It’s true that there are many people in different roles that actually hate LIMS and are not shy about telling you so. If asked, “Why do you hate LIMS?” the answers you get are varied but are universally delivered with surprising passion. Why such heat? Because the LIMS will be ingrained in the lab’s day to day work routines so it affects all the people who either work in the lab and those that rely on the data and information produced by the lab. The LIMS is the central hub of all lab activities including sample, results, inventory, instrument, and data management, data manipulation, analysis, and reporting, and regulatory compliance, if applicable. As such, whether the LIMS is a help or a hindrance will be clear to those utilizing it. So let’s explore some of the reasons why people hate LIMS and see what can be done to change the hate to love.
I hate LIMS because it is too restrictive!
You hear this most often from scientists in research or early stage development labs. In these types of laboratories, the way that LIMS is classically architected and designed can make using them in these environments challenging. LIMS came into being to support and automate quality control labs. They were designed and architected to have a sample entered into the LIMS against a specification that detailed the tests and associated test limits. The sample workflow in these labs is generally static and known.
In research labs the analyses to be performed on a particular sample are not known at the time of sample registration. Additionally, in these types of environments, there are no test limits established beyond scientific feasibility limits (i.e. a pH should not be <1 or >14) and the sample workflow will be dynamic.
To change the LIMS hate to LIMS love for scientists in research labs:
- Select and implement a very flexible LIMS
- Make sure generic sample login and ad-hoc test assignment is supported
- Make sure workflows can be created and edited without programming
- Implement the LIMS in a minimalistic manner (i.e. without a ton of forced structure
- Check out Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELN), they may be a better solution
I hate LIMS because it just makes more work for me!
Technicians in a quality control lab are most often heard uttering this under their breath, especially right after go-live of a new LIMS. The cause of this hatred comes from a couple of likely sources. It’s possible that the LIMS implementation was a phased approach and the priorities of what capabilities and functions got implemented in the first phase were driven from the top down. Therefore, the needs of the managers and supervisors, like sample control, inventory control, work assignment, and reporting, were addressed in phase one but the needs of the lab technicians were not. As a result, the lab techs may now have to do some tasks that they were not previously doing like recording how much of a reagent was actually used for an analysis or recording the location of samples as they move around the lab. So there is better information and control for the managers but more work for the techs. Another possibility is that not all the stakeholders (i.e. the technicians) were engaged during the implementation of the LIMS. Therefore, the needs of the techs were not known or represented so all of their major pain points persist.
To change the LIMS hate to LIMS love for technicians in quality control labs:
- Balance your implementation phases
- Include capabilities in each phase that benefit each stakeholder class
- Show the value of LIMS to the techs by:
- Integrating high throughput instruments to the LIMS
- Automating calculations, workflow, and reporting
- Involve all stakeholders in the implementation process
- If phase one is done, step back and engage everyone before kicking off phase two
I hate LIMS because it doesn’t fit how I work!
This reason for hating LIMS can crop up in any laboratory environment and in any function. The root cause of this may be:
- The needs of all the stakeholders and how they do their work was not adequately assessed and documented
- Workflows were not addressed in phase one of the LIMS implementation
- A decree of “Thou shall not customize” was handed down and the LIMS workflow engine was not capable of supporting the lab’s workflows out of the box
To change the LIMS hate to LIMS love when this shows up:
- Reengage with all the stakeholders and verify that all the laboratory and organization workflows are captured, optimized, and/or harmonized
- Optimization and harmonization must be done by consensus
- Make sure workflows are implemented in phase two or better yet do a quick phase 1.5 and get those workflows in there
- Ignore the decree! Use the LIMS API to customize the system where necessary to support your users (see Customized LIMS – The “Black Sheep” of LIMS)
Do you hate LIMS? If so, why? If you love LIMS, what did you do to ensure that the love is universal across your lab and your organization? Did you abandon your LIMS and put in an ELN? If so, why?