IS I.P THE GLUE THAT HOLDS COMPANIES TOGETHER?

As the need and acceptance back to 2019 levels, to meet and discuss things in person, grows with every company , we visit the latest IQPC Conference on IP Management; and as the delegates told me – it’s been a while.


The view from the 7th floor of the Brewery Conference Centre, as it looks out past Sodermalarstrand, to the famous City Hall and its Blue Room – is one of the best in Stockholm.

True, local cognoscenti, or “new money” – would probably prefer something more sedate and subtle, in Stureplan, politely rubbing shoulders with chi chi shops or private client offices around Biblioteksgatan. But if you are going to invite 140 of Europe’s top experts in Intellectual Property, to congregate face to face, and give their views – then you need to show that their views matter. Nowhere does it better than a standout view of the home Nobel Prize arena.

And matter, they do. With a tag lines and discussion sessions focussing on statements such as “Bringing the IP Portfolio to Life”. And the even more direct “Creating an IP Culture which pursues, protects and leverages IP as a Core Element of Business Strategy” – these are marketing driven perspectives that despite the legal nature of the subject matter – are already embedded in the commercial future of each company.

It is a message that, if you had arrived late on the opening day, even by just a few minutes, you could have missed. Maria Mellgren, IP Director at the Essity company – stood up at around 10.00am and delivered one of probably the top three reach – out discussions of our two days together, and what she said was two fold – that companies do not recognise the importance of brand protection as part of the IP function, that if you are acquisitional, there can be a struggle of management to see where each new brand can play its part.

Or. More important, which, of your portfolio of patents – will play their part. Sure, they are all good eggs – but which are the ones that will fly?
These are commercial discussions. Ingrid Vitanen, VP of Legals at Nokia, talked about “brand enforcement” – that this was a “work in progress”.
This was a Conference where even by lunchtime on the first day, it was clear that each delegate, each protagonist, wanted to play their part. There were no shortage of provocative views, despite the friendly ambience of the occasion . And whilst, for the first few minutes of Day One – there was a clear recognition that if you are going to focus on IP – then Sweden and Stockholm is the place to do it, and the relief of being able to get back together after all these months and years – people were here not to reminisce, but to say “ok – where is this all taking us”?

For the moment, as we moved into an after-lunch discussion – the Conference moved subtly away from Commercials and into the area of Risk. Several Patent Attorneys talked to us in the earlier break, about “financing risk management”. Heidi Adler, Director International Property Rights, at Orion Corporation, spoke for several minutes about “Risk Mitigation”. We are in the Nordics after all. We don’t immediately reach for our Lawyer.

And then there was the more philosophical question – “well, why do we have IP issues at all”? Are they not suffice gently regulated?

As the day progressed into Day Two, slowly this became a discussion about risk, and reward. And is the move towards open standards, ie, where everything fits and we can each benefit from the others developments or intellectual property – the term was FRAND was mentioned several times – and the notion that, as far as legal protection was concerned – there is no simple answer. We just have to pick our battles.

Ok – fair enough.

It took way into the Conference before Felora Mofidi, Global Head of Intellectual at DSX, voiced something that many of us had been thinking, but few had mentioned sufficiently – that, – if we believe in the value proposition commercially of our IP, then this demands a change of culture. Only 30% of delegates seemed to “get” this point, but it remained one of the standout moments, subtly thrown in to the mix of argument, but it represented the journey of IP from the purely legal patent management, to the realisation that corporate value depends on everyone getting on the same train, so to say.

It was a key moment, and fitted the direction of the Conference as a whole. As Day Two talked about “Capitalising on Future IP Opportunities “ – I quietly slipped away.. I had an evening meeting further north.

IS FINANCE JUST ABOUT TECHNOLOGY?

We sit in on the recent Future of Finance Conference at London Wembley, from the expert people at IQPC, and congratulate them on a great bringing together of like minded people.

I push open the revolving doors at the Hilton and walk across the soft carpet. It is quite silent, very few people. There is no signage of the conference but it’s obvious the way to go is upstairs. I follow the escalators up two floors and there we are. The girls at the Conference Reception smile, hand me my badge – “sorry, what was your name.. BLOSS?”…. And suddenly, dressed in a royal blue suit and smiling broadly, Richard Walls, Event Director, strides across.

“Richard, great to see you! How was the journey?”

