The Laboratory Informatics Experts

Software Customization vs. Configuration

January 23, 2014

Software Customization vs. ConfigurationThis is an age-old question right behind “Which came first: The chicken or the egg?” Ok maybe not, but it is one of the most asked questions within Laboratory Informatics. Customization requires a developer to make changes to code whereas configuration is changing settings – even when they are very in depth. Many solutions offer some level of customization and configuration.

Customization

Customization is required for various LIMS systems. This consists of a developer writing code to make the system work as you want it to. The code customization can span from custom interfaces between the LIMS and another applications, determining what values are visible or even required to record upon sample receipt, or even the hierarchy of storage of facilities (i.e., lab is inside of building, building is inside of plant).

Pros Cons
The system will meet all of your needs. The project will generally take much longer to complete.
Increased automation of lab processes for improved accuracy and time savings. The project will generally cost more based on all of the development required.
The application can be more difficult to support due to all of the custom features.
Can decrease system performance if poorly executed.

Configuration

Configuration includes our trusty pal, Microsoft Office. Sure you can change which icons are in your toolbar based on how you typically use the applications, but at the end of the day, there are only certain things you can change. If you aren’t happy with it you don’t have an option to write lines of code; you deal with it or switch to a different application.

Pros Cons
Support can be handled by anyone who is experienced with the application. The system will not meet every requirement fully. Compromises and sacrifices must be made.
The timeline and budget are easier to manage – but depending on the level of configuration can still be high.

Decisions, Decisions

When making the decision on what Laboratory Informatics Solution is best for your company, it is important to understand the benefits and downfalls of each.  Also important to note, the level of customization and configuration impacts the software classification category within GAMP5 and therefore the level of testing required to qualify the system.

The best starting point is a system that meets the majority of your needs off the shelf (COTS). From here, regardless of which approach you take, the timeline and budget will be more under control. The level of sophistication with configuration continues to improve to the extent that it nearly gives the end user the impression that they are getting everything they wanted. The first step in making this decision is creating a wish list of features – also called User Requirements Specifications (URS). Configuration vs. customization is merely one of many factors to consider during a vendor selection process.

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Has customization or configuration worked better for you in your lab? Leave responses in the comment section below.

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