We use instant messaging quite a bit at work, and it really does save a lot of time. You can get questions answered quickly when you're on the phone, and it is really handy for those important 'back channel' conversations while stuck in long conference calls. Here's an example. A year or so ago, a friend of mine and I were in the same meeting. The Project Manager was an idiot. We were expounding on that fact. It went something like this:
My Friend: "If this dickhead says 'synergy' or 'drill down' one more time, I'm going to break my pencil off in his neck."
Me: "Yeah, I hear ya. What makes it worse is that he doesn't know what 'synergy' means. He keeps talking about it like it's a bad thing."
My Friend: "I dare you to talk like Smoove B."
Me: "Don't dare me. I'll do it."
My Friend: "I dare you."
Me, talking out loud like Smoove B: "We will have 2 servers -- one at each location. There will also be redundancy."
[Then we both hit our mute buttons instantly, so we could laugh silently until tears ran down our faces. Yeah. We're professionals.]
My point here is that due to this multitasking, you may have several windows up on the screen at any given time. You could be IM-ing three different people, while simultaneously writing an e-mail and participating in a conference call. Additionally, you're usually having vastly different conversations in each. You are multi-tasking your ass off, and one slip can cause you to type something into the wrong window. Let me give you another example.
Please note that under no circumstances did this happen to me yesterday.
In one window you could be, say, talking to an upper-management type about encrypted SMTP routing, and whether the ASP you are outsourcing to expects a secure connection for X12 application messages.
In another window you can be talking to a coworker about his new 55” HDTV.
The conversation could possibly unfold thusly:
Upper-Management Type to Not Me: “So what you’re saying is the application is currently generating mail messages that are sent via SMTP, but they’re not encrypted because they never leave the network.”
Not Me to Upper-Management Type: “Yes, exactly. We have a forced route from the gateway that will conditionally deliver the message directly to their Exchange server when it sees something come in from that domain.”
Upper-Management Type to Not Me: "So did Tony's network diagram look accurate to you?"
Not Me, replying to Co-worker, but inadvertently typing in window belonging to Upper-Management Type: "DUDE! That thing is fucking AWESOME!"
Upper-Management Type to Not Me: Um, OK.
So you can see where things can get confusing. If you're a moron.