If you work in a laboratory setting, likely at some point you have experienced laboratory users who profess to “hate” their LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System). If you take the time to listen, they often have good reasons. Usually, those reasons include one of the following:
Unfortunately, these are very valid issues for many organizations’ LIMS implementations. If you look closer, the reason something “takes too long” or is “too hard to find” in a LIMS is that, to perform a simple task (like printing a report), a user often has to perform something like the following:
- Select Fileà Lot Manager, Select the Lot Open icon, On the Lot screen enter or browse for the name of the Lot (selecting the correct filter for the browse), Select Fileà Print Report once the lot opens, Select the Printer when prompted, Select OK on the print prompt screen, all while balancing on your right foot and waving your left arm
Clear as mud, right? The point is that the difficulty and complexity of the LIMS interface can be so overwhelming that a user never gets to realize the amazing things a LIMS can do to make their work life easier. They simply see LIMS as a necessary pain in the neck.
LabWare LIMS™ has an excellent configuration feature called Visual Workflows that can eliminate the interface complexity and navigation nightmares for the user, making their LIMS experience pleasant and helpful rather than frustrating and painful.
The Power of LabWare LIMS Visual Workflows
LabWare LIMS visual workflows provide the ability to tailor the LIMS’ interface to a user’s specific needs, making navigation and access to data simple and intuitive. A visual workflow can be designed to mimic the user’s already defined and familiar work processes. So basically, when a user logs into LabWare LIMS, they are presented with a visual representation of the specific tasks they need to perform or the specific data they need to perform their responsibilities within the organization. LabWare LIMS visual workflows can be designed to contain any of the following objects (to name a few):
- Tables (containing any combination of data)
- Buttons (to perform specific functions)
- Labels or Text
- Charts and Graphs (dashboards)
- Dropdown Lists for selection
A well-designed visual workflow is a one-stop-hub for a LIMS user to manage their entire LIMS experience. When a user logs into LabWare LIMS, they simply have to click or view a specific area on a table, or a button, or an image, or some text, etc. to perform that function.
Some organizations have visual workflows designed to look like already defined process flows for the organization. By simply clicking on the desired area of the displayed process, the desired LIMS function is executed by the user. This makes LabWare LIMS training so much easier as the process is already known and the interaction with LIMS is very intuitive for the user.
For example, a LabWare LIMS workflow could be designed to present active project or sample information for a specific user in a table format. By simply clicking on an icon or hyperlink for a specific project or sample in the table, the user can perform a variety of actions for that specific record (i.e. print a report, receive a sample, review data, enter results, etc.). No more navigating through multiple menu items!
Management also benefits greatly from a well-designed visual workflow as they can view all important data, metrics, dashboard charts and graphs in one interface specific to their role. If needed, they can select a specific area on the workflow to do a deeper dive into the data if necessary, all with minimal mouse clicks.
LabWare LIMS visual workflows have the flexibility to be designed for an entire organization, a specific group, or even an individual user, ensuring that only the appropriate users can access and perform the visual workflow functions (especially important in highly regulated industries). In addition, multiple visual workflows can be made available for a user to further expand the use of this powerful tool.
Sounds Great, but Where Do I Start with Visual Workflows?
Although easy to use, LabWare LIMS visual workflows can be a bit tricky to configure, especially if an organization doesn’t have a lot of experience with them. The more effective a visual workflow, often the more complex its design and configuration. If you already have in-house knowledge regarding the creation of LabWare LIMS visual workflows, you are already well on your way! For those that don’t, it can be very advantageous to engage an expert LIMS consultant to work with your organization to maximize the benefits of implementing visual workflows for your LabWare LIMS. Hiring an expert LabWare LIMS consultant can provide the following benefits:
- Help in identifying the optimum areas to implement visual workflows in your LabWare LIMS
- Expert design and configuration of visual workflows to maximize organizational efficiency
- Ensuring proper segregation and security of data for regulatory compliance
- Develop in house knowledge for your LIMS administrators in the design of visual workflows
- Full support for production implementation/enhancements of visual workflow functionality
- Resource for development of training materials and providing in-house user specific training
Once successfully implemented and understood, visual workflows will become an integral part of your current and future LabWare LIMS operations. You will wonder how you ever got along without them!
It’s All So Clear Now
Gaining and improving user acceptance goes hand in hand with maximizing the efficiency of your LabWare LIMS. Making the LIMS user interface intuitive and easy to navigate goes a long way in accomplishing happiness in the laboratory. Take the time to evaluate your current LIMS interface to see where you can clear up those “muddy water” user experiences with some clean and clear visual workflows. Your users will very much appreciate it!
Do you have any good/bad experiences you wish to share regarding user acceptance and your LIMS/LIMS interface? Have you implemented Visual Workflows in your LabWare LIMS? If so, what was your experience? If not, what has prevented you from doing so? We’d love to hear about your experiences.