We have never met before in our life. But that does not matter. We are among friends now. IQPC may not have been the first, in these post Covid days – but they were the first that mattered. And if there were some misconceptions, some blind alleys, this Conference was everything that a meeting of minds should be. Groups of varied and disparate financial business leaders mixed with vendors of solutions who had seen all this before, were experienced, who knew the game, knew what to say.

There was a feeling of relief, that we could finally share experience together in a way that was never possible in the far more blunt Zoom and Teams environments. It was not a large event – some 50 or so delegates, and a dozen vendors, but there was never a sales or pushy environment, this was almost Scandinavian in the focus on simple discussion leading to business discussion.

The programme was mixed – but focussed on technical as opposed to commercial.- And even when two of the speakers had to cancel last-minute – there was such goodwill in the audience and protagonists, for others to step up and join the debate.

It was very well organised and structured; the Day One afternoon revolving Group sessions allowed us all to cherry pick the areas of knowledge that we wished to look at. This was a meeting point of shared knowledge. I particularly liked the practical points that Kevin from Siemens Gamesa alluded to, and David Myers’s from Brewin was equally practical in his comments.

Typical was the early morning round table on Day Two, which looked principally at ESG – a concept that few of us had ever considered. It was tough start to the day. After an hour, Richard Walls leant forward from the back and said “we are covering a lot of questions that we had not thought of; we need to plan additional days like this”.

Yes, they do. People nodded their head in agreement at this comment. There was little mention of the impact of people and personnel in the financial changes that were being discussed, the cultural differences that “looking into the future” that cultural differences will bring.

But that again, did not matter.

I got the distinct view that, given enough time – we could have solved the worlds problems. It was a throwaway but so relevant thought on my part.

A Text arrived on my iPhone. I walked away from the huddle taking coffee. My co-Director, Irina, messages me she had just arrived at the Ukraine/Moldova border, from her home in Kiev. Safe at last. Among friends.

Do Virtual Conferences Work?

We review the latest CX Conference from the team at IQPC London, and ask; who needs hotels when you can join in from your own bedroom?

It’s not quite what it  seems. And it may not be a case of “either/OR”…. Angela Johnson, Speaker at past Data conferences, messaged us to say that “she likes to do both, as  both have relevance”. So that’s clear then; you get a lot from just listening to Speakers and delegate questions online, from the sanctity off your office desk or home study; and you get the benefit of impromptu conversations and competitor information, from the essential face/face conference format that we all know.

But life is different now. The Virtual Conference by necessity, will become the de rigeur essential format for any conference company from, now on, for two reasons. First, conference companies have to survive, and there remains an appetite from interested corporates in accessing experience and information, even if remotely. And second – this is too good an opportunity for additional revenues, at a time when all of us are increasingly habitualised into doing everything from our homes. Why travel to a conference, when we don’t even travel any more to our own office? Ha!

The trick, is to bring together the same expert elements, regardless. And this Telco CX, Customer Experience, event, – does not disappoint.

Speakers from some of the world’s most well known corporates, including BT, T-Mobile, and delegates from equally visible brands, exchange questions and answers.

At a time when my home WIFI is intermittent at best, I found the technology to bring people together, was seamless; I had easy access from my MacBook to the presentation screens, I could hear the speakers responses. And if I popped out to walk my dog, or make a cup of tea – well, I could always go online tomorrow and revisit the whole thing.

This conference, despite its apparent customers focus – was designed around the technology to deliver benefit, or the corporate process for delivering a consumer success. It differed from earlier events, which tended to be more HR oriented.

But unlike the more conventional personal conferences, I found that there are no distractions. You log onto a Virtual conference for a reason, and I found myself listening intently to each speaker.

I missed the opportunity to chat to vendors – but I saw this as a work in progress. There are substantial avenues for Content delivery and vendor outreach and I am sure that IQPC will be developing that in due course. I have already registered for the next one in May.

DOES CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE DEPEND ON DATA?

We look at the latest CX Conference from IQPC for the Telco industry, where, if any market depends on data, it is this one.

You would be forgiven for thinking that this is yet another data-driven conference. It is not like we haven’t had enough of these already. And you would be both right – and wrong. But it is an awkward balance. Workshops that describe “leveraging your current data goldmine to deliver a better customer experience” – are a mouthful and redolent of putting square pegs in round holes.

