Last week we posted about the first part of an article in Inside Counsel where Jeff Ranck, MultiLing board member, was interviewed about his experience as associate general counsel at Microsoft.
In parts 2 and 3 of his article, Rich Steeves, Inside Counsel senior editor, looks at outsourced services for an IP department, one of which is quality translations of patent applications and other IP documentation.
The key, says Ranck, is to “start at the bottom and build it up,” in terms of the types of work to outsource. His team asked two questions to help identify which assignments to outsource:
- If we could be assured that it would be handled competently, what work would we be willing to give away?
Most work is repeatable and you can apply process management techniques to that work. The team felt confident giving away certain duties, so from that point, it was a matter of figuring out the process and finding the best place to acquire services at the best price point.
- If we had extra resources, what would we do that we aren’t doing now, to add value?
The answer to this question became the basis of the work the team kept in house. Instead of simply adding more people—internal or external—to file more patents, this question helped them add strategic value to their efforts. The team turned its attention to making sure all of its data was correct. Attorneys who had spent a great deal of time working on process matters filled their time with client counseling. Attorneys now had the ability to deliver more high-level work.
From his experience building and managing outsource partners, Ranck also identified several best practices, a few of which are highlighted here:
- Differentiate yourself from other clients: visit, offer trainings, develop a team identity
“We had 150 people in India who worked for Microsoft,” said Ranck regarding how the outsourced teams referred to themselves. Sharing your culture with outsource partners can help reinforce positive attitudes and improve work outcomes.
- Assume no turn-key services, but build processes with the vendor instead
“Critical to our success was to find a partner without preconceived notions of what we needed, who could figure out how to build our value chain, coming in and building the types of services we wanted to match the goals we had,” said Ranck.
- Take a long-term approach and create your own “best” vendor
“Our outsourced vendors were true partners,” said Ranck, while also noting that It’s difficult to build reliance on external people. “We needed to make sure our relationships were strong and that trust was embedded in the way we did things.“
Two years after the initiative began, Microsoft had tripled its patent filings and only increased its internal headcount slightly. More importantly, they only had a 20 percent overall budget increase, mainly driven by more filing fees.
As an IP outsourcing vendor for patent translation and related filing services, MultiLing strives to build these best practices into its client relationships. By removinga lot of the process from the client, they are free to put their expertise to work on strategically managing their patent portfolios. As relationships are built over time, clients come to trust MultiLing’s efforts and work with us to build solutions that meet their unique needs, and they ultimately share additional responsibilities with our translation teams. We value our client relationships and are committed to helping clients succeed with high integrity patent protection and a lower total cost of patent ownership.