Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Is your Asset Management solution provider as innovative as your IP?

Ollie Gray
Guest Contributor
We’ve come a long way since the 1950s industrial economy, where the use of innovation in manufactured goods was at 20%. Intangible assets were a distant blip on the business horizon, with physical goods being the controlling factor. When you consider a figure of 70% by the 1990s, and a steady rise since then, this paints a very different picture of the world economy. 

We’re now in an era where knowledge is power and human creativity and innovation reigns supreme. Within this lies the challenge.  How, in an increasingly competitive climate, do organisations leverage innovation (or more specifically Intellectual Property) to stay ahead? One can argue that a big part of this comes down to the way in which innovation is managed.

Technology has revolutionized the way in which IP departments work. There’s no better example of this than with Intellectual Asset Management (IAM)solutions. Such tools have gradually become the means in which key information is made accessible to the right people when they need it the most. As a result IP professionals are making better, more informed and strategic decisions about how to manage innovation.

But with this revolution has come new challenges. Will IAM solutions be able to keep up with the ever shifting business demands of the IP industry?

A determining factor lies in how the technology upon which a management solution is developed, helps or hinders the ability to share information efficiently and without barriers being imposed by inflexible IT solutions. Collaboration and the demand to pull in and involve all parties, be it internal or external, in the development of an organisations’ products or services is key.

(Technology is just one contributing factor to how a management solution can accommodate the growing needs of an IP department. System architecture / design etc are other crucial areas that should be considered. For this edition however, I will concentrate on technology alone.) 

Collaboration is one of the supporting pillars of intellectual asset management solutions and one that has become a buzz word in itself. The acceptance of SaaS (Software as a Service) models has meant that accessing and sharing information is easier than ever. But is the true potential of collaboration being stifled by technological limitations in the solutions themselves?

For collaboration to fundamentally take place, there needs to be technical flexibility. Firstly, the management system of choice will, at the very least, need to be compatible with the organisations’ (or IP departments) web browsers. Maybe not a problem if all management of IP is performed statically, in one location / office, with no requirements for outside collaboration. Unfortunately for most IP led organisations, this is not the case. Many IP functions span the globe, involve the input of many parties and require their data to be accessed in different formats (potentially whilst on the move). This broad approach to IP management is underpinned by an initiative to enhance the role of the intellectual asset as a highly visible and valued contributor to the business. This means, opening the system up to not just the IP legal team but research and development, product and brand management, business unit managers, or even as high up as board level. Difficult, if each stake holder or outside council is using varying web browsers. For the clients of a handful of providers, this potential short fall is avoided all together. Anaqua for example, utilizes all standardized web browsers be it Microsoft Internet Explorer; Safari; Google Chrome; or Mozilla allowing for a risk free implementation of their system. Windows, apple and mobile platforms are also supported.

When undertaking projects to source new managements systems, organisations should demand that their potential suitor accommodates these technological specifications as a minimum requirement. If not, be prepared to face potentially damaging effects to efficiency.     

Fewer still, are providers that go beyond this level of compatibility and bridge the gap between present ideas of what constitutes optimum IP management and what can be perceived as its future. Being able to access data outside of the office, on the move and at any time, is a facet of IP asset management that has gone from being a ‘nice to have’ to a value addition, that can have serious benefits for a department lucky enough to have it at their disposal. Multiple device compatibility such as smart phone and tablet formatting, is therefore redesigning the whole concept of collaboration all together. With advancements such as this, IP professionals of all backgrounds will be able to enjoy far more flexibility than ever before. Imagine this…

IP Manager: IP managers can now gain insight into their IP landscape when they want, with access to reporting tools and portfolio analysis queries on the move. With 24/7 exposure to their data, IP managers are able to be more dynamic than ever.

Paralegals / Attorneys: The risk of missing Office actions, filing and internal deadlines are potentially completely mitigated as all personnel have visibility of upcoming tasks at all times no matter where they are.   

IP reviewer / technical specialists: With access to newly submitted invention disclosures on their phone or tablet, they can now provide a quality review anywhere, anytime, be it on business or at home. Being able to react quickly and delegate to patent committees, the process from submission to filing decision is dramatically reduced.

IP committee members: Filing decisions are made quicker, as travelling committee members can review and react on the road, rather than having to wait to be back in the office. 

Engineers: Engineers can now take retrospective glances at previously disclosed inventions, ensuring they channel innovation in the right areas. Having this visibility on a 24/7 basis, creates a more dynamic and responsive research and development function.

