Instant messaging (IM) is set to overtake email as the preferred form of business communication by the second half of 2010, according to research by IDC.

The research, sponsored by Nortel, found that this is because hyper-connected individuals are becoming 'addicted to the instant gratification of IM and text messaging'.

The research white paper The Hyper-connected: Here They Come is based on a global study involved some 2,400 working adults in 17 countries. It focused on quantifying the state of today's "connectedness", tracking its acceptance and use across devices and applications as well as determining the pace of its growth and impact on the enterprise.

The research found that 16 percent of the global information workforce is already "hyper-connected," and another 36 percent will soon be joining them. It said that hyper-connectivity varies by industry, from nine percent of respondents from healthcare, to 25 percent in high-tech industries, and 21 percent in finance industries.

The IDC report said that "the migration to hyper-connectivity will create a profusion of devices, applications, and new business processes", and already, "the average hyper-connected individual uses at least seven devices to access the network and nine connectivity applications".

Researchers said this profusion will create the need for a strategy and architecture for unified communications across the enterprise if an orderly migration is to occur.

"The boundary between work and personal connectivity for the hyper-connected is almost non-existent," the IDC researchers report. "Two-thirds use text or instant messaging for both work and personal use. More than a third use social networking for both.

"The freedom to conduct work during personal time will force changes to personal use policies, business practices, training curricula, and IT support policies."

The researchers warned that connectivity tools in the hands of employees may increase productivity, but they also increase the risk of sensitive information being released to the outside world.

"Already some 25 percent of hyper-connected respondent companies use blogs and wikis to communicate with customers and other outsiders," the report stated. "Obtaining the benefits and avoiding the risks of Hyper-connectivity will require unprecedented cooperation between CIOs and their business counterparts."