So you have an ELN, a scientific productivity platform allowing configuration to meet the needs of an individual scientist, project, or group. Some benefits your company may have realized are:
- Increased Productivity
- Improved Data Sharing and Collaboration
- Faster Knowledge Capture
- Reduced Experimental Cycle Times
- Faster and Improved Decision Making
If these do not sound familiar, most likely your ELN implementation was a paper replacement strategy that stopped there since the goal was met. Or these benefits were not realized since financial constraints were encountered and your ELN implementation was not fully completed. Alternatively, the ELN may have been purchased specifically and implemented for a single group and has not been rolled out to other groups at this time. Regardless of the reason you have not realized these benefits, you are at the “ELN Crossroad”. So let’s explore some of the paths you can go down to get more value out of your ELN.
Can your ELN tackle more workflows?
With most ELNs, configuration can seem endless. Meanwhile vendors have been adding features and modules to tackle other domains and workflows. These “out of the box” configurations can have limitations and users may need to adapt their scientific or laboratory processes to fit the ELN’s capabilities or limitations. Companies need to evaluate whether the benefits justify the cost and effort of modifying the ELN beyond the out of box configuration. In either case, it is important to understand where efficiencies and commonalities can be found.
For example, a group searching for cheaper raw materials or process engineering improvements may look to create a very structured environment with workflows and templates that allow them to enter data quickly over and over again that include built in calculations, reagent tables and procedural steps for these processes. Conversely, a group developing new methods or doing discovery work will likely prefer very little structure in their ELN. They will want an implementation that does not restrict them with detailed workflows but allows them to capture basic information including metadata and to enter data as required.
Going through a process of mapping your workflows with your users can help identify these process efficiencies and enable you to build the ELN templates that will extend the ELN’s use and benefit beyond what is there today.
Can other users be brought into the system?
If new users or groups would like to use the ELN, it is advisable to explore the system’s capabilities and review the workflows at the lab level before making any investment. You will need to review the scientists or lab group’s domain and needs to determine what further efforts will be required to support them within the system. Also, consider if including other scientists or groups will improve collaboration and access to data across the organization.
This will take planning and it should involve stakeholders that understand the processes in each group to be supported by the ELN (e.g. small vs large molecule research). It can be a little more challenging to assign commonalities and create the building blocks within the ELN when seeking to support multiple domains or groups. As an example, if your macromolecule research and your small molecule research are both funneling in support of one project, process, or product line that you are manufacturing then you may want to support them both in the ELN.
Use this information to decide how to split up your ELN implementation teams which could be a different team for each if they are completely separate groups, but if the groups need to work together for one objective then bringing them together will be beneficial. Think of lab dynamics, company culture and pick team members that work well together.
The Common Thread
Involve your end users. Giving users input opportunities and ownership through all phases will result in the best implementation and productivity gains provided that they are involved from the beginning.
Has your ELN expanded past the original scope? Were more workflows and groups added? Did the system adapt to these new areas? Was a process map used? Were users involved in all aspects?