What the MVP NDA means to me

When we receive the Microsoft MVP Award, the first thing after “accepting” the award officially is signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Each time our award is renewed, we must acknowledge, accept and sign it again.

That NDA is an individual agreement between Microsoft and ourselves as an individual, not our company or employer, not our family, but us, individually. Additionally, even though all MVPs have signed the NDA agreement, we are not to share NDA information with other MVPs without pre-approval or through authorized NDA channels. I’m getting this part verbatim from the MVP site, by the way, to avoid mistakenly describing something in my own words that aren’t precisely true.

What does that mean?

In a nutshell, this means we cannot share in any form the confidential information that we are provided unless we have explicit permission from Microsoft or until Microsoft makes the information public.

We are hammered, and I mean hammered, with repeated reminders not to share, that the information is confidential, etc. so much so that it becomes a joke. Not a joke in the sense of no one taking it seriously but in the sense of goofy memes and screenshots of <redacted> <redacted> <redacted> etc. Kind of funny, but seriously, every single session starts with an NDA slide reminding us and every slide says Confidential. It’s seriously hard to miss.

What is so confidential?

This program has been in place for 25 years and the only way this continues is by maintaining a strong level of trust between the MVPs and the Microsoft product teams. Every breach of the NDA breaks the trust and damages relationships.

We are given a tremendous opportunity as MVPs to interact with product teams at MVP Summit, in PGIs (Product Group Information webinars) and via email communications in our DLs (distribution lists). It can be roadmap info, planned or tentative features, product changes, frank discussions about product weaknesses or a variety of other topics which the public is not privy to.

It’s a privilege to be a Microsoft MVP and to have access to this kind of information for the products that we evangelize. Period.

MVP Summit 2016

This is my 2nd MVP Summit. It’s the 2nd time I’ve been to a conference where there is zero content for Microsoft Dynamics GP. I know that before I book my ticket, it’s not a surprise, but the fact is there is no content here with our own product group.

That means I have a fairly short set of content available to me within my Award Category, Business Solutions, that is of any relevance to me personally. Dynamics 365 (CRM, AX, NAV, etc.) is of no interest to me. PowerApps, Flow and Project are the other 3 products in my award category. That’s getting warmer. What I really want to attend are sessions OUTSIDE of my award category. Like other Dynamics product MVPs, we touch a wide array of Microsoft products in our day to day lives: SQL, SharePoint, Office, Azure, Windows, you name it, we probably interact with it in some way.

Last Summit, the scheduling was super restricted. I didn’t understand. I was a newbie who bitched and moaned about not being able to see more options for my schedule. Ultimately some more sessions were opened up but the reason I was given was more or less “the product teams want to control who has access to the information they share”. That tells me THEY are concerned with NDA violations and the easiest way to limit that exposure is to limit the audience to MVPs they are already aware of, that they work with every day in DLs and PGIs.

It was frustrating. But, now I get it. I’m older and wiser now (LOL)…

MVP Summit 2018

This year they took some of our feedback and it was a different approach. I don’t know if I have this literally correct but we could identify areas of interest in our registration. The reason appeared to be it would drive (to a certain extent) what content you would see in the schedule builder to choose sessions to attend. I found the schedule options to be vastly superior to my first Summit, so much so, I found it difficult to wade through all 500+ options to find 18 sessions to attend.

This Summit, I attended 100% external sessions. I did not attend a single session that was in the Business Solutions category. I was a stranger in every room I went into (although not by the end). I was an outsider that the product groups didn’t know. They trusted me (and everyone else) to keep my mouth shut.

Why this is important to me

Because I don’t have Dynamics GP session options, it’s a tremendous opportunity to me to be able to sit in other award category sessions and learn about the inner workings of things *I can’t even follow outside of Summit*. You have read that correctly. I can’t sign up for the Microsoft Excel DL (as an example) because I’m not in the award category. I suppose now that they have met me, I may be able to ask permission but it’s not an out of the box option for me on my profile. I may or may not see their PGIs unless they expand the audience to let others attend. The only chance I have to listen to that content and hear the future plans is by attending MVP Summit.

For every NDA violation, there is a chance that those product groups close those doors and stop letting people like me in. That’s why I am so passionate about abiding by this.

NDA Violations

Inevitably, every MVP has heard a story of someone who has violated NDA and been removed from the program. At times it seems like some stories become urban legends and grow their own legs.

This year, there were multiple. Yes, multiple, as in more than 1 and more than 2. Was it 3, was it more than 3? I don’t know, but it was multiple, per various sources I heard today. That’s horrible IMHO. I get a little pissed off at each one because they are jeopardizing the trust relationship for everyone else by their momentary lack of judgement.

In a heartbeat, everything you worked for to get this award is gone. Every single one of those people above was removed from the program immediately. There’s no warning. There’s no slap on the wrist. It’s a walk of shame, often right out of a room in the middle of a session.

Is it hard to keep quiet?

You’re damn right it is. We are in this role because we are information sharers. We love to evangelize the products, we love to tweet, and blog, and present etc. We can’t help ourselves! And now we have to shut up and keep quiet.

Beyond that, depending on how you got here (literally), your company, boss or co-workers might have expectations that you come back and share what you learned. Did they pay the costs for you to attend? That’s not so unreasonable if they did, right? But you can’t. You have to have a very frank discussion with your employer about this if they don’t support your need to maintain the confidentiality that you agreed to.

 

All I know is I want to remain an MVP for as long as I can, and I want to do what I can to prevent others from ruining MY chances at getting to sit in these sessions. I believe most of the MVPs feel the same way but for those few, you’re spoiling it for the rest of us. Keep that in mind next time you’re dying to share that thing you just learned.

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