Annual Review 2019

IT: driving digital transformation

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Decorative image - Deeper look at: IT - driving digital transformation

Digital disruption is impacting industries across the globe. At the EPO we believe that IT is the enabler for an organisation that remains 'future ready'. After an audit of our IT operations, we swiftly implemented a major restructuring in 2019 by building empowered, cross-functional teams focused on delivering value to users. Last year these teams started work on turning the ambitious IT vision set out in the EPO's Strategic Plan 2023 into a reality.

Essentially, our IT strategy is about reimagining future business processes to target multiple workflows with the same technologies. This calls for seamless collaboration between IT and other business units. By gaining a deeper understanding of stakeholders' priorities and embedding their feedback into a continuous delivery cycle, we will create tools that offer an optimal user and customer experience. Our approach can be broken down into five main streams:

Supporting an agile workforce

In 2019 we began to rollout new laptops equipped with state-of-the-art software for all staff. Coupled with upgraded remote access for teleworkers, these measures gave the EPO a far more flexible workforce. By relocating our service desk to The Hague under a new contract, we also started to provide higher quality support to users in a digital environment.

Faster delivery via a new highway

Based on a new reference architecture (Kubernetes), we launched a technical platform for streamlined continuous delivery (an IT delivery "highway"). After building cross-functional teams and improving co-operation with all areas of the EPO, we began to prepare several pilots and create product teams. These initiatives were designed to pave the way for fast-track digitalisation and paperless solutions for the patent granting process (PGP).

Better tools for short-term benefits

We continued to improve our existing tools in 2019, delivering short-term benefits for both examiners and formalities officers. These "early wins" included NPL search, easier access to original documents, a higher-performance eDrex and optimised questionnaires in CASE. For our external users, we enhanced tools by launching the new Espacenet and a pilot for eFiling 2.0, as well as expanding Federated Register, implementing CPC International and participating in WIPO-DAS.

Migrating to cloud-native architectures

One of our goals is to simplify the EPO's overly-complex application landscape, replacing it with a harmonised, open source IT architecture. We embarked upon this journey in 2019 by beginning to decommission obsolete hardware and software, and roll out state-of-the-art alternatives. Going forward, we intend to decouple from our legacy systems and migrate to cloud-native architectures. This will positively impact information security, lower operating costs and ensure that our key applications are future-ready.

Creating a continuous learning culture

In 2019 we continued to promote a learning culture that equips our in-house IT experts respond effectively to uncertainty and adapt to stakeholders' evolving needs and even fail fast to bring some agility into our culture. Our approach to upskilling involved using design-thinking to engage in the PGP customer journey, adopting lean change management processes and setting up a specialised IT project office. Looking ahead, continuous learning will help us to fill skill gaps and boost staff engagement.

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