Get the LIMS You Need – Part 2

Published On: June 28th, 2022Categories: NewsTags: , , , , ,

It is sometimes said that a LIMS is a LIMS, but this is not necessarily the case. Most LIMS will support the basics of sample, test, and result management, but there can be significant differences between systems and the markets they target.

Get the LIMS You Need – Part 2
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Part 1 of this blog series reviewed the importance of identifying your LIMS requirements to ensure the success of your project. We also reviewed some key considerations for identifying those needs. In part 2 we look at how understanding your requirements helps you choose the correct LIMS solution and supplier.
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It is sometimes said that a LIMS is a LIMS, but this is not necessarily the case. Most LIMS will support the basics of sample, test, and result management, but there can be significant differences between systems and the markets they target. For example, specialized LIMS exist to support genomic sequencing that may not be suitable for standard analytical testing; other LIMS, however, will support multiple different industries. How, therefore, can you ensure you choose the right solution?

LIMS Requirements Discussion

The supplier can be more important than the solution

This statement may seem surprising, but as a business-critical system a LIMS must provide benefits for many years to come. As such it is important to choose a supplier you can build a good working relationship with and who is in the business for the long term. All too often potential buyers will select a large number of potential suppliers, send out a set of ill-defined, imprecise and incomplete requirements and ask for quotes to implement a system. A choice of supplier is made based on price, followed by disappointment when the required system is not delivered as expected.

A better approach can be to select a very limited number of potential LIMS suppliers and work with them closely in the early stages of the decision-making process. Here a business case and well-defined set of requirements are vital as they provide the basis for focused discussions around the project, the required solution and what success will look like.

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Selecting potential suppliers

When making an initial selection of suppliers there are a few things that can help you choose the ones who are genuinely interested in working with you:

  • How quickly do they respond to your initial enquiry?
  • Are they genuinely interested in your business and your requirements?
  • Are they willing and able to do an initial general demonstration of their solution?
  • Will they follow this with a more specific demo that addresses defined requirements?
  • Do the questions they ask show an understanding of your application area, as well as project and business needs?
  • Can they provide relevant case studies of similar successful projects?
  • Do they have a solution available aimed at your business area, for example a pharmaceutical manufacturing company will need a LIMS that inherently supports batch processing, lot traceability and has built in links to stability management?

It is also important to understand their history and their future. History is not just how long they have been in business but includes their customer history. Ask about customer attrition rates and the take up of upgrades from existing users. This shows how committed they are to supporting existing users and providing them with viable product upgrade paths. For the future ask what their development plans are and where they are taking the product. This will show if they understand current trends in both IT and laboratory informatics and ensures they are not moving the product in a direction not aligned to your needs.

The Next Step

Once you have found a supplier that you feel comfortable working with, engage them even further before a final decision is made. Here supplier and customer workshops can be invaluable. The supplier will review your requirements with you and almost certainly extract further details of what you need and, potentially, identify missing requirements. They will be able to accurately relate your requirements to their system and identify areas where further benefits can be obtained. From this may come a formal functional requirements document that relates your documented user requirements to how they will be implemented. This can be a key document, particularly for regulated industries. These workshops also allow the supplier to create an accurate estimate for the time and cost to implement the system. Open discussion about costs, available budgets and required time scales can ensure that maximum benefit can be obtained within those constraints.

Summary

Understanding your LIMS requirements and working closely with potential suppliers in the early stages of the decision-making process is vital. To provide the right solution it is important that suppliers understand your needs, the benefits you want to gain from the project and the constraints in terms of budget and time scales. This is typical of any project in any field and in this way a LIMS implementation should not be seen any different from any other business critical project.

Part 3 - Documenting Your Requirements

In the third part of this blog series, we will look at how requirements can be documented to ensure that they are clear and unambiguous. As change is inevitable, we will also cover how requirements can be documented in a way that makes managing change simpler. We will also cover why identifying requirements that will not be implemented should, perhaps counter-intuitively, also be documented.

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