Since when has a “customer experience” – been the result of some IT focus on “data”? And do customers, who presumably are the beneficiary of these discussions, care – when their only contact contact with their telco, is the guy who keeps them waiting on the end of a phone.

It’s a tricky one.

But these questions, have to be addressed. The behaviour of the guy on the other end of our phone, is determined by the solutions and methodologies that he has before him, And that includes the understanding of the psychology of the whole business of choosing, buying, keeping using a telephone. After all, it’s not as if we can do without them – and in many ways, the single unique focus on the telco industry means its focus is what its players want to know about, within their own market. This was not a touchy feely conference.

Having said that, if you accept that the data that we ourselves create when using a mobile – can be assessed to see how both sides can benefit in the future – then this is the Conference you should have attended.

And the data and tech players are many. Key specialists line up to talk about their own experience, their customer experience, with long titles such as; Head of CX; Chief Experience Officer, Data Transformation Manager – then moving on to the more commercial “VP Sales” – with which we are more familiar. It is three days of intense but relaxed discussion. You choose the sessions you want to look at, and it is up to how proactive or reactive you wish to be. Key topics range from the evergreen “how do I stop churn”, to..”how do I train my call centre properly”. They are practical, basic,

We sat and chatted with a random selection of delegates, from large and small players, who came to “keep up with what is going on” – and with a broad range of vendors, who increasingly are moving from the pure tech of handling data, to a more customer focussed look at how you and I behave.

If there was one standout dawn of realisation, it is that we have all moved on from GDPR. Nobody mentioned it to me, and I wasn’t going to start that discussion. And lets face it, as consumers, we weren’t interested in it anyway…

WHY ARE BIG COMPANIES, BIG? IS IT BECAUSE THEY LOOK AFTER THEIR CUSTOMERS?

We look at the recent CX Network Conference in Stockholm and ask, maybe it’s more than that?

The next question, which I haven’t raised – is; well, if you are a small company, but you want to get bigger – well, is it just a matter of customer focus? Sorry to say, but the answer is alas No. But I think you knew that already, although some of the answers about attitude etc, might surprise you. I will come back to that one.

If you’re going to talk about Customer experience, then there is no better place to sit down at Fika time and chat with friends, – than anywhere in Sweden. Communal consensus and discussion in Scandinavia is a religion and disturbing any colleague as they break for lunch is like interrupting someone at Communion. But this is 10.30 in the morning.

So here we are; drinking our glass of milk and nibbling on our cake, and we are looking out across the water towards Gamla Stan. Pretty much all the big names are there; Vattenfall, Danskebank, Sweco, and I could go on. Each one looking at the alchemy of – how do you translate the act of dealing with a customer, into an actual repeatable experience that transforms your business to “stand out in a sea of sameness”.

And what the delegates and speakers say is that – customer experience does not start with the customer. It starts with the employee. The problems of employee engagement are bigger than the simple act by comparison, of reaching out to the guy whose payments to you, contribute towards your personal mortgage. If you cannot communicate your corporate focus and reason for existence, within your organisation, there is precious little chance of spreading your gospel beyond that.

In the past, this message has not been understood by management. It has translated into an act of self-harm called “Managed HR”, where numbers and individual performance, ie, measurable stats, have taken prime position.

The message here at this Conference, is that life has moved on. Engage with your own employee – and by default you will engage with your customer. You could say this is a triumph of human values over corporate monotony, but the key message from Stockholm and this CX Network event, is that if you can motivate and create an employee experience, then that individuality will take you beyond the “me too” of everyone else in your vertical market.

After launch we talked in small groups about the mechanics of this process, we talk about innovation, of being brave, of making mistakes in the way you communicate. The best presentations were those who were Ok to admit that “guys, we did not know where this would take us”.

And sure, this is not going to reach the heights of an away day at Disney. There will not be the emotion of a roller coaster ride. But there will be for sure the light-bulb moment.

But the bigger surprise is that this is a pan-market discussion; the usual vertical market focus of a typical CX Network event, has been surpassed by bringing everybody together from wherever they come from, from banking thru Energy, thru Retail, thru data and analytics – to HR. And perhaps that is the secret sauce of this meeting of minds. Ultimately, people are people, and human nature is human nature. Reach out to the individual – and you grow as a business. That’s how you do it.

