04.02.21

EPO is a Zombie Institution Where Managers Have “Repeatedly Used Buzzwords and Catchphrases Like “Digital Transformation”, “Artificial Intelligence” and “Upskilling”, to Name a Few.”

Posted in Europe, Patents at 2:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Jorge Campinos
Entirely clueless management is a recipe for disaster

Summary: The Staff Representation at Europe’s second-largest institution cautions that the management, by its very own admission, is thoroughly dysfunctional and incapable of running the institution

The Central Staff Committee of the EPO published an interesting report at the end of last month. A reader sent us a copy, highlighting the fact that António Campinos with his maladministration continues the tradition of Benoît Battistelli, whose faulty system cost a fortune and was then canned (223 million Euros down the drain).

“The EPO is going down the drain, but some firms profit from that demise, e.g. Microsoft.”“In this publication,” says the Central Staff Committee , “we explain how the reorganisation of BIT, more than 100 ambitious projects and the removal of experienced staff mean that the ‘spaghetti structure’ is on the verge of collapse, despite massive budgets for the IT Roadmap.”

Putting aside illegal granting of European software patents, watch how they mismanage software in-house. Didn’t “HEY HI” (AI) magically fix everything?

Zentraler Personalausschuss
Central Staff Committee
Le Comité Central du Personnel

Munich,30.03.2021
sc21043cp

BIT and the mystery of the spaghetti structure

Leading by example rather than pointing the finger at others

It is both disturbing and frustrating to read the note in which VP1 and VP4 complain about the tremendous responsibility they had to assume with regards to the “complexity of our IT systems with its ‘spaghetti structure‘ [sic]”. It took them more than two years to realise this, whilst this complexity is hardly a surprise to EPO staff who deal with operating processes.

Towards the end of their note, in total contrast to the statement above, VP1 and VP4 suggest that they take no responsibility at all – and you are directly exposed to the unmitigated consequences of their failed management.

The role of BIT and previous investments
BIT is supposed to be a support service, especially for thousands of examiners at the EPO and in national offices and to make sure that the EPO can fulfil its mission as the focal point for data in the patent world.

How is it possible that the EPO finds itself in a situation today in which BIT senior management claim that they “will do [their] utmost to restore [the systems] as fast as possible” when what we see is that the same systems break down? Rather than being on top of things and making sure that this cannot happen?

Where did all the money go that was put into the IT Roadmap? At the end of the previous President’s term, we were getting green-flag messages: the new IT tools were 90% ready, just a lick of paint before it all could be launched.

Furthermore, according to the Audit on Automation by BCG, published at the beginning of 2019 by the current President and VP4, none of the now apparent problems have been detected to this extent.

And now we are told that the ‘spaghetti structure’ is on the verge of collapse?

Who is doing what in BIT
Numerous changes took place within the EPO’s IT landscape in the last two years. In parallel with the launch of BIT, yet another reorganisation took place in May 2019. As a result, almost all key positions in BIT senior management were filled by newcomers, often without substantial experience in the patent world and unfamiliar with the complexity of its processes and requirements.

At the same time, a systematic crowding out of experienced managers and staff took place1. No less than eighteen directors were removed from their management positions and declared
directors “ad personam”. It is difficult to imagine that a proper knowledge transfer or handover was ensured. Colleagues inside and outside of BIT were struggling to follow the rhythm of reassignments and to keep up to date with the mapping of areas of responsibilities.

Early warnings in vain
In June 2020, Staff Representation stated in their intervention2 during the Administrative Council that “[t]he EPO’s application landscape is immensely complex, and misconceptions about the complexity caused by overly ambitious projects can easily lead to software disasters that cause even greater stress.”

These concerns were not taken seriously enough by EPO senior management. Instead, they were confident enough to launch more than 100 ambitious projects3, almost all heavily dependent on BIT resources. Who hasn’t seen some management presentations which repeatedly used buzzwords and catchphrases like “Digital Transformation”, “Artificial Intelligence” and “Upskilling”, to name a few.

Conclusion – don’t point at others
In the end, it boils down to this: We are now seeing the consequences of a one-sided recruitment policy, oversimplification and over-ambitions which were neither backed with sufficient experience nor awareness of the complexity of the patent world. Nor was senior management willing to listen to those who had experience and made their voice heard.

Being a manager is more than just a formal role. It is about accountability and responsibility, as well as acting in a sustainable way. And not leaving a pile of shambles while pointing the finger at others.

This is what the Organisation, the staff and the users have a right to expect.

_____
1 New BIT organisation and staff changes, 02.05.2019
2 Minutes of the 163rd meeting of the Administrative Council, CA/PV 163, paragraph 50
3 Putting the SP into action, 10.03.2021

This was posted ahead of the first of April, but clearly this was no joke. The EPO is going down the drain, but some firms profit from that demise, e.g. Microsoft.

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