"Our IP department was working well according to our traditional metrics, and we were filing IP efficiently. At the same time, the business relevance of the portfolio was a black box to us, and strategic alignment was low – especially in fast-moving parts of the business.
By shifting to IP Jobs-to-be-Done, it became possible to shape the portfolio to business needs, adapt with agility to changing conditions, and the usefulness of IP was transparent and clear to stakeholders." [1]

The fundamental Jobs-to-be-Done theory was developed[2] as a perspective on innovation that is customer-centric and outcome-driven. It improves innovation results by focusing efforts on ‘jobs’ that your customers (internal or external) are trying to get done. This means going from “what can we sell to this customer” to “what is this customer trying to achieve, and how could our competences fit in?”

By focusing on the “job” without being limited to your current business model, you understand better how to generate real-world value for customers, identify and prepare for shifts in the market (e.g. car ownership to car usership), and maintain an agile and dynamic mindset that is able to pursue disruptive innovation.

The IP Jobs-to-be-Done concept applies this perspective to the IP function. It helps IP organizations develop business-driven IP strategies and kickstart the transformation process from an IP-output-oriented support function, towards an IP department that is a business partner focused on real-world risk, revenue and cost impact. It builds on the insight that the value of the IP function is not defined by its capacity and efficiency in generating patents, trademarks, and copyrights – instead, its relevance and role are defined by how it contributes to getting the jobs of the business done. When implemented correctly, the IP function will no longer be a separate ‘patent factory,’ but a means of generating puzzle pieces suited to the jigsaw that business is solving

An IP function that works with business to build an IP strategy with a Jobs-to-be-Done perspective gains:

  • Focus, to select and prioritize IP activities with clear business relevance.
  • Agility, to respond to changing business needs without slow, parallel strategy processes.
  • Action, by getting people in business, technology, and IP engaged in producing the desired value output.

[1] An aggregate of the sentiment expressed by executives at the three case companies
[2] Created and popularized by Tony Ulwick, Clayton Christensen and others

IP strategy based on IP Jobs-to-be-Done

Every IP organization aiming to become an effective partner to business will have to stake out an appropriate path for its context. The purpose of this paper is not to provide a step-by-step process for transformations, but to demonstrate how IP Jobs-to-be-Done was able to help three companies develop their own path to increasing the business relevance of their IP. In each case, the journey began with the fundamental building blocks of IP Jobs-to-be-Done, which were then iteratively developed in dialogue that included all relevant stakeholders (business, R&D, legal, etc.) (see Figure 1). These building blocks typically include identifying critical business priorities (business drivers), agreeing on how IP should support those objectives and impact revenue, costs and risks (IP value missions), and gradually increasing granularity of the steps needed to get the job done (IP job packages).

Developing IP strategies grounded in IP Jobs-to-be-Done always starts with understanding the jobs of the business, and their drivers. IP Jobs-to-be-Done are defined by linking business drivers to IP value missions, with gradually increasing clarity on the level and kind of value IP can generate. As one company executive simplified it “the strategic pots of money we will need IP’s help to win”. When the full scope of possible ‘jobs’ is made clear, organizations have the ability to make business-informed prioritization, dividing IP Jobs-to-be-Done into critical actions to address immediately, and ones to put in an IP Jobs-to-be-Done backlog. Finally, day-to-day activities can be broken down into concrete and measurable IP job packages for the IP organization and its stakeholders to execute on.

Figure 1: Building blocks of an IP Jobs-to-be-Done based IP strategy

The benefits of IP Jobs-to-be-Done

1. FOCUS
In every transaction and relationship, IP can have a role to play, but it matters disproportionally more in some than in others. Without proper focus, IP functions risk ending up reactively administrating incoming topics, and not paying enough attention to the matters that can really have business impact.

IP Jobs-to-be-Done move IP strategies from broad, policy-like “we protect our innovation” statements, to business outcome-focused and concrete directions, jointly defined and agreed between business and IP organizations. IP Jobs-to-be-Done help identify the jobs that business is struggling to get done, and prioritize not based on chronological order or deadlines, but in terms of euros and cents. This means that focus is on the top jobs, where IP can impact revenue, cost and risk. So that a majority of the IP function’s (and cross-functional partners’) work is focused on strategically addressing the jobs with the highest probability to create commercial value, and whatever time remains is spent on broad capture, protection and risk management. Not the other way around.

