If you have ever worked with Process redesign you have probably also come across the universal “fix” of adding on or changing an IT system to “fix” the problem. You have probably also noticed that this approach rarely do anything to the actual problem but transforming it from one system to another.
Intellectual Property Law firms and in-house IP departments are no exception to this. We may say “out with the old and in with the new” “lets change IP Management system and we will be good on our way” but unless we also look at the way we do the work, efficiency gains will only be minimal and temporary if any at all.
When was the last time you looked at how your company deliver IP services to your clients. Can you honestly say that you know the entire process, the value stream? As a client, when was the last time you questioned how the work is being delivered to you by your IP law firm, Counsel or Service Provider. Is the work we are doing on a day to day basis really providing value to the client and to the organization?
By looking at our processes we make a commitment to work smarter rather than harder and we make a commitment to share and spread knowledge. By working smarter we need less resources to produce the same results which provide cost reductions that could be transferred to the client by cut service fees and quicker turn-around time. After all, all your client want is to have their IP rights protected to the lowest possible cost and the highest possible quality. They don’t care how the work is done. But your financial manager does as he notices lower margins, higher costs and less profit.
But processes is an aspect often forgotten or neglected during an IP Management Systems implementation project. Instead of questioning how we work, we spend a lot of time trying to replicate old ways of working in a new system. Since two systems are never alike this often results in having to do “work-around fixes” in the new system, which, in worst case not only keep your processes as “status-quo” but risk making them even more complicated. A more complicated process means more work, higher cost and less value to the client.
So, unless we also commit to look at how work is being done, our processes, implementing a new IP Management System will equal old ways of working which will equal old problems. They may not be directly visible at the surface under the newly firm wide implemented neatly put together band aid that we call a “New IP Management System” but sooner or later they will resurface.
Processes and systems go hand-in-hand. They can help each other or they can cripple each-other. Which do you prefer? For this spring, why not really commit to “Out with the old and in with the new” and do a spring cleaning in your processes. Bring out those post-it notes and put process redesign on the strategic agenda and move towards Lean Continuous Improvement. If you are in the process of implementing a new IP Management System, now is the perfect time.