I am an avid proponent of open communications and believe the more partners know about each other the better are the chances for the partnership to be successful. There are still a lot of things that you should keep to yourself for the same general reason – to increase the chances of the partnership being successful.
1. Game plan. Negotiations are an ongoing part of business relationship – not just the talks around the contract. Keep you card close to the chest and never disclose the game plan, even far after the game is over.
2. Decision making process. Whether you signing the initial contract, extending the scope of the engagement or making changes in the way the relationship is run you should not disclose the details of decision making process. In particular if you are the one making the decision you should not proudly announce it. There are many reasons for keeping it low, let me mention just a couple:
- Disclosing decision making process will limit you ability to use “high authority” negotiation gambit that is a powerful technique for getting more in negotiations.
- The last thing true decision makers need is all might of vendor sales force targeting them through every sales channel.
3. Budget. I always give my vendors an indication of the budget but never exact figures. One of the main reasons to keep it private is the nature of budgets – they change, funds get reallocated, etc. And of course something to be said about negotiation upper hand with less information at your partner disposal.
4. Roadmap. Product and relationship roadmaps should be shared with your vendor only at a very high level. Details should not be communicated for many reasons – business counterintelligence and agile nature of the roadmaps (similar to budget note above) being the most important.
5. Details of competition. The competition can offer a lot during contract negotiations: from cannon fodder to reasonable alternative. Your offshore partner should know that competition exists (at least that would keep them on their toes) but not the details, even the names of competing entities is not something to disclose. Among many reasons let me point out just a couple:
- You probably have an NDA in place, that’s already a strong reason to keep your lips sealed.
- The runner-up competitor today can be a vendor of choice tomorrow.
- You do not know what kind of back-end links your vendors have in place.
6. IP / Know-how. If you must share anything of that nature make sure that the information distribution is governed / controlled tightly. The vendors with the best intention have little power over disgruntle employees – the prime venue of information leak. Employ distribution of the information on a Need-to-Know basis.
7. Confidential information. Same as above applies to many aspects of your business, internal and external (e.g. customer data). Consider rules associated with on handling ePHI (electronic protected healthcare information) or financial information and penalties associated with its mishandling. This is a very comprehensive topic; I will cover it in a stand-alone post.
8. Dirty Laundry. Sharing it with your vendor can hurt you in many ways; in particular consider the scenario of the relationship gone sour for any reasons; won’t you prefer your ex-partner to know as little about you as possible?
9. Personal details. Do not get close and personal with the vendor / vendor employees. There are many ways it can end up costing you more than you bargained for. There is no harm in sharing you “public” personal details (married, three kids lived in Bay Area all your life, etc.) but sharing little known data may put you in a difficult situation.
10. Ulterior motives. Ulterior means hidden – so keep it that way, if you pick your vendor based on something rather than items stated in your RFP, keep it to yourself. It’s amazing what kind of confessions I heard in that department (e.g. “I picked the company in China because my wife is Chinese and it makes it easier for us to stay in touch with her family”). This won’t help you professional image / reputation and can actually hurt your career…