How to Accelerate LIMS Implementation

FagnaniWhen it comes to a LIMS, promising a rapid implementation can sometimes be akin to promising it will rain…on the second Thursday in March…in 2032.

But let there be no doubt: there are plenty of cases in which implementation speed matters. As 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic has clearly demonstrated, researchers, businesses, pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies, public health organizations and universities need their systems up and running yesterday.

It is a delicate balancing act. A hasty LIMS implementation can cause significant regulatory and data reliability issues – and they’ll often materialize sooner rather than later. Drawing out the process endlessly, however, is frustrating for organizations. More importantly, given that it can be cost- and manpower-intensive while hindering productivity, any delay has real-world consequences. And those consequences are magnified when the target application is critical to human health, such as COVID-19 testing.

A Preconfigured LIMS to Speed Implementation

One of the ways we’ve worked to shorten implementations has been to introduce LabVantage preconfigured LIMS solutions targeting various applications. These platforms can deploy up to 75% faster than a traditional LIMS by incorporating industry best practices and eliminating custom code. These features reinforce consistent, industry-standard workflows and reduce the overall configuration effort to lower the risk – and time to completion – common with traditional LIMS projects. (BTW, one of these – LabVantage Pharma – is not only preconfigured but also pre-validated). Currently, we have preconfigured LIMS which are specifically designed for the following industries:

  • Pharma
  • Food & Beverage
  • Oil & Gas
  • Biobanking
  • Diagnostics
  • Quality (non-Pharma)
  • COVID-19

Rapid Implementation Challenges

Customizations and workflows, however, aren’t the only stumbling blocks to rapid go-live. Even with a preconfigured LIMS, a speedy implementation isn’t always a guarantee. One of the top culprits is customer-based, rather than LIMS-related: data.

There are several data challenges that occur during LIMS implementation.  Most of them revolve around master data.

What is master data?

Every test executed in a lab begins with a pre-defined test definition. That’s master data, and your organization already has it…regardless of whether you use a LIMS or not. It may be defined in paper SOPs, or in a legacy system.

The challenge with master data – from paper records or another system – is that it must be translated into the record format of your new LIMS. In an earlier post, we discussed how this process is as much art as it is science, demanding an understanding of how the new LIMS defines products, conducts sample submission, initiates tests, evaluates specifications, uses instruments, and more.

The most important activity you can conduct prior to starting an implementation project is to collect and analyze all master data. Having this data centralized saves time and makes it easier to analyze.

Rapid Implementation ChallengesIt’s also critical to think through a wide range of other data-related issues. These include a variety of harmonization and internationalization tasks:

  • Identifying data that must be de-duplicated.
  • Extracting common formats and identifying the maximum length of data items and data types.
  • Understanding the nature and complexity of specification data.
  • Addressing potential global data issues, such as time zones, date formatting, languages, currencies, scheduled events and more.

LIMS implementation scope creep is often due to new options & opportunities

When considering master data for a new LIMS implementation, the biggest impediment to quickly going live is scope creep. We’ve found that, in most cases, scope creep occurs because the organization is suddenly faced with a myriad of options which weren’t previously available to them.

Organizations concerned about controlling the duration of a LIMS implementation process need to control the scope of what they aim to accomplish. An organization managing COVID-19 research, for example, might purchase a LIMS based on intuitive and fast workflows, only to discover their new LIMS can manage scheduling, or deliver specialized reports, or allow for a more complex workflow involving managerial or primary & secondary quality sign-offs and release. Each of these additional new requirements will involve a more complex – and thus prolonged – implementation.

I have to say that communicating to an excited client that these additions can add time to implementation isn’t easy. When they are introduced to the possibilities of new functions such as updating sample information, reviewing and releasing results, creating additional reports, warehousing data and more, these capabilities open a new world of data management to them. Helping clients avoid going off on a tangent can be difficult.

But organizations with a narrow, well-defined (and unwavering!) objective tend to enjoy short implementations. We’ve seen examples of this with our LabVantage COVID-19 LIMS for Back-to-Workplace applications. In one case, a client company was very clear: they liked the flexibility and expandability of the LIMS, but wanted to remain laser-focused and stick to their original intention: getting their people back to work. In such cases, it’s common to look ahead to a Phase 2 in which they expand other capabilities in the future…once the system is up and running and performing it’s originally intended function.

Another source of LIMS implementation scope creep is historic data

Whether your organization has a legacy LIMS or uses paper, the mapping of historic values to the new LIMS will be both important and potentially time-consuming. It requires an understanding of both historic and future master data configuration, the lengths and types of data, and potentially the need to transform data into harmonized values. It is often a large sub-project in its own right, and understanding the scope of the task can help control the risk of longer implementations.

These types of distractions have been a critical differentiator in implementation timelines. Organizations that forego trying to do it all in the first go are almost universally able to go-live much faster and start addressing the immediate need which sent them in search of a LIMS in the first place.

Want to learn more about implementation? Check out the LIMS Implementation Readiness Blueprint, learn about LabVantage’s full lifecycle application management services, or contact us today to discuss your project.