Do Lawyers need AI? Good question…

We look back at the recent IQPC Conference on the need for AI, within the legal profession, and ask – who needs this anyway?

It’s a stupid and naive question. Lawyers are the byword for heavy and voluminous documents and the search for precedence.  You can argue  that if anybody needs some sort of automated way to find the data that will  get you  out of jail – it is your lawyer.  And whether this is criminal or private or commercial – the economics are clear; understanding  and devising new ways to handle a legal process – and then automating it – can save billable hours.

And that is the question, and why this intriguing and intensive and experience lead two day event,  was so critical – and explains why of all industries, the legal profession is the last to seriously take a peek under the hood, of the benefits of an AI process.  In a market that so depends on its billable hours – why would you want to reduce your billable hours anyway?

It took a day of separate speeches and discussions and coffee networking – before on Day One, we reached this nadir. It was worth waiting for.

Key speakers and delegates from some of Europe’s leading brands, had flown in from across Europe and taken the DLR  from across the road, to meet at Canary Wharf, and listen and contribute. A key strategy and benefit of an IQPC event is the informal inclusion. Nobody is afraid to say what they mean, and everybody understands that the more they contribute, the more they benefit, from everybody else.

In many ways, the informality belies it’s importance as a means of sharing important best practice. And this allows the delegates to ask the difficult questions. Day One, where we were present, allowed all parties to go beyond their earlier preconceptions that billable hours are the key essential, set that aside, and say :”well, there are other ways of doing this now”. 

What is clear is that – unlike say financial services or Chief Data environments, the legal profession does not come to the table with a problem  that it has to fix. People don’t use lawyers because they want to – it is because they have to. This has allowed the profession to do its own thing, in its own way. Up to a point.

Sure, this Conference was friendly, supportive.  Key corporate legal decision makers rubbed shoulders with public sector movers and shakers. Networking around the water cooler on steroids if you will.

But what is clear, now, is that internal competition from one lawyer to the next – and also the growth and competence of Inside Counsel, has woken up the need to be more commercial. The need indeed for survival, in a real world, has finally kicked in. 

CAN A.I. HELP THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND CAN IT INDEED HELP YOU?

We take an advance peek at the upcoming AI Legal Forum from the experts at IQPC, in London this week, and ask – where does AI fit into this very personal relationship-based industry?

The AI Legal Forum is rocking up at what should be already the centre of UK artificial intelligence. With its base for two days this week at the Hilton London Canary Wharf, the venue is surrounded by the movers and shakers in the banking and financial industries. If anybody depends on accurate use of data – it is them.

So we are in good company. The Forum already has some of the UK’s leading Legal Firms as Speakers, including a couple of large Media companies and PDA vendors. It is a broad church. And it needs to be,.

Reading through the nice announcements, what the Forum is there to do, is ask questions of its delegates rather than deliver information. Sure, there will be experience lead discussion – but as much can be gained from the feedback as the initial presentations from each leader or speaker.

A key element will be the redefining of how legal firms calculate their revenues, from what source. A major bugbear from customers who require legal advice is the constant focus on billable hours, and this is a key topic under discussion, as we move in to new ways of assessing client value.

It’s about time. But then, in the legal profession, you could say it has always been that way.

Clever People. Important Discussions.

We engage with the very clever people on both sides of the table at the Millenium Hotel London and ask – why do I not understand this?.


The answer is, of course – that I am not meant to understand it. The whole point of working with people who talk in languages and have skillsets that I do not understand – is that on my side – I have competences that are completely unknown and confusing, for them too.

Business depends on the communication of competences across the divide, and this is why every year as ritual, the IQPC Conference on AI, and on Intelligent Automation – has become a must see event, de rigeur. At whatever level of vertical corporate you are – Data and its automated future, are the way things will go for your industry and you need to be ready.

And it’s not that I am stupid. Mark Whitehorn’s discussion on where automated data can take us, was powerful but as a mere marketeer, was deliberately over my head.

But not over everybody’s head; the questions from the floor were equally intellectual and important, and there was a meeting of minds among a whole section of delegates and the speaker of this initial presentation.

As if recognising this small imbalance – Alasdair Anderson stepped up into the Panel and gave the more business focussed view. And this is the secret so to say, of the IQPC Conference; the balance of many views, and the opportunity to meet with one’s peers, from whatever provenance.

