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While Instant Messaging may be slow to gain official acceptance in the business world, it's popping up in federal agencies.
The Bureau of Land Management, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have recently adopted IM. Each has implemented WiredRed Software Corp.'s e/pop, an archiveable IM software suite. They join the Labor Department and several military groups and federal courts that have implemented e/pop in recent months.
The Bureau of Land Management has two offices in the Washington area about half a mile apart. The e/pop software lets the bureau notify its 450 district-area employees of emergencies. The only nonemergency use will be to notify employees for "orderly dismissal because of inclement weather," says Matthew Stewart, manager of IT services at the Bureau of Land Management. If the pilot is successful, the agency might roll out the software to the rest of its 10,000-plus employees nationwide. The bureau chose the software because it provides audible alerts and control over font size, Stewart says. "We want people to hear the alerts. ... They need to catch people's attention," he says.
"There's been rapid growth in IM in general," says Michael Osterman, founder of Osterman Research. "About 85% of all enterprises have some level of IM." But in businesses, IM has mainly been adopted unofficially, through employees' use of America Online and other consumer-oriented messaging, he says. Standard platforms can provide more centralized control and auditing capabilities.
WiredRed is negotiating other government contracts, CEO Allen Drennan says. The vendor's federal deals give IM access to all employees within the purchasing agencies, most of which use the software internally. It also can be set up for interagency messaging. E/pop software is priced from $15 to $40 per user.