Report: AOL And Yahoo! Missing Boat On B2B Instant Messaging

According to a new report by Forrester Research, Inc., AOL and Yahoo! have been slow to cash in on instant messaging as a corporate collaboration tool.

“As companies adopt IM for business collaboration, AOL and Yahoo! must surmount their consumer-concentric myopia,” the report said.

So far, with the exception of Microsoft and Lotus, instant messaging vendors have focused strictly on enhancing the consumer product by offering a wireless platform and personalized content.

The Next Frontier Of IM

However, Forrester contends that as corporations become increasingly intertwined in e-business networks, instant messaging will become the favored tool to help companies move their B2B services online.

For example, with the right IM tool, a procurement manager could initiate an IM session with a supplier to solve an unexpected issue on a pending order without losing context.

Conversely, a corporation’s customer service representative should be able to use IM to chat with a customer and at the same time be integrated into company’s upsell application in order to move the customer’s order to the next step.

In addition, the report pointed out that information exchanged in employees’ IM sessions is an intellectual asset that should be collected and stored in a searchable database. This process would allow companies to capture these sessions so that they could be assessed and studied at a later time.

What AOL And Yahoo! Must Do

According to Forrester, both Lotus and Microsoft have been quickly integrating their IM solutions into their enterprise offerings — putting them in a position to exploit the growing opportunities in the B2B marketplace.

To compete, the report suggests that AOL and Yahoo! must be willing to upgrade their IM offerings from simple communication services to robust application environments.

“AOL Anywhere must live up to its name,” the report said. “AOL should build on Netscape’s extranet product portfolio. Also, as the IM battle shifts to partnership building, AOL should multiply deals like its licensing agreement with FaceTime.”

Forrester contends that Yahoo! must quickly refocus its IM from consumers to businesses — if it hopes to get its piece of the burgeoning B2B market.

“Having gained a corporate foothold through its recent alliance with HP (Hewlett Packard), Yahoo! must now deliver on the enterprise promise,” report said. “Yahoo! should convince vertical aggregators and exchanges to use its IM to build a loyal audience for their business trade sites. Yahoo! should acquire Net Effect and extend its Live Help technology to provide the much-needed human interaction in B2B transactions.”

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