Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Top Five Complaints about IP Management Systems

We talk to hundreds of people who have decided it is time to change their IP management system, so we hear a lot of complaints about their existing systems. Here are the top five problems they tell us about. (These have driven our development priorities for the ANAQUA system for years, but I’ll write about that another time).

1. Reporting – why is it so hard to get the information I need out of the system?

This is almost always the first topic to come up when we ask users what they are unhappy about with their old system. It is frustratingly hard to produce reliable, presentable data in response to even the most basic questions about the IP portfolio. Often this is because the system simply does not have the data correlated as needed to answer business questions. It is also because the reporting systems are limited and inflexible. It is time that IP teams had the same level of tools as the rest of the business – IP Business Intelligence anyone?

2. Too many clicks – and why do I have to switch screens so often?

This one comes from the docketers, particularly for those who remember the old client-server systems optimized for fast data entry. (For other users, if the system is too complicated to use, they simply don’t use it). Today’s systems use web browser technology and are often designed to serve many more users, not just docketers. It is critical that these applications be based on user-centric usability methodologies that recognize the different needs of docketers, attorneys, portfolio managers and other users. Letting each user organize the screens to match their needs is a good way to go.

3. Document Management – Why do I have to keep documents in shared folders?

The core problem is you want to keep all the information about your assets in one place so you know where to find things, but your system won’t let you, so you resort to shared folders, usually outside the standard security, back up and retention processes. Perhaps your company has an enterprise document management system (EDMS) – a popular choice for IT, but for the legal users? Not so much. Planning to collaborate and exchange documents with outside counsel? Not in the EDMS! Your IP system needs flexible document management, even if it also interfaces with the corporate EDMS.

4. No remote access – I can’t access the system when I’m traveling

No need to say much about this issue, except to emphasize that there is more to this than simply switching to a web-based system. You also need a system with security controls designed to allow you set up and manage data access at the detail level for a wide variety of user profiles for users inside and outside the organization. Thinking of outsourcing some aspect of your IP operations? Will your system allow you to give the required access to the outsourcer? Whether you host your system internally or rely on a vendor to host, you need this level of control and confidence.

5. It’s just a docketing system – we need a lot more

Whatever the complaints of the users, the main driver of change is the desire to go beyond docketing to intellectual asset management. To better serve inventors and business managers, to gain portfolio management tools to give the business better insight into the IP assets, to improve collaboration and productivity. In short, to gain the same level of systems infrastructure that our colleagues managing other important assets in finance, HR and manufacturing have enjoyed for years – it’s the IP team’s turn!