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How we get strategic about protecting client privacy

One of the things our team has wrestled with in recent months is how to best manage non-disclosure agreements (NDAs).

They're a necessity in our industry -- whether we're helping a startup launch a new website, or developing a software product built on a business's proprietary practices. But NDAs can also be vague and overly broad.

We decided that we needed to be as strategic about our NDAs as we are about the work that we do. So we have identified several goals we must keep in mind to make sure our NDAs are strategic for all our clients and for us. These goals help us move toward a smart and healthy way of creating NDAs.

We want to make sure to do our best work for our clients.

For our team to do our jobs most effectively, we have to reach outside our organization. For example, we may need to talk to people we find online to conduct a comprehensive user study for a client. We may need to ask for insight from other software developers to solve a complicated coding challenge. Or we may ask for professional critique on logo design work from other artists online.

When a client's idea is extraordinarily sensitive, we can find unique ways to accomplish this work, such as putting additional people under non-disclosure agreements or conducting confidential user study. But we push for the necessary outside involvement so we can deliver our clients the best possible finished product.

We want to make sure to build our expertise for all of our clients.

One of the best things about doing cutting-edge work for clients is that it helps us to do better and better work for all of our clients in the future. To do this, we need to be able to continue to build our expertise.

While our clients own the code for any project we build for them, we sometimes write APIs or Django plug-ins to solve a problem on a particular site that we can reuse on other sites to solve a similar challenge. This reuse, which does not impact what's proprietary about one client's code, allows us to ensure reliable performance and quicker project times for all of our clients.

We need to make sure that NDAs allow us to build our expertise from project to project, even as they protect what's proprietary for our clients. Both goals are vital.

We want to share the great work we're doing with others.

Our work is the best way for us to describe to others what Dynamic Domain does. Whether it's a case study on our website or a submission for an award, we need to be able to use our past work to promote our company and recruit future clients.

Of course, there are times when legitimate business reasons mean we must keep our work private. But we've decided that taking promotion of our work off the table will be a negotiated exception, not the rule. If a client wants us to keep our involvement quiet, we're happy to discuss that as part of our relationship, but it doesn't come standard in our NDAs.

When you examine all four of these goals, it's clear that a "standard" NDA cannot effectively serve our clients. So we've moved away from one-size-fits-all NDAs in favor of custom confidentiality agreements in each of our peer-level partnerships.These strategic agreements with each client protect their businesses and the quality of the work we're doing for them.

This may take more time, but ultimately it's the smartest way to NDA.

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