Collateral Damage

Spam is bad, but spam filters have become a menace in the supply chain.

In Search of a Solution

Unless the corporate world comes up with a plan of action, vigilante justice will rule. Waiting for governments across the world to formulate and enforce an anti-spam policy may prove to be futile and possibly even undesirable. Especially as supply chains become global, emails between trading partners must flow without disruptions caused by anti-spam filters or fighters.

One interim solution could be to certify supply chain partner ISPs and put them on a white list for trading partners. Emails within that "white" list are never blocked among trading partners. The potential long-term problem with this solution is that it creates the equivalent of an electronic gated community of suppliers where new suppliers are discouraged by the process to get whitelisted. If each global manufacturer had its own list, then suppliers to multiple manufacturers would have to get on multiple white lists. An alternative to this problematic solution could be industry white lists maintained by global trade associations.

I loathe spam as much as anyone, but most spam-fighting solutions kill the very characteristic that makes the Internet attractive for supply chain collaboration: The Internet makes it easy to find and do business with global trading partners. In all fairness, inaction regarding spam by bodies such as Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has led to the inevitable emergence of freelance spam fighters. The current approach, however, is fraught with the potential for all kinds of abuse — from shakedowns to companies reporting competitors' domains as spammers in an effort to shut down competitors' customer service emails.

There are no easy solutions in sight. An electronic fence that isolates supply chains for a particular product or service also has the inadvertent effect of keeping legitimate partners from reaching the firm. There must be some positive responses to spam; otherwise, spam wouldn't continue to increase in volume. Some have suggested an education effort to get people to "just say no" to spam. If there are no takers to spam offers, it is hoped that eventually spam will die. Whatever the approach, it needs to be formulated by organizations other than vigilantes! Otherwise, the cure may be worse than the disease.

Ram Reddy [[email protected]] is the author of Supply Chain to Virtual Integration (McGraw-Hill, 2001). He is also the president of Tactica Consulting Group (, a technology and business strategy consulting company.



Additional articles at

"Closing the Door," Jan. 1, 2003

Editor's Choice
Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
Samuel Greengard, Contributing Reporter
Nathan Eddy, Freelance Writer
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing