Saturday 1 October 2011

NDA Briefings - the content lap-dance?

So those who follow my twitter profile, or know me in person, will understand that one of my major annoyances in life is the topic of NDAs.

Now I fully understand what an NDA entails (I've spent enough time with lawyers in my life to know this area very well), and understand why anything more than 2 way NDAs are a genuinely terrifying concept. I also personally know what it means for all involved to 'tear-down' and NDA in 'an aggressive fashion'.

Naturally in my line of work, probably 70% of the external discussions I have are of a confidential content nature, with a high % being purportedly related to NDAs.

So why do they annoy me?
Why the hell don't vendors trust customers when under NDA with a copy of the slides? either respect an NDA or don't bother at all..#Annoyed
Well as far as I can see they are increasingly used as a way to restrict the content, or method of delivery of the content, provided to customers. With phrases such as "can't give you to document or presentation as it's NDA" being uttered on a weekly basis - the concepts of trust and respect being lost forever.

A common use of the NDA is to cover future roadmap discussions - naturally enough as for any supplier this is a very sensitive are. But my position is that roadmaps should change, and that's fine. The key is to ensure that there is regular communication & dialogue about the changes. The customer of course needs to have some reference artefacts for a point in time to use for their own decisions, after-all we have to create our own 6/12/18/36mth internal strategies.

Clearly if we can't have a secure & trusted copy of information from a point in time, then we can't reference the information - as my memory is such that I could very easily get information very wrong. In short - if a copy of the information isn't provided that we have little choice but to 'strike it from the record' and ignore it - making the whole 'NDA' exercise worthless all round... As far as I'm concerned this just shows that many vendors simply don't trust or respect their staff or their customers - these are not the vendors I'm interested in working with.

How often are NDA pitches one-way presentations? Sadly all too often :( There are still some good people out there that do genuinely have the sessions as NDA discussions and will influence their roadmaps and/or decisions based on dialogue & requirements - but these are most certainly in the minority.

Whilst I accept some customers may leak NDA information, either consciously or unconsciously, my thoughts are that people should have the courage to penalise those that breach NDA clauses, make an example of them don't penalise those who understand & respect them. But, surely we also need to address the information moving between competitors in the increasingly incestuous IT sales & engineering industry job shuffle (or are lobotomies standard practice in changing jobs between IT suppliers? well now I mention it that would explain many things...,)

A major irony of this is that at least 3 suppliers (eg EeeMSee, SumNotech & SnOracle) all sell commercial IRM/DRM products, but yet they refuse to use these with their own customers for protection of NDA content. Now if this doesn't fit a perfect target use case for IMR/DRM tools then I don't know what would! If partners won't use these products to protect their own content then I sure as heck won't be buying their tools to protect mine! You'd think their own sales teams would be pushing use of the IRM/DRM tools to 'spread the word' so to speak... Either way they should use & trust their DRM tools or kill them...

All of this sadly leaves me to the conclusion that 'NDA briefings' are often now little more than than marketing meetings wrapped in a 'special legal secret sauce' to puff, fluff & massage the ego of the invitees - the "I've been somewhere special" & "I know something you don't" playground taunt factor...

There are words for those who are paid to say & do nice things purely to boost a customers ego - and candidly, I think we'd all rather be with partners than whores!

1 comment:

  1. Great post, I really appreciate your point of view on this!