October 11, 2022, 12:15 PM 0
“IP teams often embark on the IPMS journey with great optimism. Once in the thick of implementation, however, they may experience a turbulent journey.”
Success is not delivering a feature; success is learning how to solve the customer’s problem.
~ Eric Ries
Imagine that your family has decided to build a new home. You’ve got the vision, but you need to call in the pros—a well-established, highly expert homebuilder with a cadre of architects, designers, contractors, and tradespeople.
You’re relying upon the builder’s expertise to thoughtfully scope the project and prepare you for what lies ahead. This includes (a) helping you understand what financial and other commitments will be required of you; (b) educating you on challenges you’ll face along the way; and (c) highlighting available offerings that align with your vision.
You’re impressed by what the builder’s sales team promises to deliver, so you sign a contract. The price tag is substantial, but you feel you owe it to your family’s future well-being to move forward.
The sales team hands off the project to the builder’s design and construction teams. It’s then that a sobering reality begins to settle in, marked by a litany of unfulfilled promises, delays, surprises, cost overruns, uneven performance, and unresponsiveness.
The only way to salvage the project is for your family to make up the difference, all at incredible sacrifice to daily life. You essentially take a leadership role in the project, do many tasks you thought you’d contracted for, and chip in more money to get the work done. You also give up on the builder fulfilling all contract items.
Now imagine that your company or law firm has decided to implement intellectual property management software (IPMS) with a vendor.
In a worst-case implementation scenario, you may feel like you’re reliving the above homebuilding saga.
Indeed, IP teams often embark on the IPMS journey with great optimism. Once in the thick of implementation, however, they may experience a turbulent journey.
Armed with knowledge of what can go wrong, your enterprise can take proactive steps to drive stronger vendor performance and successfully leverage the power of your chosen IPMS.
Well known to IP professionals, IP management software provides functionality related to IP assets (e.g., patents and trademarks), disputes, operations, and/or tasks. Other descriptors for such software include IP management system, IP asset management system or software, IP portfolio management software or solution, IP lifecycle management software or solution, and IP docketing system.
IPMS vendors, providers, or developers abound in the IP software and services industry.
In its most basic sense, an IPMS is a database of IP records of an enterprise (e.g., a corporation) or multiple enterprises (e.g., multiple clients of a law firm or multiple business units of a group of corporate affiliates). Besides storage of IP asset data, an IPMS may provide docketing functions to enable the tracking of legal and organizational deadlines and related tasks.
IPMS software has come a long way from its docketing-centered roots. Similar to other enterprise teams such as finance, product management, engineering, marketing, and sales, IP teams are increasingly seeking workflow tools that (a) reduce time-consuming administrative tasks; (b) enable more collaboration within the IP team, with other stakeholders in the enterprise, and with external parties; and (c) help their operations to become data-driven.
The IP software and services industry has taken note. Many IPMSs now provide functionality related to portfolio management, invention disclosure submission, workflows to automate or semi-automate actions, document management, patent annuities, trademark renewals, analytics, invoice submission and processing, and the like. Vendors also are starting to introduce new connectivity (e.g., to cloud services) and modern interfaces to support more optimized workflows, digital transformation, and intelligent automation.
Your company’s or law firm’s decision to buy, implement, and use an IPMS may be quite consequential. Implementation and subscription costs may be high. You may need to commit substantial time and other non-monetary resources to support implementation and ongoing productive use.
No two IPMSs and no two enterprises are the same, resulting in significant variability among implementations and implementation projects.
For example, an enterprise using one IPMS may opt to switch to a new, different IPMS. The new IPMS vendor must migrate data from the current system to the new system.
When an enterprise doesn’t have an existing IPMS, datasets must be created from scratch or aggregated from multiple disparate sources. In one such scenario, a corporation’s IP asset data historically has exclusively resided in respective docket systems of its outside patent or trademark counsel. Now, the corporation wishes to implement its own IPMS to provide a full view (e.g., “shadow docket”) of its IP portfolio, or perhaps to begin insourcing IP work.
