In truth, I need another instant messaging program like I need a hole in the head, but at work we just adopted Microsoft Office’s Live Communications Server, and I have to say it’s pretty impressive.
Well, let me qualify that statement: I haven’t actually had any conversations with it, since we just got the download link yesterday and not many people have it installed yet, but so far it seems like the perfect way to introduce instant messaging to a work environment.
Because it integrates so tightly with Outlook, it’s incredibly simple to use. There are no screennames to remember; just type someone’s name to add them as a contact. The best part? It coordinates your present/away state with what’s on your calendar. This is killer.
I never remember to set myself “away” when I leave the room. At home I use Salling Clicker, which changes my status to “away” if my phone goes out of range, but at work I have no such mechanism. Now I don’t need one. And now I can see the status of everyone on my list at a glance, without having to search for their shared calendars in Outlook.
Since I’m on a usability team, I support a lot of different software teams, so every day I get a lot of short “why doesn’t this work?” emails, along with the occasional phone call. I think IM is the perfect balance between e‐mail and phone: it’s asynchronous, so I can talk to several people at once or talk to a single person without halting the work I’m doing. I think I’ll end up telling people that my preferred method of contact is over IM, because it’s the quickest way to see if I’m available for support, and it allows me to field requests asynchronously (like e‐mail) but with immediacy and accountability (like a phone call).