Balancing Cost Savings and Quality

Balancing IP Costs

Chris Burger, an IP industry veteran and Trexo’s Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer, took time out of his busy schedule to give us strategies and approaches that we think you’ll find helpful when confronted with the challenges of prioritization and balancing cost savings with quality.

Phil: Chris, when we talk to corporate IP groups, a constant theme is “Our budgets are under severe pressure.” While this theme is the same across groups, we find that approaches to dealing with budget pressures are all over the map. What are you hearing from your clients about controlling costs?

 

Chris: Great question, Phil.  Cost pressure is certainly a constant theme among IP groups.  That said, I find many corporate IP departments struggle with identifying how to reduce costs without sacrificing the quality or quantity of their IP and then deciding if they want to make a “big splash” with radical changes or smaller, less disruptive incremental changes.  Unless there is a defined mandate to save X% on their budget, and X is a very high number, most corporate IP groups look for easier wins.  Once the size & scope of the cost reduction goal has been identified, the next challenge for IP managers is deciding which tasks, processes, or roles should be streamlined or automated.   

 

Phil: That’s interesting, Chris. I hadn’t really considered the motivations behind the “big splash” and incremental approach, but it all makes sense. It also leads me to a couple more questions. First, how do you see organizations prioritizing what should be streamlined or automated? Is it by savings, ease of implementation, or some other factor?

 

Chris: While every organization is somewhat different, there are typically common threads across IP groups.  Most look for incremental wins, which include solutions that are easy to implement.  Change management is a huge obstacle in any organization, so trying to overhaul massive enterprise-wide systems or processes is usually too complex for most organizations effectively adopt.  I would suggest companies refer to their network of peers or IP vendors who are thought of as thought leaders to help them identify which tasks may be “low-hanging fruit.”  

 

Phil: We all know that focusing solely on costs can lead to disaster in IP. How does a group balance cost and quality?

 

Chris: It goes without saying that companies can’t sacrifice quality, especially with something as valuable as their IP. Ultimately, it comes down to companies being very selective about choosing the vendors with whom they decide to partner. Companies should consider several factors when evaluating external help.  

 

  • Does the vendor have actual hands-on IP expertise in the area they serve?  Companies should look at vendors with extensive IP experience who can provide best practice recommendations.  These recommendations should come from the vendor having actual IP experience coming from being in the trenches.  For example, a vendor whose team members have been IP paralegals for decades are likely better able to provide real-world advice to companies looking to streamline paralegal tasks than a vendor whose team’s experience has been serving as a consultant.
  • Does the vendor focus exclusively on IP – and not just focus on IP, but the specific niche aspect of IP they’re looking to address?  For example, if a company wants to optimize its cost forecasting better, an IP vendor focusing on patent research or IP docketing systems may not be the best fit.  Instead, companies should evaluate vendors that focus on cost forecasting.  
  • Does the vendor customize its solutions for each project? No two IP organizations are identical, so a cookie-cutter approach is likely unsuitable for most IP departments.

 

Phil: As you’ve mentioned earlier, change is difficult, and different organizations have different priorities and challenges – plus, everyone has a day job. With that in mind, how does an organization get started? In other words, what’s the first step an organization should take once they’ve identified a challenge they want to take on?

 

Chris: In my experience, there are several ways to get started.   

 

First, talk to your IP network that works outside of your own company.  This could be people you know very well or someone in your LinkedIn network whom you barely know.  See how other companies have solved similar issues and leverage their experience to help shape your own path.  If you’re unsure who can provide advice, post something on LinkedIn asking for assistance!

 

Second, seek vendor input.  This can be tricky, as vendors obviously have a vested interest in selling you their own product.  Look for vendors who have a deep IP background,  heritage, and reputation for under promising & over-delivering.  Since the IP industry is small, you’ll learn that some vendors have a great reputation for actually trying to help their customers solve their problems. In contrast, other vendors have a reputation for pushy sales.  Engage the former and avoid the latter.  Vendors who serve specialized markets like IP should be able to provide references that not only speak to the value of their solutions but also who can attest to how knowledgeable and helpful the vendor is in solving their customers’ challenges.

 

Third, attend industry conferences.  This is usually a great opportunity to network with other IP professionals, learn what’s new in the industry, and discover how other organizations are solving problems similar to yours.  The only downside to this approach is a shortage of IP conferences focusing on IP operations.  Conferences such as AIPLA, IPO, INTA, etc, are fantastic, but sessions tend to focus on the legal side of IP instead of the administrative/operational side of it.

 

 

Phil: We’ll wrap it there, Chris – you’ve given us plenty to consider! From my notes, I’ve captured three takeaways:

 

  1. An incremental approach will likely be the most successful.
  2. Companies must be selective with vendors and do their homework to ensure quality.
  3. Networking is a crucial tool that can help identify where to start and what to prioritize.

 

Lastly, If you have questions or would like operational assistance, I encourage you to reach out to Trexo Global at info@trexoglobal.com

 

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