08 October 2018
In these first three months as President of the EPO I focused on understanding how the office functions and the daily challenges faced by staff and management. I’m convinced that by listening to the personal experiences of our staff we can identify how we can improve in the future.
A commitment to quality has been one of the most prominent features of those discussions with staff and has emerged as one of three closely-linked factors which will keep our organisation on track: efficiency, quality and long-term sustainability. In quality, the EPO has already developed a solid quality management system (QMS) over the last few years, the results of User Satisfaction survey are still on the up and the timeliness – which is an essential part of the quality of a product – continues to improve, to mention just a few elements. Now I have to do my part in developing our leading role in this field – both to support staff members in their committed work on quality, but also to ensure that our users feel those improvements too. And in trying to achieve those goals, I’m not going to be afraid to expose any shortcomings.
As a first step, I’ve already tasked a new working group with exploring how we can enhance cooperation with our users, and not just within the organisation. This group will have to assess how to find the balance between the internal and external perception of quality and needs. It’s clear that achieving greater satisfaction is going to be a multi stakeholder exercise, and one which will rely on greater consultation, collaboration and feedback. In parallel I have also asked the EPO units which are not yet in the scope of the current QMS to consider whether undertaking the certification journey may be beneficial for their areas of activity. In this way we can gear the whole organisation towards increased quality.
Related to this is a second measure – opening up new channels for internal and external consultation. We want to receive direct feedback from every stakeholder so we can improve our quality processes by reacting to clearly identified and real needs. An example is the eSACEPO meeting which will take place at the end of October to discuss the quality of the Druckexemplar with our users. And later in December we are planning a conference on Blockchain to evaluate questions surrounding the patentability of this fast-evolving technology.
Internally, we’re also reviewing our quality Key Performance Indicators, to give management and staff quick and clear feedback on where improvement is needed. In parallel, a series of workshops have been organised to discuss quality topics, which will look at better defining high-quality products, among other things. That’s particularly important, because it’s no good us just saying that quality has improved: increased quality has to be felt by our users and the only way that is possible is if we have a shared understanding of what quality is. That desire to find a shared understanding is why we’ll be meeting a number of top law firms later this month.
Thirdly, we’re going to reinforce quality audits, given these are essential for continually improving the quality of our products. A revision of the audit processes is currently taking place so we can identify any high-risk areas and increase the sample size in different areas accordingly. That will mean more reliable data and statistics to see where improvements are needed. Moreover, a more cooperative approach between the auditors and examining division is envisioned in cases of non-conformity.
To support us in the pursuit of increased quality, other actions will include further digital transformation. And we could also take a fresh look at our procedures to possibly simplify some elements and seek further efficiency and quality gains.
I am closely following-up the progress made by all those at the EPO who are involved in enhancing the quality of our products and services. My goal is to ensure that effective measures – which are beneficial to both internal and external stakeholders – are implemented as soon as possible.
Right now, we are just at the beginning of a new journey in which no stone will be left unturned when it comes to improving our quality.