer to it in the future. Sort of like making a phone call, sometimes it’s not as practical as sending an email.
A point of particular interest to me with Office Communicator is that it coordinates your availability status with your Outlook calendar. So, if I’m in an appointment (that shows on my calendar) then my OC shows “In a meeting available at….”. I find this particular feature quite useful when I’m trying to track down people inside my firm.
So, bottom line, IM is a great means for communication when you would normally just make a phone call for a quick yes/no answer. If you are sharing a lot of details or are expecting details which you’ll want to refer to in the future, turn to email instead.
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