Today, most laboratories produce extensive amounts of data that come from different sources. These sources are typically not integrated which causes data silos and other challenges, driving the need for a successful LIMS selection and implementation. Data quality is imperative and as data quantity managed by the lab increases, so does the need for collaboration between the Quality Control, R&D, and other departments.
A side effect of these new trends is the many data management challenges now facing small and large organizations. A solution that makes good business sense to help manage these challenges is implementing a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) to automate the data capture needed with laboratory business processes.
By automating paper-based manual processes, a business can reduce its operating costs significantly. You’ll often find cost reductions by integrating and digitizing lab operations such as sample management and testing. As a byproduct, you’ll also see that the flow of information from the lab is streamlined.
Ensuring you have an efficient lab means getting the LIMS implementation correct. This consists of making sure you and your team understand the handoff needed among different groups and where any interdependencies exist. How can you set your business up to succeed with proper LIMS implementation? We have do’s and don’ts that will help you along the way.
It is essential to understand all laboratory processes when introducing a new informatics system. LIMS are typically the backbone of labs, and it is vital to have a thorough understanding of the lab needs, processes, and the areas of greatest impact. Having all this knowledge will allow you to select the right LIMS vendor for your needs.
Once you have identified your processes, opportunities, and the future lab state that your business needs, you’ll need to determine the essential requirements that your LIMS system vendors should have.
Prioritizing the aspects of your LIMS implementation is just as important as making sure you understand all of them. Implementing a LIMS is a lengthy and detailed process. There is a lot to consider, and you’ll want to ensure you don’t get stuck on the lower priority capabilities and lose sight of the higher priorities that will truly impact business and operations. This is a common mistake that is made.
The recommended strategy is to set a list that prioritizes the immediate needs of your lab that will have the largest impact on business. Longer-term needs, wants, and nice to have that may not be as critical should be included on the list but labeled as lower priority and should not derail the implementation. Your list may change many times as you go through the implementation process.
Decision-makers who invest in enterprise software such as LIMS will need to clearly understand why they should invest in a LIMS and how it will benefit the overall business. While a LIMS solution may seem like the obvious choice to employees working within the laboratory, those in management and the ultimate decision-makers may not be as open to spending resources on a LIMS unless they have a clear understanding of how it will impact the organization’s bottom line.
You’ll need to prove the positive ROI that will come from a LIMS implementation to get approval for funding. One way to help sell a LIMS to stakeholders is not only to have a proper ROI analysis but to also acknowledge any potential problems/risks that may be part of a LIMS implementation before you present your business case and have an answer to address or mitigate those problems when they come up. Our recommendation is to get input from a business stakeholder while working on your business case, which will help you prepare for the questions that may come up in your presentation.
As with any large project, a LIMS implementation will best succeed if appropriately managed, and those working on it are committed to its success. A project manager should be included in both the planning and ongoing management of the entire process. This will provide a seamless approach to accomplishing the needed tasks for proper implementation.
It is also essential to know when you need external support during the implementation process as well as the importance of committing internal resources to participate as part of the project. For example, it may be necessary to have the LIMS vendor conduct training with your employees to ensure everyone has the tools they need from the experts. Integrating your internal team with the vendor support team may also help find solutions that may have been missed otherwise.
The LIMS implementation project should also include a plan for risk management and how to mitigate those risks should something go wrong during the implementation. We recommend this plan include an ongoing review of each step in the process to assist in the overall project management.
Having the full support of all staff is never easy. You’ll want to prepare for anyone who may have doubts and help put their concerns at ease. It is crucial to have the staff’s full support to avoid any significant upsets to your overall processes within the lab. Full support means that you’ll have the necessary funding and resources needed to get the LIMS up and running, which will, in turn, benefit the entire organization. A member of the IT or Lab Management team will typically start a LIMS initiative but having the support at the executive level will help ensure a smooth transition when the implementation begins to affect all levels of staff.
Sometimes LIMS implementation can disrupt workflows for employees within the organization and cause them to become upset because they must learn to do tasks differently. By being transparent about the implementation process, you’ll help gain support before changing workflows, creating an overall better implementation process for the entire team. It’s also important to establish communication when essential milestones are hit throughout the process. This will help all staff, including those not directly involved in the laboratory processes, see the progress being made and the overall benefit to the business.
Planning as much as possible well in advance will help to make the implementation process go more smoothly. Getting started too quickly on the implementation without a complete plan will most likely not allow goals to be met within the allotted time and budget. The planned timeline should also have time built-in to allow for any issues that will likely arise.
Some items that should be included in the timeline are defining requirements, KPI (key performance indicators) measures, and vendor selection/evaluation. Businesses that plan appropriately will likely see smoother LIMS implementation processes and overall better performance once completed.
It is best to start your data migration assessment early in the implementation process. Your data is your most important asset, so leaving the migration until last could cause delays in the timeline should issues that negatively affect your laboratory operations arise. Taking the time to access if it makes business sense to migrate data allows you to determine the risk associated with this activity and if it is truly necessary.
There will be incompatibilities between the legacy data structure and the new one. Incompatibilities such as a data field that can have redundant values in the old structure, but which must be unique in the new. How time-consuming the data migration will be, cannot be estimated without having a very good understanding of both the old and the new data model, but such an understanding typically requires a lot of work and is only required during the actual project, not before the project start. This is another reason to start this assessment early within the process and to calculate with buffers for time and budget.
Determining the appropriate LIMS system for your needs and successfully implementing it is not an easy task. Turn to the experts at STARLIMS to learn about world-class Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS software) and other informatics software solutions for collecting, handling, and interpreting the lab data you need to get your products to market as quickly as possible.