ZIFFPAGE TITLEManaging People With Policies

By Gary Bolles  |  Posted 2003-12-02 Print this article Print

The first step has little to do with technology. Its a people problem.

At its most basic, e-mail is simply a communication between a sender and a receiver. If the IT department has any hope of fixing the spam problem, it has to focus first on the receiver. Your companys e-mail use policies need to be crystal clear, defining the kinds of communications allowed for every position in the organization. If you dont want administrative assistants to be e-mailing their mothers all the time, or salespeople to forward every dumb joke they receive to all 500 of their pals in the company, then make sure they know its against the rules.

Your corporate culture will determine how far those policies can go in strictly mandating e-mail use. Financial-services organizations often have locked-down standards that give users little wiggle room, while universities are constrained by very specific—and very liberal— notions on the part of users about how broadly their rights are defined.

Train users in whats acceptable in terms of internal and external communications. Some companies workers regularly copy everyone on every e-mail they send, creating dozens of long message threads that qualify in some recipients minds as "unsolicited bulk e-mail." Employees should also learn to reduce the frequency with which they provide their e-mail addresses to unfamiliar Web sites, a habit that virtually guarantees their inclusion on spam lists.

Your Webmasters should also be involved. Brightmail CTO Ken Schneider says e-mail addresses listed on HTML pages such as your companys "contact us" page are the single largest source of target addresses for spammers. Marketers can simply point a software "spider" to look for e-mail addresses on your site, then drop them into spam lists. Remove text e-mail addresses wherever possible, and consider using digital GIF images to confuse the spiders.

Ultimately, well-designed and managed e-mail policies can significantly reduce the amount of spam targeting your users, as well as increase overall productivity by promoting more effective internal communications—whether users initially want to help or not. "You have to protect them from themselves as best you can," says Julian Field, teaching systems manager in electronics and computer science at the University of Southampton in Southampton, England.

Ask Your Human Resources Department Chief:
  • Can we review our e-mail policy together, and focus on both interpersonal and technological realities?
    Ask Your CTO:
  • Where are our employees e-mail addresses most vulnerable on the Net?
    Tell Your Users:
  • We need your help in reducing the risk of spam to the organization.

    Next Page: Building on top of existing infrastructure.

    Gary Bolles Gary A. Bolles is the Editorial Director for Ziff Davis Media's Custom Conference Group. He is responsible for directing the group's editorial efforts, ensuring the quality of the content it delivers, and moderating and speaking at client events. A frequent lecturer and keynote speaker on a variety of technology topics, he has hosted more than 50 events in the past year alone.

    Bolles was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Interactive Week, developing its unique vision, the founding editorial director of Sm@rt Reseller magazine, creating the publication from initial research, and the founding Editorial Director of Yahoo! Internet Life, managing its successful launch. Bolles was also the Editor-in-Chief of Network Computing Magazine, and for one year was the host of 'Working the Web' for TechTV, covering a wide variety of technology-related topics. Until recently, he was a contributing editor to CIO Insight, writing on a broad range of technology subjects, and assisting in the coordination of the publication's research efforts.

    Bolles is the former Chief Operating Officer of Evolve Software, Inc., and the former VP of Marketing for Network Products Corporation. He has served as a marketing consultant to a variety of organizations, and has advised a number of software startup companies in arenas such as online marketing and data mining.

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