The Balance between Being Stealth and Being Public during Product Development
We live in a data-driven world. Data is freely available, options are plentiful, and maintaining data privacy and mitigating vulnerabilities is a necessity—with data protection laws taking shape everyday.
While end user data protection is important from a business to customer perspective, businesses themselves have their share of problems. Organizations need to be in a stealth state during the early days and stages of a new project to make sure things are kept undercover. Competition is intense, and ideas can easily be copied and engineered into solutions on the fly. As organizations start sales pitches and conduct beta programs, it can be challenging to filter the audience and figure out if they are indeed genuine or if the audience includes competitors who are fishing for more information to replicate ideas. Not revealing enough information can pose a threat because potential customers do not see the full offering you are trying to provide, which can lead to them not choosing your solution.
This is a problem not only for product companies but also for service providers. For example, as testing service providers, we often get asked for information about test cases, scenarios, details on our testing coverage, and our frameworks to an extent that our test approach is fully shared and our core intellectual property may be in jeopardy. This can even extend to knowledge sharing sessions such as presentations, webinars, and workshops where you have to be detailed but also careful about not revealing more than what is needed.
We live in an open community as well—know-how is freely exchanged, ideas are openly discussed, and communities are active and transparent. These are all signs of a healthy industry, but that industry should also sustain healthy competition among its players, for which a level of stealth in operations is very important. This is a core task that a specific team has to take on—such as a strategy team, marketing team, or business development team. It is important to decide upfront on what, when, how, and how much to reveal in order to attract an audience while at the same time keeping some element of surprise for the end users when the solution is actually used.
In the past it would be sufficient for just user-facing teams to be aware of these codes of conduct, but today the situation is very different. Social media tightly couples all of us, so it is important for employees of an organization to understand what their NDA (non-disclosure agreement) is, what they can say, and what they cannot say in a public forum to draw the right balance in positioning an organization in the marketplace. This needs to be an ongoing exercise that is initiated top-down and on a frequent basis so employees understand the latest and greatest in the organization and how to represent the offerings externally. This balance can make all the difference in an organization’s long-term branding and positioning in the market.