A quick word of warning, which will be particularly important for you or people you know who use IM informally in business, especially if working within smaller companies.
I was facilitating a great ‘TeamCommunications’ workshop yesterday. The team is geographically distributed and highly interdependent, running multiple projects with demanding performance criteria and very limited scope for slippage. They are good! Highly skilled and very professional under pressure.
We worked on polishing up their Team approach to email management and other team communication and control issues. Their IM usage was raised in an almost off-hand way and once explored raised a number of very important considerations that I know my client is working on as I write this.
Their approach to IM usage and the management and control of commercial risk connected with IM communications fell below the high standards they are already working to for email management, document control, public folders and all the other infrastructure, protocol and culture elements that they are developing within their growing business.
IM is increasingly being used as a mission critical communication application. It carries legal and commercial risks. IMs are legally admissible commercial documents. In short, if you know anyone using IM in business and you suspect they may not be fully aware of the risks please let them know. There is a useful paper by MessageLabs available on the web at the moment here: http://pdf.computing.co.uk/MESSAGELABS_040809.pdf?id=0