You’d be surprised how often we have heard “The LIMS benefits the management, not us” made with complete conviction by a scientist or lab technician. Primarily you hear this in a QC lab after the decision to get a LIMS has been made by “The Powers That Be” (TPTB). Of course this is not true, but you can bet that if nothing is done to address this sentiment, your LIMS project will fail. So let’s take a look at why scientists and technicians think this and how you can turn this around and attain success in your LIMS project.
Reason #1: Lack of involvement
As described above, the decision to put a LIMS into the QC lab came from TPTB. In this situation TPTB is either a senior level manager or a group of upper management most likely trying to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and “get a handle” on what’s going on in the QC lab. They are under pressure and have made a draconian decision without involving anyone, maybe not even the lab manager. The bench scientists and technicians, having not been consulted or brought into the decision process, are going to feel that the LIMS is just going to be used by TPTB to watch, push, and criticize them. They will feel like they are going to be entering into an Orwellian world with “Big Brother” lurking at every turn.
To alleviate this feeling, you should:
- Take a step back and breathe
- Develop a LIMS team with representation from all stakeholder groups
- QC/QA management
- Lab management
- Manufacturing (if data from the QC lab is being utilized by them)
- Get all the stakeholders involved through an augmented needs assessment
- Surveys / questionnaires
- One-on-one interviews
- Communicate why the LIMS is needed and what the goals are
Reason #2: LIMS capabilities are unknown
It is not unusual that people will not know what a LIMS can really do. Currently available Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) LIMS have tons of capabilities and functionality. So much, in fact, that it is not unusual that only a small percentage of what a LIMS can do is actually implemented. Maybe the scientists and technicians have heard from their colleagues in other labs what their LIMS does and they don’t hear about anything that will help them with their work. All they hear about is all the “extra work” that has to be done to enable tracking and metrics.
The fact is that many LIMS implementations will have been done via a phased approach with all of the cool things that the LIMS can do for the scientists and technicians put off to Phase 2. The funny thing is that Phase 2 never seems to happen. Management is under the gun, there are problems in QC and since they are footing the bill, they want their needs met first. So the capabilities and functions that they require take precedent. This, of course is a mistake.
To change the ignorance to knowledge, you should:
- Engage your LIMS team to explore what LIMS is really capable of
- Get on the internet and explore some LIMS vendor sites
- Get a couple of LIMS demos or watch some LIMS videos
- Download some e-books on LIMS
- Access social media sites (LinkedIn, LIMS Forum, etc.) and explore LIMS
- Engage a LIMS Subject Matter Expert to help educate and guide you
- Communicate what you find out to all stakeholders
Reason #3: Only management’s needs were met
Sometimes the belief that the LIMS only benefits management will arise after the LIMS has been implemented. As we discussed above, it is not unusual that a LIMS will be implemented in phases and that the needs of management will get met in the initial phase while the needs of the scientists and technicians are put off to Phase 2 or beyond. With Phase 2 often never getting implemented, the scientists and technicians don’t realize any benefits to having a LIMS.
To fix this, you should:
- Readdress your LIMS implementation plan
- Involve all the stakeholders in the planning
- Show the value of LIMS to the scientists and techs by:
- Integrating high throughput instruments to the LIMS in the next phase
- Automating calculations, workflow, and reporting in the next phase
- Balance the subsequent phases
- Include capabilities in each phase that benefit each stakeholder class
Do your scientists and technicians think that your LIMS only benefits management? If so, have you figured out why and addressed their concerns? Did you balance your LIMS implementation phases to include benefits for the lab staff and management? If not, is the staff grumbling?