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Apply a systems approach to prioritize technologies and improve time management

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: May 23rd, 2018

Managing a large portfolio of technologies has always been a daunting task, but now that additional responsibilities are being thrust upon university TTOs, time management has taken on increasing importance.

In a session focused on this issue at the AUTM annual meeting in February, tech transfer veterans shared how they reduce large portfolios into manageable chunks, while also making sure that the most promising assets get the attention they require.

One could argue that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to optimizing time, but the TTOs that have had success in this area presented their roadmaps for improvement, offering evidence that a laser-beam focus on process can deliver dividends in terms of inventor satisfaction as well as productivity gains.

Just how overwhelming is the task of managing a large portfolio of technologies? Brian Shedd, who now heads Baton Rouge, LA-based Precision Technology Consulting, shared how he quantified the issue while working in the TTO at Louisiana State University (LSU). During an experiment to see where staff members were spending all of their time, Shedd tracked everything from how many minutes he devoted to answering e-mails to the hours spent engaging faculty and industry. In the end, he concluded that he spent 3.84 hours a day on technology management.

Shedd noted if you apply that amount of time for five days per week, spread out over 48 weeks, it leaves you with 921.6 hours spent on technology management in a year. “So if you have a portfolio of 150 cases, that is six hours per case per year,” he said. “How much can you really get done in terms of commercialization of technology in six hours in a year? It is not going to happen.”

And yet, Shedd noted that this is the type of workload that many tech transfer professionals face. “You are putting out the fires and you are oiling the squeaky wheels … so that is where your time goes,” he said. “You are spending more time on certain cases, but you might not necessarily be doing that with a strategy or purpose.”

The picture Shedd painted of an overwhelmed technology manager is one that R. Page Heller, now the president of Hopes Creek Consulting in College Station, TX, remembered well from his early days of working in tech transfer. He recalled trying to give every inventor’s disclosure a fair market analysis, and quickly realizing that it just wasn’t possible.

Consequently, over the years, Heller has fine-tuned a system for prioritizing and managing technologies that begins with a one-page triage tool that provides a quick overview of the strengths and weaknesses of specific technologies.

When Heller first implemented the triage tool during a stint at Texas A&M’s TTO, he had a particular goal in mind. “We wanted to be more aggressive in closing technologies to get the number down,” he explained. However, while the triage tool was a good first step, Heller found that it was useful to further stratify the technologies into several buckets that are tied to specific management strategies, based on the amount of effort required. This enables technology transfer professionals to optimize their time while also giving the technologies with the greatest potential the best shot at market success, but it must be done transparently, he explained.

“If you do this behind the scenes, then you have angry inventors,” noted Heller. “It has got to be transparent, and it has got to give you enough time to actually work on your projects and feel good about coming to work every morning.”

A detailed articled filled with time management strategies for tech transfer professionals appears in the May issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and access the complete article, along with our online archive featuring 11 years of best practices and success strategies for TTOs, CLICK HERE.

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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