Should you choose a software platform or a combination of best-of-breed software programs? When it comes to outfitting your company’s suite of software, cherry-picking the best programs from various vendors and then cobbling them together as best you could, was once the norm.
For example, companies would select a human resources package from one vendor and an accounting package from a different vendor. Lab management functions, for instance, might be spread across several siloed systems – an ELN, a LIMS, the SDMS…some of which may share better than others.
But what does this assortment ultimately leave you with? Are distinct packages a good thing, or could you benefit from combining all your related software on a single platform?
The flip side of the “best-of-breed” approach is purchasing a digital business platform, which Gartner explains will “provide a collection of business and/or technology capabilities that other products or services consume to deliver their own business capabilities.”
So which approach is better?
Spoiler alert: in a recent post, we looked at how LabVantage is in the process of adding an SDMS to our LIMS, ELN and LES collection of software. Transforming into a comprehensive lab software platform, LabVantage will become a single, seamless hub for lab informatics.
The Challenges of Best-of-Breed Lab Software Choices
Let’s look at what some quality professionals have found concerning the risk of ‘hand-offs’ between various, unrelated software entities.
First, the BMJ Quality Improvement Programme reports a study on the cause of poor patient outcomes and adverse events. In the study, researchers determined that two-thirds of these events were caused by failures of communication and hand-off protocol from one caregiver to the next.
In other words, independently each caregiver might have provided excellent care, but the hand-off between them created a breakdown that resulted in serious consequences for the patients involved.
A study from the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics used a FMEA (failure mode and effects analysis) to shed light on what caused errors related to human transplants. Like the BMJ report, the FMEA analysis revealed that errors in communication and hand-off protocol led to the death of a patient in 2003.
But let’s take an example we can all understand: buying a sandwich.
In our first scenario, imagine you’re standing at a self-service deli. You pick up the sandwich you want from the refrigerator, then go to the register and pay. How likely is it that you’ll end up with the wrong sandwich? Pretty unlikely!
Now let’s modify that a bit and add a hand-off: you pull your car into a drive-through and order a sandwich over the microphone and speaker, then pull forward to pay. Now, what is the likelihood that you’ll discover the wrong sandwich when you reach into your bag? Suddenly much higher!
Quality Process Risk Management
The quality rule-of-thumb: the riskiest processes are those with the greatest number of – or most complex– hand-offs, interactions, communications, or exchanges between people or systems.
Returning to software systems: could it be that the best-of-breed approach is ultimately nothing more than a very complex set of hand-offs?
Whether it’s web-based APIs, file transfers, direct database inserts, or even manual data re-entry, a network of separate lab systems creates a host of serious potential risks.
While the right intentions may lead you to purchase the best-of-breed LIMS, ELN, LES, and SDMS that meet the most demanding requirements, if the varied systems don’t play well together the result is chaos – and you will have one very unhappy lab!
On the other hand, with platforms seamless functionality can be assured. Each aspect of platforms is generally reliable, robust, and fully integrated.
By eliminating unnecessary interfacing, your implementation is free of costly testing and validation, as well as error-prone data re-entry. In the case of LabVantage, all of the above is true, and all data—regardless of how it was collected or entered—conforms to stringent data integrity standards.
To find out more about how a digital business platform could be the right solution for you, contact LabVantage today.