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Insurance Industry News from ProgramBusiness.comThe Power of Instant Messaging
Recently, I walked into my daughter's room to checkhow she was doing with her algebra homework. To my surprise, she was sitting ather desk with four AOL Instant Messaging windows open on her computer. I wasannoyed and said, "Stephanie, you are supposed to be working on yourhomework." She replied, "But Dad, I am!" She was talking (in realtime) with a friend from Houston, a friend from Dallas, and a friend from herclass at school, who were all helping her with a problem. Since then, I havebeen watching the development of Instant Messaging (IM) and believe the time hascome to begin experimenting with this tool in our offices. Instant Messaging is exactly what the namesuggests: e-mail without the wait. It allows two or more users logged onto anin-office network or the Internet to have conversations or swap documents inreal time. With IM, a list appears right on your desktop as soon as you'reonline, notifying you which of your friends or colleagues are also online. Then,you simply click on the person's name, type a message, and voilý! — instantcommunication that makes e-mail look like the Pony Express.
IM systems have existed for years onclosed networks and company-wide intranets, but Internet-wide IM has been inbroad circulation only for a short time, but its use is expanding rapidly.America Online has its own IM system, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), that isoffered free of charge and available for downloading to AOL subscribers andnon-subscribers alike. Recently the Yahoo! Directory released its own pager thatcombines IM chat with a few additional features, including e-mail andstock-price notification.
AIM and Yahoo! Pager are only two of themany IM systems available. From MSN to NetLert to PowWow, nearly a dozen IMservices have sprung up in the past year, some virtually overnight — and allare vying for dominance in the Net's latest boom market.
Of particular importance for agency users,however, are the collaboration capabilities such as co-browsing andwhiteboarding that are being added as additional features to IM services'software. Co-browsing allows you to remotely control the Web browsers of otherIM users, to lead Web tours, and conduct Web-based presentations. Whiteboardingalso facilitates online meetings by giving users a central place to presentideas and build on them — just like a whiteboard in your conference room.Another useful feature is the file transfer capability that allows forpeer-to-peer file transfers that are completed in real time, bypassing e-mail.With IM, you know immediately if an important file has been delivered or not.
In general, getting started with IMrequires little more than downloading one of the IM "clients"and registering. Registration typically requires your name and e-mail address,as well as the selection of a screen name and password. Are there any otherproblems with this technology? Well, yes. Right now, the biggest hurdle is thatthe various competing services can't interface with one another. What, then, isthe future of IM? If the Yahoo! Pager is any indication, IM systems will likelybe used not only for chat, but also to disseminate customized information.
Give IM a try. You might be surprised howthis simple tool can improve communication within your office, with insurancecompany personnel, andwith your clients.
Steve Anderson is an active producer and consultant.Steve can be reached at mailto:email@example.com,or visit his web site at Click for the whole story...