In recent weeks, technology companies have been in a heated
battle over a phenomenon called instant messaging. More than 11
million people around the world have a form of instant messaging,
which enables their PCs to detect when their friends or colleagues
are online and available for a quick message or text chat.
Instant messaging will grow dramatically in the coming months,
as people and organizations realize the limitations of e-mail. For
all its wonders, e-mail has its disadvantages. We get way too much
of it. We have little control over who gets to our inbox. (Take it
from an avid e-mail user; I get as many as 900 to 1,500 messages a
What teenagers, friends and now businesses have discovered is we
can develop intentional communities of collaboration. Using America
Online's, Yahoo's or Microsoft's messenger software, we can build a
unique set of real-time gossamer threads between ourselves and
those whom we select. For example, my online "buddy list" includes
my meeting planner, my business partner, a couple of my colleagues,
several peers and a business coach.
All participants have to agree to be in this private
collaborative, and it really works. I quietly see when they are
online. They check to see if it is a good time to call, or just
send a one-sentence request or message of support. It works because
it is instant, and it is consensual.
GOOD FOR BUSINESSWe will have less phone tag and voice mail. When it is critical
to talk to him, I can wait until he is at his desk, send him a
quick instant message to see if it is the right time to talk and
make the connection.I, as the client, will have much greater confidence in my
access to the hotel's organization. In reality, the hotel is now an
icon on my desktop, ready to be accessed at any time.It will change the demand-and-supply side of the relationship
between suppliers and customers. We both will need to work to
calibrate expectations accordingly.
In another month, the convention services manager at a property
where we are conducting a 2,500-person conference will join my
buddy list. How might instant messaging change our dynamics?
REALITY AND BEYOND
To use instant messaging, you need only have an Internet connection
and software from AOL, Microsoft or Yahoo. Currently, these
companies are debating the issue of compatibility among their
systems, but this fight will only last a few more months. You can
get information about instant messaging at www.messenger.msn.com, www.aol.com or
Within a year or two, instant messaging could spread to wider
use, as a contact- and community-building tool for attendees of
conferences and meetings.
It is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to new forms of
digital collaboration. People want the ability to work together
even though they are in different locations. As instant messaging
evolves, expect capabilities like these.You and three or four other people in different locations will
be able to review a room layout simultaneously. As you talk over a
conference call, each person will be able to move a shared cursor
on the screen.You will be able to detect when a customer or meeting attendee
is looking at your Web page and send a personal message asking if
he or she needs help.
These functionalities are now in use and will become widely
available in the coming months. Instant messaging is not about
driving us crazy with more demand; it is really about the ability
to work and communicate with a select group of people in real time,
ELLIOTT MASIE is president of the Saratoga Springs, N.Y.-based
Masie Center (www.masie.com), an international think
tank focused on learning and technology.
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