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Why did my LIMS implementation fail?

May 11, 2017

How Did My LIMS Implementation Fail?I have been scratching my head all week trying to figure out why our LIMS implementation failed.  I thought we had chosen the perfect LIMS.  It did much more than we were looking for and had so many cool capabilities that the LIMS sales person showed us during the demo.  We budgeted for the project based on the LIMS vendor’s quote so we should have had plenty of money to complete the project.  We even engaged the LIMS vendor to do the complete implementation including the Project Management, Business Analysis, Configuration and Customization, and Validation because they explained that they were the experts.  Yet here I sit without a LIMS in production, with no budget left, and a bunch of angry managers and scientists pounding on my door.  Where did it all go wrong?

If you have had this unfortunate conversation with yourself, you are not alone.  It is well known that IT projects have a 70% failure rate where success is measured by delivering the IT solution on-time, within budget and meeting or exceeding all user requirements. LIMS projects fare a little better but there are several techniques and best practices that, when properly applied, will drive your LIMS implementation success.

Understand your needs before selecting your LIMS

A very common source of LIMS failure is not having a complete understanding of your needs and requirements before you select your LIMS solution.  People and organizations will go to great lengths to explain why they do not have the time or need to do a needs assessment and develop a good set of prioritized LIMS requirements.  All LIMS are the same, right?

In truth, you can’t really afford not to spend the time and effort to go through this exercise.  If you don’t, you will have no idea if the chosen LIMS will be able to support your lab organization’s needs.  Even worse, without this information, you and your LIMS team will likely get distracted by some “really cool” functionality that the LIMS vendors will seek to highlight during their demonstrations.  It doesn’t matter that these cool “bells and whistles” are not actually
Read Now: 5 Tips for Choosing the Right Informatics Systemimportant or even useful for automating your lab operation.  The coolness factor will drive all thoughts of your true needs and requirements right out of your head and you will become fixated on those capabilities.  The end result in this scenario is that you end up with a LIMS that may not have the features or capabilities to support your needs.

Understand your complete LIMS project costs before budgeting

There is nothing worse than working diligently on your LIMS implementation, making great headway, and then realizing that you are running out of budget monies.  Everything comes to a screeching halt, but you still have a long way to go before your LIMS solution can go live.  How did this happen?  It’s because you did not explore all of the costs of your LIMS project and assumed that the vendor quote covered everything. While the LIMS vendor quote will provide you with many of the sources of cost for your LIMS project, such as licenses, there are many other sources of cost that
will not be reflected therein.  Some of these include:

  • IT Hardware
    • servers, desktops/laptops
    • tablets, handhelds, and other mobile devices
    • network devices
    • Printers, barcode printers barcode readers, and other peripherals
  • Initial data load
  • Data migration, if applicable
  • Watch Webinar: How Much Does a LIMS Cost? Licensing and Beyond...Internal personnel – backfilling LIMS team members positions
  • Specialty roles
    • Program/Project Manager
    • Change Management Leader
    • LIMS Trainer(s)
    • Network and Database Administrators

Care must be taken to ensure you have done a complete analysis of your LIMS project costs so that you can request and secure a budget that will enable you to successfully complete your LIMS project.  For many organizations, “going back to the well” for more money is just not an option!

Understand your LIMS project personnel needs and your sourcing plan before project initiation

While it may seem convenient to just hand off your entire LIMS implementation to the LIMS vendor, this is really not a best practice, nor is it really feasible.  There are multiple roles that should be staffed with internal personnel, 3rd party consultants, or 3rd party subject matter experts.  The costs for these resources need to be explored and incorporated into your budget.

Your LIMS Administrator should come from your company since they will be responsible for the long-term administration of the system.  They need to be involved from the very beginning and will greatly benefit from one-on-one information transfer and training that should be provided during the course of the implementation.  Similarly, you will need representation from the lab and all the other stakeholders on your LIMS team.  Resources that come from your company will need to be backfilled during the course of the LIMS project and the costs associated with doing so needs to be included in your budget.

In addition to the vendor’s project manager, who will manage the vendor’s personnel and tasks, you will need another project manager who will manage the entire project and all associated personnel.  It is critical that this individual has extensive LIMS project management experience and a track record of success.  Managing a multi-source LIMS team takes special skills and experience that may be best sourced from a 3rd party consulting organization.  There are several other LIMS team roles that will need to be staffed either in-house or via a consultant or SME but not the vendor.


Have you had a LIMS project fail?  If so, what was the root cause of the failure?  If not, what did you do to avoid failing?

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