IM TCO


Jeremy reacted to my post on the enterprise wide IM:

I'm wondering what the costs really are. Given that the software (Jabber) is free on both the client and server, what's left? Deployment? That's a one-time cost that's no higher than deploying any other software. Training? IM software isn't terribly complex (compared to Word or Excel). Many already use IM at home thanks to AOL, Microsoft, or Yahoo. The less technically inclined can always ask their kids for help. :-)

What Jeremy says is mostly true.  This really comes down to total cost of ownership.  The one gotcha is that software cost is almost always a small part of the overall cost of doing anything across an organization with 22,000 employees.  its also usually the easiest part to figure out.  Jeremy's statement presupposes a few things:

  • Sufficient priority to get the engineering time necessary to create a solution.  Jabber is a great tool.  I've played with it some and got some people using it to see what it could do.  Still, rolling it out in a reliable way for 22,000 people involves some planning, capital expenditure, etc.  There are lots of fires being fought and that keeps us from working on new, interesting things.   One of the things that people frequently don't factor in when they look at organizational dysfunction is the opportunity cost.  Its huge. 
  • A desktop support structure that isn't extremely fragmented.  A fragmented organization makes rolling something like this out difficult because you've got to convince 30 separate kingdoms to do it and then you've got to make sure it happens right, that the training is occurring, etc.  Utah just isn't organized in a way that makes something like this a simple task.

The fact that it will be integrated into an existing product means that it will just happen and be prioritized along with email upgrades.  Sometimes, this kind of upgrade is the only hope for moving in a new and interesting direction.

As an aside, I noticed on some of the comments on Jeremy's site that people were asking why not just use AIM?  A number of us do use AIM everyday to get work done, but the consumer version has a few holes that need to be filled in an enterprise IM solution:

  • An enterprise IM solution should tie into the corporate directory so that its easy to find people and create workgroups automatically (for presence, if nothing else).
  • An enterprise IM solution should be secure.  I want encryption from me to the recipient (not just the server) and I want positive feedback that its there. 
  • An enterprise IM solution should be as ubiquitous as you can make it across the enterprise so that its a tool people can count on for collaboration.