Of course, the effect of technical advances on collaboration can be seen to exist in varying facets of IP management, not just Invention disclosures. Further to this, technical advances extend beyond just collaborative aspects of IP asset management. Formalities and workflow based tasks are being made more efficient and less time consuming by technological advances such as Outlook integration, where email can be pulled directly into an organisation’s system and attached to relevant records at a click of a button or e-filing via their management system allowing for more streamlined and risk free filing process.

The IP software industry has hit a fork in the road. The needs of its customers are evolving. Software providers now more than ever need to evolve with them and make sure their products are as innovative as their customers IP.

If you would like to find out more about how Anaqua’s technology is helping the IP industry currently please get in touch to either sales@anaqua.com or contact Ollie Gray directly at ogray@anaqua.com.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The importance of software evolution versus revolution

Innovation in software is critical, but major upgrades and software system changes appear to be a point of stress for many. What is interesting to consider is how the tools we use each day evolve (hopefully for the better) and why it is that we don’t like a major change. That ‘fear’ of change is often based on negative experiences in moving from one version of a product to another – whatever that product might be – and that grim memory of past stresses involving data loss, or a confusing change in the user experience. Clearly, there are times when some of those negatives experiences are down to the individual – I know I believe in my innate ability to use tools without reading a manual. That same misguided expectation that leads me to never ask for directions when lost . . . J

I’m frequently asked how we handle software change at Anaqua. How does this impact the user experience? How will we migrate data to a new version of the product? How are we going to re-train all our staff? Prior to joining Anaqua, my response would have been that sometimes you just need to deal with the pain to get the benefits of something new.  Past experiences colour your perception of how easy product evolution can really be – and if you just have to accept that revolution is the only way that you can see major improvements.

At Anaqua, our teams talk about ‘evolution versus revolution’ and how this is central to how we think about improving our solutions without causing undue ‘upgrade pain’. I’m a convert to this approach and perhaps I never truly understood this before. We are constantly releasing new features, streamlining more processes and updating functionality based on continuous feedback from our amazing client community. All of this is done with a careful eye on minimizing the effort to move to a new version of our solutions. As a result, our client base stays current with our releases and can take advantage of all the new features.

I believe we should demand this approach from today’s technology. If your current systems are still making you go through infrequent but painful upgrades, and you have to wait for ages for new features and functions, then perhaps it’s time to think again about your suppliers?

Guest Contributor, Jonathan Newcombe

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Anaqua User Conference 2013

Boston is hosting a number of important IP conferences this year, including the IP Business Congress, the IPO Annual Meeting and, not least, the eighth Anaqua User Conference, which was held in May. A record number of Anaqua clients attended this year’s conference with some companies sending more than ten delegates.

As in past years, the first day included several training classes and the Anaqua Executive Council meeting. The Executive Council is a group of senior IP executives from Anaqua’s clients who provide strategic input to Anaqua and governance for the broader Anaqua community. Key discussion topics included optimizing IP strategies across all assets, patent quality metrics and the impact of new gTLDs on brand owners.

On the second day, after a welcome address from Priya Iyer, Anaqua’s CEO, the main conference kicked-off with a keynote presentation by Bruce Schelkopf, VP & Chief IP Counsel for Ingersoll Rand, on “Valuing IP for the C-Level Suite”.  Bruce spoke to the importance of understanding the perspective of executives with limited IP experience, particularly with the rising visibility of IP litigation, valuation and new legislation. He emphasized the need for educating the exec team on how an integrated IP strategy aligned with the company’s strategy and competitive situation is a critical factor in business success.

The keynote was followed by a series of client-led sessions on best practices in areas such as license management, patent review and foreign filing, optimizing the mix of in-house vs external resources and many other topics. The conference also included a number of ANAQUA product sessions including case studies, deep dives and a review of recent product releases and the future roadmap.

The third and final day was opened by Gregg Marrazzo, SVP IP for Estee Lauder and immediate past President of INTA (the International Trademark Association), who spoke on “Opportunities and Challenges of Brand Management”. Gregg spoke about the impact of social media on brand identity and protection as well as global vs local choices facing marketers.

Lunches and dinners were an opportunity to meet old and new friends and make contacts to learn from and share with during the conference and after. As one client attendee said “The value of this conference is unbelievable – to have the opportunity to share and learn from such innovative leaders in the IP space who speak the Anaqua language is just fantastic.”

