Welcome to blog two of the ‘Guide to Choosing a LIMS’ series. In this blog we’re tackling recommendations. It’s surprising how many people still choose a LIMS based what a colleague used in a previous role or what’s been suggested by a business acquaintance. “Oh, in my previous role we used ‘insert system name here’ and it was ‘insert adjective here’”. This is not a problem in itself, as referrals and recommendations are a great way to choose new products and suppliers.
But it can be limiting if you choose a system based on this recommendation or relationship alone. What’s best for one lab may not be best for your lab or Biobank. Remember, you’re assessing a LIMS against your requirements and acceptance criteria, not someone else’s. So, don’t use recommendations and referrals as a possible shortcut when choosing a LIMS but as one important tool in your LIMS selection strategy.
The good, the bad and the ugly side of LIMS recommendations
When used as part of an overall LIMS selection strategy, recommendations and referrals are incredibly important.
Suppliers can, and should, wow you during their product demonstrations. That, coupled with your recommendation from a colleague or business acquaintance can seem good enough.
But do you really know how your recommender used the LIMS? How often did they use it and for what? What role did they take in the software selection and implementation process? What was their relationship with the supplier? Depending on the answers, that person’s LIMS experience could be tainted – for good, bad or downright ugly! For example, if they believed the LIMS was ‘thrust upon them and they had no say’ then they might not think too favourably about that system.
To get the most from referrals you should try, wherever possible, to experience things first-hand. This means talking to the customers directly and, even better, seeing their software in action. To get as unbiased a view as possible you should try to visit at least 2 different customer sites. As well as see people using it across a range of roles.
When applied in the right way referrals can give you:
- An objective, ‘warts and all’ view of the software and supplier
- An insight into how the software works in real-life
- What happened after the ‘sparkle and dazzle’ of the sales pitch was over and what really happened in the LIMS implementation process
- What happened when they were suddenly live and how the supplier’s support and ‘business as usual’ processes work
- An idea of how self-sufficient they are when they need to make any changes
- Some useful hints and tips of what to do and, importantly, what to avoid
It’s not all bad … or perfect!
Try and remember no product or supplier is perfect. Plus, as is often said, you don’t find out how good customer service is until something goes wrong. Though don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you choose a product from a nice, helpful supplier that is unreliable and breaks constantly! It’s all about balance.
When getting a LIMS recommendation, you should try and ask open questions. Plus, you should invite comments about where things did not go so smoothly. As a result, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision. As well as see how the supplier responded and learned from any challenges.
Don’t forget your acceptance criteria
As mentioned right back at the beginning of the article don’t forget about your own acceptance criteria. A LIMS may work brilliantly for someone else’s lab or Biobank. And it’s very easy to get carried away with all the wonderful things the software does for them. You may actually take away some useful tips and ideas to try.
But don’t forget about you! You may, quite rightly, do things slightly differently. Or you may focus on different services or process. How would the LIMS cope then?
It may not be possible for you to see exactly how the LIMS would work for you at a customer site. However, if you can meet a customer that has adapted the LIMS to their processes – and, importantly how – this can give you a useful insight into how you can change it to meet your needs.
Watch out for the ‘top 10 LIMS’ or the ‘best LIMS’!
Also, as a slight aside but equally as valid when considering recommendations, a word of caution on the many sites that claim to tell you about the ‘top 10 LIMS’ or ‘the best LIMS’. These sites are sometimes sponsored so they may not be quite as independent as you think they are. And you need to know what criteria and evidence they are using to support these claims.
In addition, watch out for the ratings and comments against these systems to see whether they are actually from verified customers.
A final thought about LIMS recommendations
When choosing a LIMS, recommendations can be invaluable. They prove to you that someone else has been through the implementation journey with this system and supplier. And it’s all been worthwhile!
But to get the most from recommendations you need to delve a bit deeper, experience things first-hand and get more than one. You also need to consider them in light of your own requirements and acceptance criteria. Afterall, you’re trying to assess if the system is right for you – not them!
Suggestions for questions to ask your recommender
So, with all that in mind, here’s some questions to help you get the most from your LIMS recommendations:
- What criteria and process did the recommender use to choose the supplier and system?
- How long has the recommender been using the supplier and system?
- What changes has the recommender made to the system – from the beginning to the present day? How do they manage these changes and who does them?
- What’s their relationship with the supplier? Does the recommender have other products provided by the supplier?
- What challenges did they face during LIMS selection and implementation?
- How did they obtain user buy-in and adoption?
- Has the recommender been externally audited since the system was implemented? And how did it go?
- What did they do with their existing data? What help was available from the supplier?
- How involved was the referrer in the software implementation? If they weren’t involved in selecting or implementing the LIMS, they may not be aware of the full story.
- How much did the recommender use the software and for which processes? As mentioned previously what you consider important in your lab or Biobank may not have been so important for the recommender.
- Can you see the software in use in real-life and talk to the people using it day-in-day-out? And see its usage across roles.
To read more go to ‘Things to consider when choosing a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS)‘ or to see what we do go to Achiever Medical Laboratory Information Management Software System – LIMS
Catch up on the series so far
- Series introduction-[Just in time for the pantomime season – it’s the oh no it isn’t! Not another] ‘Guide to choosing a LIMS’
- Part one – Avoid going out on a limb* by clearly identifying your acceptance criteria when choosing a LIMS (* pun intended!)