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Sidebar: Presence Awareness: IM's Killer App

By Kym Gilhooly
April 12, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The ability to communicate instantaneously through IM is a boon to some businesses, but experts contend that the technology's "killer app" lies in its integration with enterprise applications and business processes. By extending the presence-awareness feature found in IM client buddy lists to portals and corporate directories, companies can realize true business-context communications.
"In IM communications, presence [in business applications] is where it's at, without a doubt," says Robert Mahowald, an analyst at market research firm IDC. He points to Microsoft's Live Communication Server and Office 2003. Applications in the company's suite are presence-aware, so users can initiate conferencing sessions to collaborate on documents. Enterprise IM vendors and others have released tools to let developers IM-enable applications.
"With its presence capabilities, [IM] has the potential to humanize electronic transactions by bringing immediacy and intimacy to the process," says Wilson D'Souza, a vice president at Merrill Lynch. Not only can businesses leverage IM indicators within applications, processes and workflows; they can also tie them into corporate directory profiles to see, for example, if it's better to contact someone's mobile device on a given day, he says.
According to Matt Bushman, an IT analyst at RPU, the utility expects to see significant productivity and collaboration benefits from the presence awareness enabled within its Office 2003 and SharePoint portal. "There's awareness in meeting and document workspaces, so people can meet in a workspace and work collaboratively, rather than just throw a document with read-only status onto the network," he says.
As companies increasingly look to leverage presence within business applications, the call for true interoperability among IM clients will get more deafening, says Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research Inc. in Black Diamond, Wash.
"It all goes back to interoperability, particularly for businesses extending IM to customers," he says. "They don't want to have to support four different systems just to communicate with clients."

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