Thursday, March 14, 2013

IP Systems for the new IP Practice

We are frequently approached by individual or teams of IP attorneys who have plans to start new boutique IP law firms. Usually they are spinning off from established firms to start their own businesses. We love these conversations because these individuals come with a vision of new ways to serve their corporate clients better and break free from the limitations of their current environment. They are eager to explore what’s possible with today’s IP practice management systems, both for immediate use and for future development of the practice.  

So what do they need to get started? What systems do they need to put in place before they open for business? Start with the obvious:  email, Word, spreadsheets etc  - mostly MS Office but we are seeing some interest in Google cloud-based tools; legal information services and IP databases – the usual suspects; payroll and HR services – always outsourced through one of the many online services.
This brings them to the key question of choosing an IP management system and the reason they call Anaqua and other vendors. The evaluation needs to balance multiple factors: the experience and preferences of the admin staff – key individuals for a new firm; productivity and economics – where can we save money by automating and what can we manage with tradition manual approaches?; differentiated client services – how can we win and keep client business with better services than other firms?

So the evaluation begins:
  •  A hosted solution – you have no IT staff
  •  Docketing – of course, your admin team needs to get its work done efficiently
  • Country rules, PTO forms and efiling – key to risk mitigation and more efficiency
  • Document and email management –Easy information access and full text search – great!
  • Annuity and renewal payment services – an opportunity to outsource the risks and complexities
  • Time and expense billing – maybe not immediately needed, but important to know it is there when the practice grows and we need it
  • Collaboration with foreign associates and other external contributors, whether onshore of offshore, now or in the future
  • Online client services – your clients expect it! Online access to status and portfolio reports. Uploading documents and other information. Online requests for patent drafting, trademark searches etc .

Cloud-based IP solutions with monthly rates make it seem easy to make short-term decisions you can revisit later when life is calmer, but the reality is that you will likely live with your IP system choice  for many years to come. All the more important to think about how you expect your practice to evolve and what you will need to offer your clients in the years ahead.

We’d enjoy that conversation with you – give us a call.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

ANAQUA Implementation – What does it take?

We are often asked about this – “How much will it cost and how long will it take?” Well of course “It depends”! Clients range from large to small, have different starting points, goals and appetites for change.  Working with many clients over the years, we have developed a flexible set of implementation approaches to answer the needs of different clients.

Answer  #1: “A week or two”

For companies and law firms with only a few users and small portfolios, Anaqua offers cloud-based systems designed for instant access and a quick start. The system is ready to go because it is pre-configured for the needs of these users. It comes with how-to documentation and data upload tools so that new clients can get up and running on their own.

We offer StartUp service programs with one-on-one web-based training and assistance with data upload, configuration and other services. These programs are offered as options for corporate clients who often have the resources for self-starting. This is rarely the case with small IP law firms so we require StartUp services for these clients.
Answer #2: "Six weeks"

Anaqua provides IAM software solutions for mid-size teams and IP portfolios at companies or law firms of any size. These clients have larger databases to migrate and more complicated processes to implement. Their system may be hosted by Anaqua or by the client and may have requirements for integration with internal systems.

For these clients, we provide a structured six-week, fixed-cost StartUp program that encompasses planning, configuration, data migration, training, user acceptance and go live support. It acknowledges that smaller teams cannot dedicate significant time to the implementation of the system because they still have their day jobs. Anaqua Client Services staff come onsite for key phases with web-based collaboration at other times. The program is flexible to allow for varying levels of configuration, integration and onsite user training.
Answer #3: “Six months”

Large enterprises and law firms are in a different class. They may have hundreds of users, tens or hundreds of thousands of IP records and a complex array of existing IP applications. They usually have multiple locations and divisions with varying needs and must-have custom requirements. The decision to move to a new IAM system will also often involve significant business process change across multiple departments.

For clients like these, Anaqua has a proven Enterprise Implementation Methodology with dedicated Client Services teams and a track record of success. This program provides deep client-specific configuration and allows for client-driven enhancements that are integrated into the standard product to facilitate ongoing support and upgrades. After a thorough planning phase, Anaqua presents a detailed project plan, schedule and fixed cost. Some clients have clear, limited objectives which can be delivered in less than six months. Some clients will require longer to complete the entire project but Anaqua strongly recommends focused 4-6 month phases to deliver timely benefits.

In our conversations with prospective clients, it is usually pretty clear which implementation approach is the best fit for their situation. Sometimes as the dialog moves on, we see a need for more, or less, implementation effort. The key is to reach a common understanding of goals and resources and the appropriate implementation approach.

Comments and questions welcome.