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Managing the Tech Transfer Process with Salesforce

By Brad Schleicher October 9, 2019

A science and technology lab

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) is one of the longest-running and most active tech transfer offices in the United States. Founded in 1925 by University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWMadison) alumni, it is the designated patent and licensing organization for the institution.

WARF advances transformative discoveries to the marketplace to benefit humankind across Wisconsin and the world and invests in the university by partnering with UW-Madison to steward the cycle of research, discovery, commercialization and investment.

WARF logo Mandy Checkai

We caught up with Mandy Checkai, Applications Development Manager for WARF, to learn about how the foundation manages various aspects of the technology transfer process and how they are using Education Cloud to do so.

Why did the foundation consider Salesforce for tech transfer?

WARF wanted something more modern. In the past, we were using an in-house developed software for tech transfer. It was a traditional client/server application, so there was always the aspect of installing the client on every computer. Whenever we had an opportunity to upgrade the operating system on a client computer, we’d have to consider if the software would work on the new operating system. Remote access was also a challenge at that point, and we were really relying on one individual to customize the application and keep it up and running.

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) building

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) building. Photo courtesy of WARF.

What did you look for in a new solution?

We were looking for a web-based application that would eliminate most maintenance and up-time concerns. We wanted a solution that would free us of client installations and eliminate the burden when it came time to upgrade computer operating systems. Being able to access new features as part of a set release cycle was also important.

How did you go about evaluating new tech transfer solutions?

We started looking at the selection process in 2007. It was pretty straightforward. We were already using Salesforce to manage our contact licensing database and there was a space for staff to manage the licensing deals that they were negotiating. More of just a working environment at that point. We reached out to quite a few tech transfer offices to see what they might already be using and there was one office that was managing at least a portion of their patenting and licensing process within Salesforce. We thought, with much customization, we could do the same and cover the entire process at WARF.

WARF building

Photo courtesy of WARF.

What finally helped you to push that decision forward?

Like other organizations, we like to conform our software to our own processes, not the other way around. When we got into the nuts and bolts, we knew we wanted the ability to customize in-house, we wanted the upgrade process to be really smooth and being a nonprofit, we wanted the cost to be fairly reasonable in our minds. When we looked at those considerations, it became really apparent that no other solution could provide that without requiring outside consultants. Salesforce was really the only good option at that point.

We went live in April of 2009. Implementation took over a year with a team of five working full time on it.

After using Salesforce for more than 10 years, how has your use changed over time?

We still service and support in a similar way. We’re able to say yes to more systems requests a lot more easily. We know it can handle anything we want to throw at it and that it’ll always be available to our users. That has had the largest impact on our organization. I imagine that things will change slightly when we provide the online disclosure submission process.

I would say that over the years, our data is a lot cleaner and more efficiently entered and searched, so we’re able to provide better information back to campus. We’re looking at metrics differently than we did back then. A lot of that has to do with what data we’re putting in and the validations around that.

We’re also doing more with dashboards. We have an executive dashboard in Salesforce that’s used with our board, we reference it in monthly meetings, and everyone is looking at the data more than ever before.

To learn more, join WARF for the webinar, Managing the Tech Transfer Process with Salesforce, taking place Tuesday, October 22nd at 2pm ET / 11am PT.


Tech Transfer Webinar