Case: How IP Jobs-to-be-Done helped a German TechCo focus IP efforts based on probability of financial contribution

The client’s challenge: A German Technology company found themselves stuck in a rut. They repeated the same old pattern of producing patents in large numbers, then leaving the patents “untouched”, without seemingly creating any concrete value beyond the general notion of “freedom to operate”.

The downside of this was painstakingly proven when the company was caught off-guard, being sued by a new competitor and unable to put up effective counter-measures until very late in the process. After expending significant effort and resources, the company eventually came out on top in the conflict, but only just. They realized that something had to change.

How IP Jobs-to-be-Done helped: The Group CTO and the Head of IP had already ensured that the IP function was well integrated in R&D and Business Units. The issue was not strategic alignment but how to make informed prioritizations and focus IP efforts where it really mattered, instead of spreading too thin.

By applying a new IP strategy framework, the company could rank IP Jobs-to-be-Done based on their business impact potential. This helped the IP function and its stakeholders to make business-informed prioritizations. ~80% of resources was directed to top-critical IP Jobs-to-be-Done and remaining resources were reserved for tracking IP Jobs-to-be-Done that may be prioritized in the future, and for reactive “broad net” support. The IP strategy moved from just being strategically aligned and state “we shall file x patents in the business’ strategic areas X and Y”, to be a part of the business strategy, expressing what success looked like in euros and cents. For example, clarifying that:

  • “We shall build counter-ammunition versus player X in areas A, B and C to limit the risk exposure of product area X with xx-xxx MEUR per year”.
  • “We shall prepare negotiations with players X and Y to reduce cost by X% in 202X”.
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2. AGILITY
IP functions are usually not involved in company strategic planning processes beyond reacting to eg R&D and technology roadmaps. One reason for this is typically the lack of an IP strategy framework that facilitates tight collaboration with business stakeholders and translation between business and IP. Not having a seat at the table in the company’s strategic dialogue results in IP organizations that are slow to shift gears in response to market changes and are unable to address immediate business needs head on.

In addition to help focusing on the business’ top priorities, IP Jobs-to-be-Done help IP functions to be agile in rapidly changing environments and adapt to high-pace innovation. The layered ‘job’-structure creates transparency and flexibility. When conditions or priorities change, the IP strategy framework facilitates the dialogue with business stakeholders. IP Jobs-to-be-Done can agilely be re-prioritized and moved from the backlog, and new ones can be added. IP job packages make reallocating resources and rearranging day-to-day activities easy and practical. So that immediate, high-impact IP job packages can be carried out without torpedoing long-term value creation.

Case: How IP Jobs-to-be-Done delivered needed agility for a US Industrial in a fast-moving industry

The client’s challenge: The US-based multinational industrial faced increased digitalization and shortened demand cycles, and needed flexible strategies to capture an explosively growing market. The client’s traditional customer-tailored solutions typically meant that innovation was rapid, incremental, and instantly delivered to customers – hence difficult to capture. The IP function worked as a stand-alone support function, delivering competently but reactively on incoming invention disclosures with short deadlines, and the core patent portfolio ultimately depended on inventor initiatives, without a direct link to business goals.

How IP Jobs-to-be-Done helped: The company set up a complementary IP StratOps[3] function embedded in the fastest moving (and fastest growing) part of the company. Integrated in the strategic dialogue, the new function re-centered the IP strategy on the primary revenue domains by defining IP Jobs-to-be-Done. Urgent ‘jobs’ were prioritized, and the remainder sorted into a backlog to address in coming execution loops.

The fast-moving nature of the business meant that the strategic direction shifted rapidly in response to changing customer demands and new technology advancements. With the new setup, instead of being stuck executing on an obsolete IP strategy, the IP function could – as part of the continuous strategic dialogue – quickly rearrange and add emerging IP Jobs-to-be-Done. The reprioritization was done in monthly and sometime more frequent meetings with Business-IP Partners, typically Product Owners and their cross-functional network, in each domain. The agile approach meant not spending time and resources on low-priority or nice-to-have topics, but refocusing on new top-priorities. Examples include:

  • When the client entered sensitive negotiations with a leading-edge technology supplier, the IP Jobs-to-be-Done framework helped the IP function to proactively shift resources to build and prepare a favorable bargaining position and support in the commercial dialogue.
  • When the client abruptly made a strategic bet to invest in a new generation of solutions, the IP function was able to reprioritize resources. As a result, IP was involved from the outset, integrated in planning and concepting to sketch out the potential IP impact and roadmap for the new flagship line.
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3. ACTION
A strategy is only worth something if it leads to people taking actions that create business impact. It follows that good strategies create transparency and engagement; making sure that everyone knows what to do and why; that they have what they need to succeed, and that they are motivated to take on responsibility and contribute.

