Startup To Help Companies Tap The 'Instant' In Instant Messaging - InformationWeek

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Startup To Help Companies Tap The 'Instant' In Instant Messaging

Instant messaging continues to spread its tentacles into the business world in a meaningful way. With the launch this week of PresenceWorks Inc., companies communicating with large networks of suppliers and customers can keep current on so-called presence, or who among that network is online and prepared to conduct business at a moment's notice via an instant-messaging application.

PresenceWorks' software lets companies create a database of users who have made it clear they want to be alerted to immediate opportunities to make sales or purchases. The company then can push one-way messages directly to the desktop of someone using any of the four major instant-messaging services--America Online, Yahoo, ICQ, or Microsoft. Matt Smith, PresenceWorks founder and CEO, expects to encounter demand in a variety of vertical industries. "There are certain industries for whom E-mail is plenty fast, but there are more industries for whom you can never communicate fast enough," Smith says.

The software is purchased via a licensing agreement, and pricing varies greatly depending on factors such as anticipated traffic and depth of integration into a company's IT environment.

Ken Neusaenger, CEO of IT consulting firm ZettaWorks LP, already has seen the value of PresenceWorks and has persuaded one of his largest clients, a major semiconductor distributor, to deploy it. Neusaenger says the software adds meat to the growing corporate practice of setting up Web-based chat rooms for sales meetings. "Chat is great," he says. "But the minute you add presence, I can say, 'Hey, Mr. Customer, I've got something for you. Come here.'"

Analysts are enthusiastic about PresenceWorks' technology. David Ferris, principal of Ferris Research, which tracks messaging technologies, predicts that within four years, most corporate users of E-mail also will be using instant messaging. Gartner Group analyst Donna Fluss says the ability of users to determine whether they're online presence is detected makes PresenceWorks a potentially effective sales tool that stops short of being disruptive. Says Fluss, "Opt-in is the difference between success and failure."

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