Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) are a continuing source of controversy and aggravation in the industry analyst world. I thought that most vendors have learned how to deal with these in a good way, but the experience I just had makes me wonder.
NDAs are where an analyst agrees not to talk publicly about some of the things the vendor tells you in a briefing or consulting session. Some analysts flat out refuse to accept them under any circumstances, but I don’t go that far. NDAs can be useful so that the vendor can speak freely about ideas they are not sure about, or to pre-brief on an announcement that has not been released yet.
I have no problem with NDAs, so long as they are limited in time and scope. If they want to specify that some details should not be disclosed because they are unsure about whether they will be included, or if they want to keep them a surprise, that is fine. When working with vendor clients, I am happy to treat strategic discussions confidentially as part of the client relationship. A short term NDA before an announcement (also called an embargo) is also sensible.
However, I won’t accept blanket restrictions that keep me from doing my job, which is what happened today. I dialed into a phone briefing, and asked about the NDA terms at the beginning, as I always try to do when talking about futures. They said that they expected that if I took the briefing, I would not talk to any customer about any aspect of the new release until they said it was OK; they could not tell me when the NDA would be lifted. I said “goodbye.”
NDAs are generally acceptable to me, but if they impede my ability to help customers, I can’t agree to them. I take these agreements seriously, so under those circumstances I couldn’t continue the conversation. Too bad, because it is information I would have found useful. I’m sure the vendor would like to get this background out to their customers who are asking about it. I’m sure we could have found a way to agree on what could and could not be discussed while protecting their interests, limiting it to specific details or release dates. I have made many agreements like that in the past, with no trouble. It’s too bad that they insisted on such a broad restriction. Maybe the analyst relations person had strict instructions from the lawyers. Maybe they felt they could get away with it, since they were a big vendor. Whatever the reason, it was unfortunate.