Another paradigm involves a corporation comprising multiple distinct business units, divisions, or other subgroups that apply different processes, procedures, and ways of viewing their associated IP. The corporation has decided to implement a singular IPMS that permits customization by business units or standardization of operational practices across such units.
An enterprise’s IPMS journey generally fits within four stages:
Some IPMS implementations may be relatively compact and straightforward. An enterprise may have a small portfolio of IP assets; it may have an existing IPMS containing clean data that merely needs to be migrated to another IPMS; or it only requires an entry-level IPMS for basic docketing functions.
Other IPMS implementations may be complex or extremely complex. In particular:
The list of complexities goes on.
What can go wrong during implementation? Potentially many things. Enterprises may experience turbulence such as:
1. Lackluster project leadership and execution
An enterprise may discover that its vendor approaches implementation principally as an exercise to migrate data and provision IPMS features, rather than as a project to deliver solutions closely aligned with the enterprise’s vision and needs.
For instance, the vendor makes no meaningful attempt to ascertain the enterprise’s current organizational, competitive, and IP ecosystem; its imagined future state; or other pertinent fundamentals. The vendor says things to the effect of, “Our software does this,” versus “What are your pain points?”, “What do you want to accomplish?”, and “This is how we can help you get there.” It seems to lack the desire or capacity to truly lead the project; passion for innovation and high service delivery are in short supply.
As a result, the enterprise expends significant energies just trying to be heard by the vendor. It feels that it must take the lead to compensate for the vendor’s lack of direction.
In addition to demonstrating poor leadership, a vendor may struggle mightily with execution of its implementation plan. A project team that acts passively, reactively, or incompetently is undesirable in any IPMS context. However, in particularly complex implementations, the enterprise’s troubles will be substantially compounded by the vendor’s shaky performance.
2. A Pandora’s box of unwelcome surprises
Surprises can arise in every implementation. In an implementation gone south, an enterprise may confront numerous surprises that seemingly could have been avoided but for the vendor’s action or inaction. Examples include:
3. Revisionist storytelling
As implementation problems arise, go-live seems ever distant, and it’s unable to collect subscription fees, a vendor may take strained positions in hopes of bringing money in the door.
For example, contrary to a negotiated contract and the clear understanding of the parties, a vendor suddenly asserts that it’s owed subscription fees despite not having completed the implementation stage and delivered the IPMS for the enterprise’s use. The enterprise is asked to accept the notion that go-live means to provide a test environment or perform implementation tasks.
4. Poor relationship management
The implementation stage may reveal flagrant weaknesses in how the vendor approaches its customer relationships. The vendor may consistently stumble in such foundational areas as managing expectations, fostering healthy communications, and resolving major and minor problems. These deficiencies erode the enterprise’s trust and hamper the parties’ ability to navigate the turbulence of implementation.
5. Massive allocation of enterprise resources
An implementation may require significantly more commitment from the enterprise than the vendor stated would be reasonably required. Internal stakeholders, including IP team or practice group members, must dedicate precious additional time, effort, and money to support the implementation and bring it to fruition.
Many of the above scenarios stem from the vendor. Simply put, it overpromised and undelivered. Others may be unavoidable, a byproduct of complexity or other realities that the parties did or could not anticipate despite their best intentions.
Whatever the cause, a troubled IPMS implementation brings dangers to the enterprise beyond delays and extra costs.
The enormous time devoted to the project takes team members away from other activities and disrupts ongoing work. Added costs and prolonged project completion may undermine the credibility of enterprise leaders who championed adoption of the IPMS. Team morale may suffer.
Moreover, a plagued implementation may sabotage a team’s efforts to deliver visionary, disruptive changes to the enterprise.
To avoid these dangers, companies and law firms should take proactive steps to ensure as successful an IPMS implementation as possible, which we will explore in Part II of this series.
Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.
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