Implementing a SaaS LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) is not as simple as ‘pay your money and off you go’. Although you don’t need to plan for the system’s installation and ongoing maintenance there’s still plenty of preparation to do.
Firstly, you need to understand how the system works as well as how you’re going to use it. There may also be some options you need to set so you’re using your terminology and classifications. If this is the case, you may want to document these and then decide who’s going to implement the changes. You should also think about how you’re going to train everyone to use the LIMS and encourage user adoption, so you know you’re using the software optimally.
Implementing a SaaS LIMS doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming and with careful planning you can be up and running quickly. Here’s our top 5 considerations when planning your SaaS implementation.
1. Establish a project team
For any software system to be effective and deliver results it needs to work with your processes and, crucially, it has to be used. Assigning a project team to manage and oversee the initial activities to get your LIMS up and running as well as handle ongoing updates can make a significant difference to the system’s success and adoption.
If only one person is using the LIMS and is responsible for the system, then it’s fairly obvious who makes up the project team. But if multiple people are going to be using or accessing the system, even if this is only a small number, you should assign a Project Manager or Lead. The Project Manager helps make sure everyone knows why you’re implementing a SaaS LIMS and also coordinates specific activities such as data migration, training and ongoing support.
The SaaS LIMS supplier may offer a range of implementation services either as part of the initial installation package or as optional services. Your Project Manager will be responsible for working with the supplier to complete these services.
If you’re planning on configuring the system yourself, you’ll need to make sure that you’ve agreed how you’re going to manage this. You’ll also need to decide who is going to carry out the updates so that you’re sure they’ve had the appropriate level of training. Finally, be clear on what support is available when you’re carrying out your own configuration.
2. Identify how you want to use the SaaS LIMS
Hopefully, before choosing your LIMS, you’ve identified what you need the system to do and what benefits you’re hoping to gain by using it. It’s important to remember that no software system will perfectly match your requirements ‘out-of-the-box’. But before you plough headlong into using the system it’s critical that you establish exactly what functionality the software offers and how.
This means spending time working through your processes with the system and identifying any gaps.
You may decide that you can work with what the system offers either by tweaking your processes or holding extra information in linked systems or notes. However, you may need to make some critical changes. In this case, you’ll need to know what you can configure to make the LIMS meet your process and data requirements.
Equally it’s important to understand what you’re not going to use the system to manage, and that you clearly communicate this to the team.
3. Decide whether to migrate existing lab and sample data
The decision to migrate your existing lab data into your new LIMS will impact your SaaS deployment timescales. It’s not the actual import of the data that causes delays – it’s getting your data into a consistent and standardised format beforehand.
If you’re migrating existing data into your SaaS LIMS create a plan and start working on it now. Even if you haven’t chosen a system yet. Our 7-Step Guide to Data Migration has some useful hints along with our latest series of data import blogs.
If you’re not importing legacy data make sure your team is clear on how to access and manage any legacy information.
4. Don’t skimp on training
Some SaaS LIMS are highly functional, flexible applications. In order to use them effectively, it’s important you train your users accordingly. This could be through online training, videos, working through notes, or classroom sessions. Likewise, you should make sure that they have time to navigate and get used to the system. As a result, you’re helping increase user adoption and confidence in the system. What’s more, by training your users you can be confident that they’re using the system consistently; following protocols and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
So, when implementing a SaaS LIMS make sure you factor in plenty of time for end user training. Also, provide details of someone they can contact – such as a Super User – should they have any questions or issues.
5. Plan and communicate change
When you start using any new software it’s a change to how you worked previously. For some users change, no matter how small or beneficial, can be daunting or at least unsettling.
Also, a LIMS doesn’t always reduce everyone’s workload. If you’re moving away from spreadsheets and introducing rules and recording more information about each sample this takes more time. As a result, any benefits won’t be felt at the beginning of the process by those entering the data. These will come later in the process when searching for samples or analysing samples. As a result, some users may be reluctant to use the new system.
Consequently, it’s important that everyone understands why the new system has been introduced. Its anticipated benefits may not be obvious to everyone. Making sure those using the system are included – through training, support, or user groups to share ideas – helps encourage usage. Plus, they can also potentially lead to previously unforeseen benefits.
A final thought about implementing a SaaS LIMS
When implementing a SaaS LIMS, as with any new system, you’re introducing a new way of working. Even if it’s just a new mechanism for recording and accessing data. So, consider how you’re going to roll-out the software as well as clearly communicate your reasons for implementing a new system.
Regularly measuring and reviewing the system and your data are crucial to ensure it stays fit for purpose. What’s more, keeping up to date with enhancements in the LIMS makes sure you continue to gain maximum benefit. Similarly, you’re constantly refining your processes and should adapt the system so it continues to meet your needs. Finally, don’t forget to think about how you’re going to manage any ongoing issues and questions once the system is in use.