Archive for February, 2010

Virtual Workforce Best Practices and Lessons Learned

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Laura Schoppe and I have posted several blog entries recently on the virtues of a virtual organization model, including posts on our recent NPR interview, Flex Options in the Workplace, and the benefits of a virtual team. Laura also wrote an article for Mobility Enterprise Magazine. The Fuentek virtual business model is the foundation of how we deliver consistent, high-quality, high-value services to our global clients. During the past nine years, we have recognized several key best practices and lessons learned.


Best Practices for Leaders:


1.         Establish, maintain, and communicate clear and concise expectations and accountabilities for all staff members.

2.         Maintain a focus on results, not where and when staff members are working.

3.         Develop and maintain just enough process definition along with effective training and mentoring programs for staff members.

4.         Institute an effective screening, recruiting and hiring process for prospective job candidates.

5.         Communicate proactively and on a regular basis.

6.         Invest in web-based database, collaboration and communications tools.


Best Practices for Staff Members:


1.         Have the ability and desire to work independently without the abundance of social interactions available in traditional organizations.

2.         Be self-motivated and not dependent on continual guidance, communications, and reinforcement from a supervisor.

3.         Be dependable and dedicated, and consistently deliver high-quality services on time and within budget.

4.         Establish a fully functioning home office that includes business class technology, high-speed Internet, dedicated telephone and the ability to be isolated from household distractions.

5.         Focus on maintaining strong time management skills, and clearly compartmentalizing professional and personal responsibilities.


Lessons Learned:


1.         Managing a virtual team requires increased flexibility from both staff and leaders.

2.         The virtual organization model is more appropriate with seasoned, mature and experienced staff members.

3.         Effective and highly motivated staff members typically have a strong desire for independence and a flexible work schedule.

4.         Satisfaction for both staff and leaders requires effective and continuous feedback loops to avoid surprises.

5.         Leaders must invest in funding cost-effective face-to-face interactions periodically to strengthen communication, collaboration and build trust across the entire team.


Managing a virtual organization requires less time investment day-to-day from a leadership perspective, but it does require greater focus and intensity on how you effective manage your staff.


What have been your professional telecommuting and virtual workforce experiences?


—By Jack Spain

IP Marketing Iterative Process: Executing the Marketing Plan

Monday, February 1st, 2010

An effective, iterative IP marketing process should include a well-conceived plan that focuses on delivering an acceptable return on your resource investments. Once your plan is in place, the fun begins with Executing the Marketing Plan. This essential phase includes contacting the target licensees that you identified through your market research, and managing the interactions between the licensees, inventor, attorneys, and other key technology transfer office personnel. Key steps in this phase to support marketing your intellectual property include:


1.         Contact prospective target licensees utilizing the best practices and methodologies that you have outlined in your marketing plan. Quite often this is a combination of telephone calls, email, conferences, and workshops.


2.         During each marketing campaign, you need to manage your schedule accordingly to ensure you are available to respond to questions and requests about the target technology on a timely basis.


3.         In order to efficiently vet prospective licensees and manage your time effectively, you should have a consistent process to capture and document your interactions. Ideally, you should utilize an IP management database system throughout the entire life cycle of the intellectual property asset. Depending on the anticipated commercial potential of the technology and the number of projects you are managing, it is extremely valuable to have a repository that provides you with the current status and state of each prospective licensee along with key metrics to measure the overall progress of your marketing campaign.


4.         Most Inventors are consumed with their research projects and do not have a lot of time available for a high volume of interactions with prospective licensees. It is important that you are conscious and mindful of the Inventor’s availability and effectively manage the quantity and quality of interactions with each Inventor.


5.         An effective marketing plan is iterative and periodically updated and realigned to reflect the questions and feedback from target licensees. You should update the marketing promotional materials representing your technology to capture the relevant feedback you receive throughout the execution phase.


6.         Obviously, the end goal of this phase of the marketing process is to facilitate development of licensing applications that have a reasonable likelihood of progressing into the Deal phase with the objective of executing a formal licensing agreement.


An essential skill to exercise throughout the execution phase is effective listening. You should be acutely listening to the responses and feedback from your target licensees and learning from how the Inventor responds to questions and challenges from interested parties. While your marketing plan should be an excellent roadmap to present your technologies to prospective licensees – it is also just as important to continuously refine your plan based on how the market responds to the novelty and potential commercial applications of your target technologies.


—By Jack Spain