Microsoft outlines some best practices for using instant messaging in the enterprise

Despite Outlook’s embedded ubiquitous position in business communication, Microsoft seems to understand that enterprise related messaging and conversations are and should be evolving.

In light of a growing interest in varied instant-messaging-like services such as Slack, HipChat or Skype for Business, Microsoft has put together what it considers to be staples of IM management. The ideas are simple, to increase productivity and employee response times, the implementation of an instant messaging platform needs to foster quick, informal and easy to reference workflow.

The following five best practices help ensure successful adoption and usage of IM in your organization:

  1. Provide a company-wide solution—Don’t require employees to use personal accounts; implement a company-provided instant messaging offering. This will streamline features and allow all your employees to find each other to chat.
  2. Choose a secure solution with robust features—Compliance standards (like HIPPA, DPAS and FISMA, FERPA and banking) apply to more than just email and other secure information sources. Ensure that all your business communication tools align with common compliance standards.
  3. Integrate with other collaboration tools—Standalone instant messengers can leave employees with cumbersome roadblocks. Ensure your solution integrates seamlessly with other tools like business email, phone and video conferencing. Encourage employees to start conversations within project-specific documentation, so that the goal of the conversation remains clear and important information can be easily referenced.
  4. Empower employees to set and respect boundaries—Being reachable 24/7 is unrealistic and sets up your employees for burnout. Encourage colleagues to mute their instant messaging tool for periods of private productivity and focus, then remind co-workers to respect that virtual space.
  5. Don’t replace email completely—Instant messaging is a great option to communicate with even the most inbox-overwhelmed colleagues. But, instant messaging should not replace email or other collaboration tools that are core to keeping record of memorialized conversations. Set standards and show examples of the types of content best handled via IM, email or other project management tools. A general rule is length, if the message will contain more than a few words or sentences, email remains the best option.

While not a direct correlation of the steps mentioned above, SoftwareAdvice.com was able to measure the value of properly introducing a reliable instant messaging platform into a work environment. According to an employee survey conducted by SoftwareAdvice.com, “75 percent saw decreased call and email volume, and 66 percent noticed quick resolution for simple questions. When it comes to productivity, 21 percent noted either moderate or significant increase.”

Instant messaging may not trump the use of email entirely, but Microsoft along with a growing wave of businesses are seeing substantive results from combining the utilization of the two communication platforms.

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