If there were two fundamental questions raised and answered, they were; what does it take to implement this stuff? It is ok having the technology, but here has to be a willingness and an understanding to do so.

As one delegate said; “what does it take in terms of incentive, to open the doors of the people who implement and deliver the benefit of, AI?” And from another colleague – a simple question: “Will this technology make the boat go faster?”

As always, the benefit of the IQPC Conference is as much in its casual networking between episodes.

I have to dash for an evening engagement but by mid afternoon delegates are already in deep discussion. There will be more hopeful of the same, next year.


IQPC schedule of similar conferences can be viewed at; http://www.iqpc.co.uk

The Future of Finance 2019

We look at changes that need to happen in 2019, if Financial Service providers can actually “provide” what you and I want.

The upcoming Future of Finance conference at Hurlingham London in a few weeks, is a landmark – a pointer in the sand if you will, a meeting place where key decision makers in the financial industry can meet to discuss well, where is their market going, and by implication, where are they themselves going?

There is a suspicion that actually, they are not going anywhere. This is reasonable or understandable. It is far easier to paper over the cracks, and this is seen in the way such organisations create “transformation teams”, but still retain the same people and attitudes;  change people’s job titles, play musical chairs with executives, or focus on costs savings – but still carrying the same methodology and still looking at costs instead of looking at efficiency. The two are not the same.

Yet there are two areas that can make a difference, and they simply require a cool look at how you and I behave. In particular; how do we prefer to access our financial info; and what sort of info do we want to have. 

Key vertical market in this, is the rise of the self-service private client – the guy who has savings but where the return on investment is nothing when compared to actual portfolio investment. Surely there are now sophisticated tools that can algorithm all this stuff for the man in the street? Indeed there are. The Tetralog company in Munich (as an example) focus on this sort of Robo Advisory that still retains the use of the face to face Advisor – but gives the client the info in a way he can understand and monitor, automatically. There is nothing worse than seeing graphically how your savings otherwise  are gradually deteriorating over time.

Equally important, is the tangential thinking that wakes up to the fact that, with mobile technology, we are all different now. The irony is that this is not a tech discussion, but a business discussion, by people who may not necessarily be financial – but who can spot how people want to work in the future. Richard Copland, formerly CGI Logica and now Partner at The Futureshapers told me; “ executives no longer have time to take a pause or have the courage to throw out legacy solutions, or legacy ideas”.

But throw things out, they must. And this includes being very open to new ways of doing things. 

We expect the winners in 2019 to be those organisations who are prepared to back their hunches, and the losers? Well, they will be the ones who carry on as before.

Is it OK to Talk to Each Other?


We look at the growth of interest in IQPC Exchange business networking and ask – after years of not talking to anybody, is it now Ok for our corporate leaders to engage with actual people? We report from back from the Chief Data Officer event a few days ago in London.


Absolutely it is. The problem has always been one of habit and even avoidance. Those of you who make corporate decisions have become immune to the deluge of unsolicited emails, and it had bred a culture of avoidance rather than working together.


Yet after decades of difficulty in getting traction, the reality of life has hit home and corporates are now waking up to the fact that talking with people, sharing ideas, saves making mistakes, following wrong paths, and getting faster where you want to be. In short – things have changed.
This is not the first time that the IQPC company have been spreading this gospel; their Exchange programme of events has been running for several years. But our recent visit to the Hurlingham Club and the Chief Data Officer conference for financials – was the first time we have noticed that leading decision makers are not afraid to interact. It is an important milestone.


The Exchange format focuses on a simple reality that bringing people together – vendors with corporates – decision makers with influencers – enables a sharing of experience. It allows corporates to focus on vendors who have something beneficial to say; and it gives vendors a platform to say “hey, we may have something that can help you!”
But that in itself is nothing new. The IQPC secret sauce is the understanding that the location of an Exchange venue, has to have sufficient private areas, gardens where people can take time out, multiple coffee spaces – that can facilitate naturally the sort of intuitive discussion that business leaders need for private communication.


In the three hours that we spent at the CDO event – we had insightful discussions with over a dozen high level directors, vendors and corporates, from all parts of UK and Europe.


For Exchange to work, there has to be a willingness on all sides to want it to work, and the apparent informality belies the work that goes on and preparation from all participants, to share knowledge. But the benefits are clear. We expect to see more of these events in the future.