Confidential Information

Many project managers work for consulting firms where their services are contracted out to organizations that need their expertise for particular projects. If you work in a situation like this, you will likely come across information that is sensitive or confidential. Again, this might seem obvious, but as part of the PMI Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, you agree not to disclose sensitive or confidential information or use it in any way for personal gain.

Often when you work under contract, you'll be required to sign a nondisclosure agreement. This agreement simply says that you will not share information regarding the project or the organization with anyone—including the organization's competitors—or use the information for your personal gain.

However, you don't have to work on contract to come into contact with sensitive or private information. You might work full-time for an organization or a government agency that deals with information regarding its customer base or citizens. For example, if you work for a bank, you might have access to personal account information. If you work for a government agency, you might have access to personal tax records or other sensitive material. It would be highly unethical and maybe even illegal to look up the account information of individuals not associated with the project at hand just to satisfy your own curiosity. In my organization, that is grounds for dismissal.

Company Data

Although it might seem obvious that you should not use personal information or an organization's trade secrets for personal gain, sometimes the organization has a legitimate need to share information with vendors, governmental agencies, or others. You need to understand which vendors or organizations are allowed to see sensitive company data. In some cases, you might even need to help determine which individuals can have access to the data. When in doubt, ask.

Here are some examples. Maybe the company you're working with has periodic mailings it sends to its customer base. If one of your project activities includes finding a new vendor to print the mailing labels, your organization might require the vendor to sign a nondisclosure agreement to guard the contents of the customer lists. Discovering just who should have access to this information might be tricky.

Another example involves data on citizens that is maintained by the government. You might think that because the data belongs to one agency of the government—say the Internal Revenue Service—any other agency of the government can have access to it. This isn't the case. Some agencies are refused access to the data even though they might have good reason to use it. Others might have restricted access, depending on the data and the agency policy regarding it. Don't assume that others should have access to data because it seems logical.

Most organizations require vendors or other organizations to sign nondisclosure agreements when the vendors or others will have access to sensitive company data. It's your responsibility to ensure that the proper nondisclosure agreements are signed prior to releasing the data. The procurement department often handles this function.

Intellectual Property

You are likely to come into contact with intellectual property during the course of your project management career. Intellectual property includes items developed by an organization that have commercial value but are not tangible and copyrighted material such as books, software, and artistic works. It might also include ideas or processes that are patented. Or it might involve an industrial process, business process, or manufacturing process that was developed by the organization for a specific purpose.

Intellectual property is owned by the business or person who created it. You might have to pay royalties or ask for written permission to use the property. Intellectual property should be treated just like sensitive or confidential data. It should not be used for personal gain or shared with others who should not have access to it.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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