At companies like International Business Machines Corp., which provides instant-messaging software called Lotus Instant Messaging to 11 million business users, the tool has become second nature as a way to communicate among co-workers. The company's 300,000 employees send between three million and five million instant messages a day. "It changes your responsiveness and also your expectations of how quickly the company works," says Ken Bisconti, vice president of collaboration products. He says the technology helps reduce travel and long-distance phone tag.
Instant access to information also can give a company an edge over companies relying on slower means of communicating. At Shaw Pittman, a law firm in Washington, D.C., instant messaging has contributed to the demise of a roomful of fax machines. Instead of relying on constantly churning fax machines, lawyers rely far more on instant messaging. "There are times when you want to get a message to someone that needs to be quicker than e-mail," says Jim Alberg, a partner and chair of the firm's technology practice.
The article goes on to educate on professional IM etiquette.  One of the best tips is the one that reminds you that you never know who is really sitting at the other end of that screen -- so it's best not to start an IM conversatoin with "Didja hear what George did?" -- in case George is watching the other side of the chat (in a meeting/e-meeting, or borrowing a machine, or whatever).
Link: Wall Street Journal: The dangers of using instant messaging at work >

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