Helping you ‘see the woods for the trees’ and work out what’s right for you
We wanted to take a fresh approach to helping you choose a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). We know it can be a bit daunting out there. And it can get very confusing. For example, several systems claim ‘We’re the most configurable LIMS in the marketplace’ or ‘We’re the only system that does ‘insert function here’. Plus, if you add to this the incredible range of weird and wonderful buzzwords and IT jargon used to describe LIMS, no wonder ‘seeing the woods for the trees’ can be difficult.
Our 7 areas that we suggest you ‘explore a bit more’ when choosing a system will help you cut through some of this confusion. We want to arm you with suggestions and tips that will allow you to get some simple, straightforward answers. And to put you in a position to ask the supplier some challenging questions! So, you can find the system that’s right for you.
And keep an eye out for our accompanying blog series where we’ve expanded on these themes.
First things first – what’s a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS)?
There are countless articles out there explaining what a Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) is, what the software should do and the potential benefits of implementing it.
But essentially, it’s software that helps you manage your laboratory operations and accompanying data such as samples, storage, analysis, study and participant information. Typical LIMS offer functionality such as workflow and process management, data capture and validation, data analysis, systems integration, quality control and auditing. For more information see What is a LIMS and Advantages of a LIMS.
All labs and Biobanks aren’t the same and neither are all LIMS
No two laboratories or Biobanks are exactly alike. Processes, data, security, infrastructure, team and protocol can all vary – quite significantly. You also need to factor in volumes and numbers. Both in terms of people who’ll be using the system and the amount of data you’ll be working with.
Similarly, no two software systems are the same. On the surface they may all seem to do the same things. However, delve a bit deeper and you’ll find there are functional, security, workflow and technology differences.
The main thing for you to remember is that a system that works for one laboratory or Biobank may not be suitable for another. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’.
Cutting through the jargon and buzzwords
Firstly, don’t be bamboozled by jargon and buzzwords. Never be worried about asking a supplier to explain how something works to you in ‘layman terms’. If they can’t explain it simply, it could be that they don’t understand it themselves!
Where to start when choosing a LIMS
Before you go off searching for LIMS providers you need to know what you’re trying to achieve. Otherwise you’ll be both overwhelmed and in awe of the myriad systems out there.
When looking at what you need from a LIMS most people start with a list of functions. This is often based on what they’re using at the moment that works or doesn’t quite work how it needs to. This is an important part of the process but it’s not necessarily going to give you the information you need to help you differentiate systems. For example, I’d be very surprised if there’s not a LIMS out there that doesn’t allow you to register a sample, store a sample or even aliquot a sample.
Plus, if you’re pulling a list of functions together who’s providing you with this list? Is it the IT team that never use the software directly, the user that doesn’t deal too well with change, the person who wrote the existing system(s) or the user that will be using it day-in and day-out? They’ve all got valid opinions but there’s probably some conflicting ones in there too. So, when it comes to listing ‘what’ you want your LIMS to do, you’ve probably got this covered. But how do you work out what’s important?
7 areas that put you in the driving seat
In our guide to choosing a LIMS we’ve looked at 7 areas that will help you dig a bit deeper into a system to understand how it can help you. They’ll also help you prioritise and enhance your list of functionality requirements for LIMS and:
- Work out what’s important
- Identify areas that will differentiate LIMS and their suppliers
And it’s important to note, you should also be assessing the supplier. They are critical to the success – or lack of – of your LIMS. Even if the system itself is excellent, if poorly implemented or supported then you won’t get the benefits you hoped for.
Areas to explore to help you identify what’s important to you
The aim here is to make sure that:
- you only pay for what you need.
- you focus on what you actually need and is going to make an impact. Helping you to avoid the ‘dazzle of shiny things’ you’ll never use!