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December 14, 2020

Intellectual Property Office CTO’s digital transformation principles

Mike Fishwick outlined his framework to ensure digital transformation does more than 'put lipstick on the pig'.

By Edward Qualtrough

By staying true to the government agency’s mission and not aspiring to be a start-up-style software engineering house, the UK’s Intellectual Property Office IPO has been able to facilitate the move to digital channels as part of its patents, trademarks and design IP renewals service, according to chief technology officer Mike Fishwick.

Mike Fishwick said that as CTO he took a role as ‘agent provocateur’. (Photo by Willy Barton/Shutterstock)

Fishwick was speaking to IBM’s director of UK public sector, Andy Astbury, at New Statesman Media Group’s CIO Town Hall Live forum, discussing his principles of digital transformation.

Previously CIO at Fat Face, Fishwick has led the digital, tech and IT function at the IPO since September 2015 when he joined as CTO.

The starting pillar for digital transformation, Fishwick said, was “the recognition that sticking lipstick on the pig was never going to be the right way for us”.

“Our strategy wasn’t just about coming up with more streamlined customer services if you were just plugging them into the mainframe,” he said. “We were committed to creating a digital IPO – completely reimagining business processes – and not just digitalising the existing IPO.”

Agent provocateur

Fishwick said that as CTO he took a role as ‘agent provocateur’, and required support from the board to not just “take the easiest path through” and instead commit to the principles of re-architecting how the IPO operates.

“And not just re-architecting from a technology perspective, re-architecting in its entirety,” Fishwick says.

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Mapping out the IPO’s transformation journey with Deputy CEO David Holdsworth, the agency developed an ambition “to make the UK the best place in the world to monetise your IP”.

“Whether they do or they do not make money is their business; our job is to make it possible for them to do that,” Fishwick said.

“We have this thrive-based aspiration which is for the greater good of the UK – and at the heart of all that is this investment in creating a digital platform, which has been the spine of the work we’ve been doing.”

The Four Cs

Noting how some digital transformations had not succeeded in the past, Fishwick said the IPO needed to recognise it was neither a software or cloud services company.

As such, Fishwick embedded four principles of:

  1. Cloud-first
  2. Componentised architecture
  3. Commercial off-the-shelf
  4. Configure, don’t code

Fishwick’s team decided on the patent, trademark and design IP renewals process as the first business application. These are three services the IPO offers, which Fishwick said the technology team was able to develop as a common business services for customers.

With one team developing the application while another was building the platform, Fishwick used the analogy of being at the fore of the train laying the railway tracks out in front as it travelled forwards.

The service was built and delivered in nine months, achieving a channel shift to the new digital service of more than 90%.

You can see the full discussion with Intellectual Property Office CTO Mike Fishwick, as well as interviews with Ministry of Defence CIO Charles Forte and CIO of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust Joanna Smith, on-demand at the CIO Town Hall Live forum.

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