Confidential Information & Intellectual Property – Are You Handling it Correctly?
A general frustration, of mine, is how poorly many individuals treat confidential information and Intellectual Property (IP). How many times do you see, within your own organization, or at your client’s organization, papers, CD’s, thumb drives, etc. setting on people’s desks while they are away (e.g. meetings, home, lunch, etc.)? Many of these papers are marked “Company Confidential” or, “Company Proprietary”. If U.S. organizations are truly going to be competitive, we must do a much better job of handling organizational confidential information and IP. From my observations, many organizations allow employees to keep materials marked “Company Proprietary” in full view after hours (e.g. on desks, conference tables, open lateral files, on walls, etc.). I strongly believe this behavior needs to stop. Other organizations default to marking all company materials as “Company Proprietary” when in fact, some of these same materials are common knowledge (within their industry), and in many cases, in the public domain. As a result, these practices make it extremely difficult for employees, and consultants, to properly handle an organization’s material.
So, why am I discussing this on a Program / Project Leadership Blog? As Program and Project Leaders, we need to set an example and protect our organization’s confidential information and IP. If we are consultants, we need to help our clients protect their information so they get the maximum value from our interactions.
I would like to suggest as Program, and Project Leaders, we do the following:
- Lead by Example – As an employee or, as a consultant, lead by example within your Program or Project team. You will be amazed at how your team will respond and replicate your behavior. If you have a clean and locked desk when you leave for the day or, while you are away at meetings, you will find your team will respond in kind. If you are away, you may also want to consider leaving a sign, on your desk, that you are away and not to leave any Confidential Material or, IP.
- Understand the Asset Classification Rules within your organization (or client’s organization – Most large organizations have a Security Officer or, someone responsible for the protection of organizational assets. Know who that individual is and ask for a copy of the organization’s asset protection/classification policy. This will help you properly classify materials you produce for your programs or projects.
- Avoid taking organizational Confidential and IP Materials off the organization’s premises – When you leave for the day or, a business trip, try to avoid taking Confidential and Proprietary Materials off of the organization’s premises. This should certainly be the case as a consultant and as an employee, it is highly recommended. You want to avoid the situation where organizational confidential assets (and/or IP), in your possession, were stolen, and have to describe the content and expose your organization (or client). If you require the Confidential Materials at the remote meeting location, send them ahead, electronically (secured), and have someone at the remote site print them for you (if required). And, by all means, DO NOT SEND THE MATERIALS (for printing) to a public printing service like FEDEx Kinko’s, CopyMax, OfficeDepot, etc.
- If you have a laptop that contains an organization’s Confidential or Proprietary Material, LOCK IT DOWN – You can lock down laptops a couple of ways, I recommend both. I strongly recommend a physical key lock, so the laptop, tablet, etc. does not physically “walk”. I also recommend, locking the laptop (or tablet) down with some encryption software. This way, if your laptop is ever stolen (at an airport, hotel room or restaurant), it will be much more difficult for someone to access the confidential or, IP material.
If you would like to discuss how Hendon Group, Inc. may be able to assist your organization, please do not hesitate to contact us.