We are often asked, “What are the greatest challenges organizations face when selecting and implementing a LIMS?” While there are several critical success factors, like good informatics planning and attaining a high level of stakeholder involvement, one of the biggest challenges that LIMS projects invariably face is the battle between IT and “the Lab”. The battle lines are easily seen when you go to any meeting with both lab personnel and IT personnel in attendance. You will immediately notice that the lab personnel will all sit on one side of the table while the IT personnel will all sit on the opposite side of the table.
This classic battle is usually fought on several fronts, and if not brought under control, can easily cause your LIMS project to falter. So let’s explore several of these fronts and some strategies on how to attain peace, or at least a cease-fire.
The LIMS Battle: Communications
We have found that clear and frequent communication is critical to your LIMS project’s success. It is highly recommended to develop and institute a communications plan as part of your LIMS project planning and governance model. However, regardless of the quality and frequency of communications that you have established, if the communicating parties don’t understand each other, then all is for naught. This is often the situation between IT and lab personnel.
Complex and specialized fields of endeavor naturally develop language and vocabulary that facilitates communication within that field. Outsiders may have no or different understanding of these terms. These communication disconnects are common between IT and lab personnel to the point where the two camps can be having a conversation, yet neither party actually understands what the other is talking about.
Utilizing resources that understand both the languages (IT and Lab) as facilitators and translators is the best way to overcome these communications challenges. However, locating and securing internal resources with both these knowledge sets is often problematic. Organizations, therefore, often engage 3rd party consultants to fulfill these roles.
The LIMS Battle: Resources
Having the right types, quantities, and availability of resources on your LIMS project is paramount for your success. There are a large variety of roles that will need to be staffed for your LIMS project, several of which would be best filled by IT personnel. However, securing IT resources and retaining them for the life of your LIMS project can be a challenge. It is common that the priorities of IT will either not coincide with your LIMS project needs or they will change over time. In fact, shifting IT priorities and the lack of IT resource availability can not only adversely affect your LIMS project but may also negatively impact the long-term support and utilization of your LIMS.
Winning this battle may not be completely feasible nor should it necessarily be your goal. The best strategy is to use the “many hands make light work” style of staffing. Divide up the IT roles such that you can accomplish your goals with resources from multiple sources. Those sources will include internal IT, lab personnel with “IT tendencies”, your LIMS vendor, and 3rd party consultants. If a role on your LIMS team must be filled by an internal IT resource, then make sure you get the commitment you need up front. Growing a lab person with “IT tendencies” into your LIMS Administrator will also gain you a knowledgeable LIMS-savvy resource under your direct control to assist with on-going LIMS support and enhancement needs.
The LIMS Battle: Standards
One of the largest factors used to measure the success of a LIMS project is whether the implemented solution satisfied the needs of the stakeholders. These needs will span a multitude of functions and functional areas. One such area will be the need for the chosen and implemented LIMS to meet the IT standards that your company has established. The LIMS battle on this front manifests when the IT standards adversely affect the choice or implementation of your LIMS solution.
This is a battle that can easily be won by the IT group unless you have a real advocate on your side that has the expertise and experience to help mediate this conflict. Balance between IT standard adherence and the satisfaction of lab and business needs has been attained most frequently when the lab organization has secured an independent LIMS and IT Subject Matter Expert to help make their case. With the correct advocate, information, and risk mitigation approach both IT and the lab can be winners.
Have you experienced the battle between IT and “the Lab” in your organization? How did it affect your LIMS project? What strategies did you use to minimize or overcome these challenges?