The European Patent Office optimizes its processes with SAS

From an intranet to a centralized framework: towards intelligent reporting as a step on the roadto becoming a digital agency

The European Patent Office (EPO) supports innovation, competitiveness and economic growth across Europe through a commitment to high quality and efficient patent services. The EPO receives over 160 000 patent applications every year for inventions from all over the world. In the three to five years it takes an application to be checked and granted, withdrawn or refused, dozens of transactions are recorded: every citation, every report, every exchange of correspondence needs to be linked to the right file and put into the right process to be leveraged into business intelligence.

The EPO used the SAS infrastructure to reshape its reporting for greater efficiency. By adding the Landing Page (LP) reporting framework, which works in conjunction with the existing SAS Business Intelligence platform, staff can monitor all aspects of the patent search, publication, examination and grant processes, review indicators and reduce processing times.

The SAS infrastructure was initially part of a comprehensive work restructuring within the agency. Different stages of the patent grant process previously managed over several sites and different electronic systems were brought together into one unified stock management and workflow system. A SAS data warehouse was then created as the basis for the web application now in use. For detailed explorations of data and ad-hoc analyses, about 150 SAS Enterprise Guides were installed across the office. Building on the solid foundation of the SAS data warehouse and a very structured and solid set of data marts, the EPO has added a more agile but still centralized business intelligence (BI) layer that provides the data underlying the reports hosted in the Landing Page framework.

Landing Page is a SAS-stored process-based BI web visualization tool that EPO staff now use as a single point of access for all their reporting needs. Metrics are presented in interactive dashboards such as balanced scorecards and are continually reviewed for conformity with the Office’s strategy. Metrics that can be evaluated at a glance include, for instance, the number of files generated, work priorities and missed deadlines during application processing. Access control, publication control, complete code versioning and personalized dashboards ensure that each employee sees precisely the information that is relevant to them — such as whether or not they are keeping pace with targets. Strategic metrics are cascaded down from strategic reports to extremely operational control reports within a single BI reporting environment.

The pace of innovation is accelerating, and applicants to the EPO want reliable, high-quality search reports for their inventions produced quickly – early enough for other critical business decisions to be taken. The EPO is responding to their needs by streamlining processes to shorten the amount of time required to issue search reports and to make decisions to grant, withdraw or refuse applications. The time taken to issue searches is already down to six months, with examination times set to drop dramatically over the next three years.. The challenge for the BI environment has been to support stricter deadlines, provide effective workload management monitoring and in general support a fast pace of process changes. The Landing Page Framework and its Agile BI component were developed using SAS technology. The creation of a new simple BI report that previously would have taken six months is now available online within two hours.

“Our reporting has become agile with SAS. It’s now accessible to everyone, and there’s a sound strategy behind it,” said Yvan de la Fuente, head of Application Management at the EPO, summarizing the project’s benefits. “Make it simple — that has always been the philosophy behind the Landing Page project. We made major changes in a matter of three months instead of several years and new simple reports are available in two hours. SAS solutions made this possible.”

“With the new reporting system, the EPO has taken an important step towards becoming a digital organization,” added Wolfgang Schwab, Senior Customer Account Executive at SAS. “Something that a number of private enterprises have yet to do — digitize and optimize their processes — has been successfully accomplished here.”

The EPO’s Landing Page framework now hosts about 75 different reports and data services, has 4,600 regular internal users and exceeded two million clicks over 2016. And the limits for what can be accomplished with SAS are still nowhere in sight. After this successful introduction, there are plans to continue developing the system, for instance by increasing user interactivity with the SAS reporting infrastructure through the SAS Share functionality or enabling higher levels in the self-service BI area. When the EPO finalizes its transition to fully electronic dossiers, all prerequisites for seamless reporting with digital files will have been met.

 

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