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istorically, man has used audio and, later, text and video media for communication. These interpersonal modes of communication were mainly synchronous or asynchronous.

Synchronous interpersonal communication is one in which two or more individuals exchange information in one or more data formats. In this communication mode, all participants must be present at the same time. This mode was used for one-to-one (conversation), one-to-many (presentation), and many-to-many (meeting) purposes.

Asynchronous interpersonal communication is one in which two or more individuals exchange information in a fixed quantity, as and when they choose. In this mode, there is no need for participants to be present at the same time.

Instant Messaging is a text-based synchronous communication service that enables users to create private chat rooms with other users and exchange text-based communication.

Typically, the Instant Messaging (IM) system alerts the user whenever somebody is online — a capability known as "presence". They can then initiate a chat session with that particular team member. Presence management, utilised by Instant Messaging technology to detect the current connectivity of a "buddy" in order to initiate a message exchange with him or her, is effective when a contact initiator overtly wants to make an immediate contact.

Apart from merely conducting chat sessions, IM has also brought business benefits to enterprises. IM has been successfully deployed for technical helpdesk and support. Coordinating and processing requests for technical service can be a challenge to the support staff. Many day-to-day technical issues are easily fixed with the quick resolution of high priority issues. A fast way to resolve these problems is through the use of a real-time communications system to interact with the customer. Sometimes a problem can be solved merely by sending a few text messages back and forth to achieve resolution and customer satisfaction.

Online customer support in webstores is another area where IM is applied. It gives the ability to service and support customers online, and is known to increase customer satisfaction and sales. Customers receive real-time online assistance in making purchase decisions.

 

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Instant Messaging applications are also tightly integrated with Enterprise applications such as Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems, wherein the hierarchy of team members is automatically uploaded to the IM presence management system and the user can locate team members relevant to particular projects for communication. The application enables synchronous, text-based, interpersonal communication between team members in an enterprise. Decisions are reached within a short span of time, enabling quick and efficient delivery and savings in cost. The application can also be integrated with other software applications such as WebEX®, which allow teams to share desktops and enable better collaboration.

When IM is integrated into Enterprise systems such as PLM, the first thing that comes to mind is security. How can one discuss or exchange confidential data in this system in a secure manner? The simple answer to that is that in an Enterprise system, the user roles are defined and their access to information moderated and controlled. The IM application, when integrated with the Enterprise system, authenticates the user and provides access to information only if they are authorised. There is no dependency on a third-party service provider to carry the IM application as it resides with the PLM system.

The IM tool can send mobile alerts to those users who are not online, but are working onsite for projects. The users can join in the IM session and contribute in effective decision-making. This is particularly useful in the case of companies involved in executing projects such as construction, heavy engineering, etc., wherein some people work on the site and need to keep in touch with their offices.

Thus, IM has evolved into being more than just a chat tool, and is rapidly becoming a necessity for organisations to enable better and faster service to their customers, both internal (employees) and external. There is a growing need to provide wireless access to IM services integrated with Enterprise systems such as PLM for helping project teams, maintenance personnel, service engineers, etc., to access information and communicate to deliver business value for organisations.

Aravinda Billavara
Product Marketing Department