Common sense the key to managing IM

IT managers need to think about policies and standards, not about keeping IM out of their networks

There is no need for companies to fear the use of instant messaging by their employees, the head developer of the Trillian IM client said Thursday.

"IM is a good thing, but you need to get it under control," said Scott Werndorfer, cofounder and head developer at Cerulean Studios, in an interview in Singapore. "You need policies and standards," he said.

Many IT managers want to keep IM out of their networks. "They think it's a distractive tool for chatting. While it can be that, so too can the phone and so too can e-mail," Werndorfer said.

Like these other tools, IM offers productivity benefits, such as the ability to quickly check whether colleagues are online and available for a brief conversation. And developers are adding features that cater to corporate users. For example, the ability to encrypt IM conversations as well as log and archive records of each conversation makes IM tools better suited for use in the corporate environment, Werndorfer said.

However, companies must set limits on how IM gets used by employees. "It's more about employee integrity, saying 'Look, don't screw around on our time," Werndorfer said. "People just need to understand that when you're at work and you're IM'ing that it's for work only."

Users also need to take responsibility and recognize that misusing IM at work can jeopardize their careers. "It's just common sense," Werndorfer said. "When you go to your job you don't call your girlfriend all day because you'll get fired."