The IP Jobs-to-be-Done framework provides a clear, tangible and communicable structure to link the why’s, what’s and how’s. It helps cross-functional teams both define and understand prioritizations based on clear business rationale. It conveys what the strategic choices made mean in terms of what to do and what not to do. Not only regarding what to protect, but how to use IP portfolios to impact revenue, costs and risks.

Implementing IP Jobs-to-be-Done means moving strategies from high-level visions to actionable plans that product managers, R&D engineers, software developers, IP professionals and business owners alike can rally behind. It helps people break down business drivers and IP value missions into IP job packages that clarify what the strategy means for daily work, while making it transparent as to how everyone contributes to the get the job done

Case: IP Jobs-to-be-Done engaged cross-functional teams at a European ICT company to increase IP’s value contribution

The client’s challenge: Over the last two decades the client had built a world-leading IP function with a singular mandate: package and monetize IP directly, to offset the costs of the portfolio. In their largest business, however, area IP was treated primarily as an R&D byproduct. The only expected value was continued freedom to operate, and portfolios were passively maintained without clear business connection. Despite world-leading IP monetization capacity, the value generated was directed at offsetting IP costs. At the same time, there was an awareness of the untapped value at play, but previous attempts to bring learnings from the IP-savvy part of the company into core business had failed.

How IP Jobs-to-be-Done helped: The company decided to start small and prove value first. Implementing IP Jobs-to-be-Done, the client ran a pilot in a limited, critical segment of core business, resulting in a value-oriented IP strategy. The strategy pinpointed why and where IP was needed, and a pilot team[3] began executing on the strategy with the ambition to test its feasibility and value.

The pilot was a success. The links between IP action and business impact became easy to demonstrate to stakeholders in product management, R&D, purchasing and sales, who could now contribute to IP strategy direction, development and execution. This type of cross-functional engagement was unprecedented, and the pilot became a “lighthouse” case for change. It drew in different parts of the business, all wanting the same “IP business team and tools” to actively impact revenue, cost and risk. Example outcomes included:

  • Negotiators armed with IP portfolios and arguments to steer ongoing industry restructuring dialogues, positioning the client to maintain their share of the contested revenue pool at the right profit margins.
  • Block competitor action in an area that was shifting to a new product mix disadvantageous to the client (lagging key competitors), going from a passive hope that IP would act as a disincentive to directly building and using a targeted portfolio to weather market shifts.

As the IP strategy expanded to cover the whole business area, it was promoted to a core strategic direction, and IP strategy decisions became part of the main product & technology decision making forum.

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Simply put… it gets the Job Done.

Ultimately, IP strategy is about getting the right people in your organization together and giving them a framework for jointly discussing, designing and executing on the steps that will lead your business to success. IP Jobs-to-be-Done helps your teams find common ground on the long- and short-term goals to achieve, and focus efforts on top priorities where IP can contribute the most to business value.

IP Jobs-to-be-Done facilitate, and demand, continuous dialogue on the strategic relevance of IP for the needs of the business. The IP organization becomes a partner in agile, iterative strategy loops where the measure of success is no longer to just grow the patent portfolio, but to be an active player in getting business jobs done.

While no strategy can get off the ground without the right people in place, building your strategy on IP Jobs-to-be-Done equips your product managers, R&D engineers, software developers, IP professionals, and business owners with the Why’s, What’s, and How’s for IP’s role. It creates transparency and engagement through tangible plans, thereby ensuring that the right actions are taken and the wanted output is produced. Simply put… it gets the Job Done.

[3] IP StratOps - Strategic planning of data access-, contract- and IP-based control points, and its Operational execution to co-create and grow digital businesses. Further reading; www.konsert.com/insight/a-missing-piece-to-maximise-digital-business-capability/

This article has been edited by Jordan Sutherland

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