Justifying a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS)
Jul 07

Justifying a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS)

When you’re working with limited resources and budgets it can be difficult to justify buying anything new – let alone an expensive LIMS. Let’s take a new piece of equipment for example. First you have to find what you need then see it in action, chat to reference sites, negotiate a good deal and train team members on it. So, it’s important to know before you embark on this journey why you need it. And crucially what return you’re hoping to get for all your effort and expense.

It’s exactly the same when considering new software. None more so than for a laboratory information management system (LIMS). Over the years LIMS have not had the best of reputations. Sometimes it’s taken labs years to go live with a system that’s cost millions. What’s worse is often the software still doesn’t quite do what they need.

But with the advent of new LIMS vendors offering more intuitive, web-based and cloud solutions things have changed quite dramatically. Crucially, they enable you to start seeing benefits very quickly.

So, if you’re struggling with the volume or accuracy of your data, finding audits and compliance difficult or fed up of spending most of your time on admin then it might be time to consider a new or upgraded LIMS.

Upgrade existing systems or purchase a new LIMS?

If you’re already using a LIMS it can often be easier to justify upgrading your existing software rather than buy something new. You already know the supplier and the product. You might also think it’ll be quicker and cheaper. But make sure you do your homework as it’s not always the case. It could cost you almost as much as your original implementation. Plus, it can sometimes take much longer than you think to go live.

What’s more, after you’ve done all this you may find out that you could have purchased new software with more benefits. It might even have cost less and taken less time to implement. So, before you go straight for that upgrade check what you’re going to get, how long it’s going to take and at what cost.

Don’t forget about technology benefits when justifying a new LIMS

Whether you’re considering a new system or upgrading an existing one don’t underestimate the benefits that new technology can deliver.

Probably the most obvious are the potential benefits offered by cloud LIMS solutions. Hosted software can remove the burden on your IT resources and reduce costs. Plus, authorised users can access the system from anywhere. So, you don’t have to worry about installing software on all users’ machines. Also, when it comes to upgrades – you just get them. What’s more, implementation time is minimal, and you aren’t tied into lengthy contracts.

Also, look out for LIMS offerings that claim to be “cloud-based” but don’t provide full functionality from within the browser. Some solutions have a limited browser client but need software installing on your computer to gain full functionality.

As with everything make sure the benefits offered are right for you. For some labs holding sensitive information in the cloud is not viable. Also, it might not be right for you if you want greater flexibility and control over your software to configure it to meet your requirements more closely.

Technology benefits aren’t just limited to hosted solutions. They may also include APIs for you to integrate more easily with your lab instruments, graphical process designers and system customisation options. Or it might simply be using the latest SQL database to improve processing speeds. All these can bring benefits to your lab.

Return on investment isn’t only about cost savings

When choosing whether to invest in a LIMS you may want to look at your return on investment (ROI) which may help you when justifying its use to the board.

Sometimes return on investment can be easier to quantify than at others. For some processes, for example, it will be easier for you to record how long it took you before a LIMS and compare it with your new timings afterwards.

And when it comes to meeting regulatory compliance, for example, this might mean less time taken collecting information. Plus, the consequences for failing to meet regulatory compliance can be very serious. So, buying a LIMS to support your compliance efforts alone should be more than enough justification.

But let’s be honest, if you’re expecting it to be quicker to enter data into a LIMS than a spreadsheet then this is not going to be the case unless you’re importing the data. The benefit is not in the time it takes but rather in the improvements in quality, integrity, accuracy and consistency as well as the automatic audit trail.

Understanding ongoing costs

If you’re thinking you haven’t spent anything on your existing systems, then consider whether it’s actually still meeting your requirements or if you’ve adopted workarounds or alternatives to meet some of your needs.  You might be running processes that are no longer optimal and that are slowly costing you money.

For any system to remain relevant and continue to deliver benefits you’ll need to make some level of investment each year. Whether this is spending time configuring the system to meet changes to your requirements or, alternatively, commissioning your LIMS supplier to make any changes on your behalf. You also need to be aware of any upgrade costs. Plus, you may require refresher training or to train new starters.

These all need to be factored into any business case.

A final thought about justifying a LIMS

When considering purchasing a new system or upgrading you need to understand what challenges you are addressing. As well as the benefits that you’re realistically hoping to gain. Some benefits will be qualitative while others will be quantitative and it’s important that you identify both of these.

You can then use this information as a starting point for justifying any potential expense and your resource and time requirements versus anticipated benefits.

Finally, remember that upgrading your existing LIMS is not necessarily cheaper or easier than implementing a new system. Take a little time to understand what’s involved. It’s probably been several years since you went live with your existing system and a lot’s changed. So have a look and see what else is out there – you might just be pleasantly surprised.

About The Author

Sharon Williams has over 20 years’ experience of helping businesses successfully implement Sample Management Software and CRM systems. Appreciating that the software will deliver significant business change and improvements, Sharon guides businesses to help optimise these benefits. This includes advice on how to obtain user buy-in, evaluating and redefining existing business processes and how to gain a better understanding of their data to provide invaluable insight and inform business decisions.