From fax machines to pagers to email, business communications have constantly evolved over the years as we seek increasingly convenient and speedy ways to get in touch with coworkers. A growing tool in the modern world of internal business communications is Instant Message & Presence (IM&P), which provides live chat messaging capability as well as availability status indicators.
IM&P provides an option for real time communication that strikes an efficient balance between the back and forth waiting game of email chains and the live urgency of a phone call. And IM&P is on the rise, with a 2015 report indicating that the business use of Instant Message is growing at a much faster pace than consumer use and that global IM usage is expected to grow at an annual average rate of 4% in the next 4 years.
Can IM&P help your organization? Below are 6 benefits of IM&P for internal business communications:
1. Supportive of Remote Work
According to a recent survey, 40% of Americans worked remotely at least some of the time in 2015. Remote work lets companies expand their talent pool beyond geographical limitations and provides increased flexibility for employees to accomplish work no matter the location, whether at home during a snow storm or at a hotel on a business trip. If your company has a distributed workforce, IM&P can be a very valuable productivity tool, as it allows co-workers to interact in real time from afar. And even if you’re located in the East Coast office and Jane from Accounting works from home in California, you can know whether she’s available to talk based on her presence status.
2. Speedier Than Email
One of the prime benefits of Instant Message is the speed at which you can have a written conversation. Chat can help reduce communication delays by providing instant responses because unlike email chains, which require waiting intervals and cumbersome reiterations of old text, chat is quick and simple – you can ask a question and can get an answer instantly in a directly-logged real-time conversation.
Instant message is also less formal; whereas email requires a certain level of etiquette and expected grammar and formatting standards, instant messaging allows for writing shortcuts in an convenience-based environment where it is more acceptable to use abbreviations and play a little freer with capitalization and grammar rules. You can even throw an emoji into your message to convey a sense of tone.
3. Less Intrusive & Better Documented Than Phone Calls
If the benefit of online chat is the instantaneous nature of the conversation, you may ask: why not just pick up the phone? Chat is somewhat less presumptuous than a phone call. When your phone rings, it requires your immediate attention – it’s demanding and interfering. If you’re in the middle of a workflow, you have to interrupt what you’re doing to answer right away, or else you ignore it and then later deal with either logging into your voicemail to retrieve the message or calling the other person back while hoping they’re still available. Whereas, with chat, your notification will reside in their sidebar ready to be answered quickly at their convenience (or even while multi-tasking).
The other benefit of IM&P over phone calls? History logs of your conversation for future reference and accountability. (One cautionary note: this can be a source of potential legal consequence; for example, there is some debate right now whether government agency messages sent over the popular group instant-messaging platform Slack are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests in the same way that emails are considered federal records).
4. Targeted Conversations
Another great feature of IM&P is the ability to create channels. You can differentiate between larger group discussions and private one-on-one chats. This is a great feature for internal communications, because your company can have a channel set up that includes every employee for announcements related to the whole company, as well as smaller department-related channels, and individual messaging.
5. Availability Awareness
The Presence component of IM&P can be valuable if used correctly. Being able to know if coworkers are available to accept messages or are away from their desk can provide enhanced productivity, since you know the best time to reach out to them to get an immediate answer. This feature, however, can require some organizational habit training, because it only works if everyone uses it consistently (i.e. it’s not very useful if Bob from Sales always leaves his status as “away from my desk”, even when you can clearly see that he’s in his cubicle eating a bagel).
6. Accommodating of Millennial Culture
This might seem like a minor benefit, but with the Millennial percentage of the workforce growing year by year, its important to modernize your business communications to adapt to the native technology habits of younger employees. According to this article, people older than 35 prefer e-mail, while people younger than 35 prefer chat applications for communications and it’s well-documented how much Millennials hate listening to voicemails. A good reason to keep your business communications current!
IM&P is a common feature in Unified Communications platforms, as part of which it is often integrated with Voice over IP, mobility features, desktop sharing, and web conferencing. If you’re looking to implement IM&P or other UC features into your business communications, Allied can help you find the right solutions!