Congratulations! Your laboratory organization has gone through the process of documenting your lab processes, workflows, and data flows as well as your lab and business needs. You have leveraged all this information to drive your laboratory informatics system selection process and you have chosen a commercial off the shelf Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). The hard part is over. No more big decisions to make. Right? Unfortunately this is not the case. There will be many more decisions to make and plenty of work to be done before your LIMS is up and running and everyone in the lab organization is using and benefiting from the system.
One of the first decisions you are going to need to make is how you are going to go about implementing your new LIMS. There are many good methodologies that you can utilize to successfully implement your LIMS, but regardless of the method you choose, you will also need to decide on your implementation approach. There are two main approaches for implementing a LIMS: the “Big Bang” approach and the “Phased” approach.
In the “Big Bang” approach your goal will be to implement all of the needs of the lab and the business in one cycle. In other words, when you go-live your system will be completely up and functional. This includes all the capabilities, functions, workflows, automations, and reports. Additionally, all of the system integrations will be up and running including all instruments, instrument systems, data analysis and visualization systems, and any other information, business, manufacturing (if applicable),or enterprise systems required.
If you elect to follow a “Phased” approach you will have prioritized your needs and requirements so that your most critical needs will be implemented first (i.e. Phase 1). In the subsequent phases, Phase 2 through Phase “n”, the rest of your needs will be implemented. In this approach there is no limit to the number of phases, although more than three phases is rare.
LIMS Implementation Approaches: Pros and Cons
Both the Big Bang and Phased approaches have been successfully used to implement LIMS systems. Here are some of the pros and cons with each approach.
“Big Bang” Approach
- Completeness – all needs and requirements met upon go-live
- User satisfaction – everything is there from go-live
- ROI – more sources of ROI available
- Time – getting all needs and requirements will take longer
- Resources – getting all needs and requirements met will require more resources
- Momentum – since this approach takes longer your project momentum will suffer
- Senior Management may change priorities impacting the project
- Time – phase 1 can be up “quickly” with core needs and requirements met
- Momentum –users and management will see improvements from phase 1 quickly
- Resources – fewer resources may be needed per phase
- Minimize 80/20 rule – 80% of effort to meet last 20% of requirements – phased approach minimizes this
- User satisfaction – if phase 1 does not include significant improvements for the users (scientists) they will not be happy with the new system
- Unmet needs -not unusual that Phase 2 never happens due to resource/priority issues
- Suboptimal efficiency – Phase 2 often includes some of the most beneficial process and work improvements (i.e. workflows, instrument &systems integration) but it never happens
- System utilization/adoption – if users do not get what they wanted they may not utilize the new LIMS
Tell us which approach you used when implementing your LIMS. Did you use the “Big Bang” approach or the “Phased” approach? If you had to do it again would you use the same approach? If you used the Phased approach did you ever get to Phase 2?