How Long Does a LIMS Implementation Take?

How Long Does a LIMS Implementation Take?

After asking how much does a LIMS cost, the next most pressing question that potential clients have is, how long will a LIMS implementation take? The short answer is that a laboratory information management system (LIMS) implementation can take anywhere from a couple of months to a year or more. The long answer, considering your individual situation, is in this blog post. 

There are approaches that any lab or organization can take to help a LIMS implementation be successful and stick to a defined schedule. If your organization is prepared to do the right groundwork for your LIMS implementation, you can ensure that the minimum amount of time will be required. Here, we’ll talk through the questions you’ll need to ask to understand how long a LIMS implementation might take in your situation. Further along in this post, we look at some specific situations. For convenience, you can jump directly to each of these, or keep reading below the jumps for overarching considerations:

How Ready Is My Lab for the Implementation?

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More time is required for a LIMS implementation when your organization has no experience with laboratory informatics. Paper processes or spreadsheets mean that your lab staff will have a steeper learning curve when the new system is implemented. Converting from paper processes also requires greater investments in infrastructure, training, and resources. If your lab is using paper, and the workflows in your lab are not streamlined for the existing processes, more time will be required to ensure your new LIMS-based workflows are as efficient as possible. If your lab is going to move from paper processes to a LIMS, you should take additional steps to understand what master data will be included and what your user requirements are to help move an implementation project forward.

If your lab is already using a LIMS, a new implementation requirement should be less time-consuming. However, it’s still necessary to evaluate your current processes and see where improvements can be made. Existing bad processes can yield bad processes in a new LIMS. Do not skip this step to save time, either. We’ve seen those situations and, in the end, organizations have to come back around to examine and reconfigure their processes, which typically extends their project timeline. 

Another important consideration when moving from one LIMS version to another is if legacy data is needed, how it will be handled, and where it will be stored. Sometimes there are challenges when transferring data from an older LIMS version to a newer one, or from one LIMS product to another. It’s valuable to take a look at your master data in these situations, because there may be efficiencies to gain by consolidating, streamlining, and formatting data and processes behind the scenes.

How Prepared Is Your Organization for the Implementation?

Next, take a look beyond your lab. Think about the broader organization’s commitment to the LIMS implementation. You’ll want to make sure that the teams your lab interact with regularly are also as prepared as possible. Some of the questions to consider at this point in your assessment of the implementation time frame include the following:

  • What is the broader organization’s experience with LIMS? 
  • How much organizational change management or training will be required beyond the labs? 
  • How large will the implementation be (that is, how many sites or labs will be involved)?
  • Are there organizational resources (like a LIMS administrator, project manager, or subject matter expert) that can devote themselves to the implementation? 

If this will be your organization’s first experience with a LIMS, ensuring that the necessary infrastructure is in place prior to the implementation will help things go smoothly. If you are considering an on-premises installation rather than a cloud-based option, be aware that supply-chain issues may add lead times to the procurement of necessary physical infrastructure. Also, be aware that cloud-based options require communication with the hosting vendor to support the system infrastructure and coordinate implementation phases from development environments through production.

Regardless of whether your organization is familiar with LIMS, our readiness checklist can guide you toward the beginning of an implementation project.

How Much Configuration or Customization Will Be Needed?

When estimating the time required for a LIMS implementation, it’s important to think about what specialized workflows will be needed. In some cases, you can choose a LIMS that is preconfigured for your basic needs, applying industry-standard best practices. For example, some vendors provide preconfigured modules for different workflows. Some of those modules are even prevalidated, a true time-saver. 

That brings us to a last point of consideration, remember to plan for any needed validation. The more customization you decide to do, the more time will be needed for development and testing. Whatever you decide, with regard to configuration or customization, be wary of scope creep.


When Does the Instrument and System Integration Happen?

You’ll want to document how many instruments or other systems, like an ELN or ERP, will be integrated with the LIMS and whether that integration will be done in the current phase or in a later phase of the project. It’s a best practice to prioritize the integrations in terms of what will bring the most value to the business and the end users at the Go-live.

Having the work of each phase in your implementation clearly defined at the beginning will further protect your project against scope creep. Adding even a few things on, here and there, throughout the project can add time quickly. Before you know it, the project timeline has gone out the window. 

Time Frames for Common LIMS Implementation Scenarios

As mentioned earlier, there are common LIMS implementation scenarios for which we can give more precise estimates of time, based on our experience with various projects. Below are some of those common situations in which you might find yourself. 

A first LIMS implementation for a growing lab

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When moving from paper processes or Excel workbooks to your first LIMS, you can expect to spend at least a few months on the implementation and perhaps as much as a year, if more than one site is involved. Common challenges that arise in these kinds of projects and impact the implementation timeline are incomplete documentation of user requirements and insufficient change management or user training, which can lead to poor user adoption. Poor user adoption can set your LIMS implementation back by several months.

Changing from a homegrown LIMS product to a commercial product

In this scenario, your organization is familiar with LIMS functionality, so the challenges are different but no less time-consuming. Depending on how much master data needs to be created or gathered, as well as the level of configuration or customization needed to meet your lab’s requirements and workflows, this type of LIMS implementation can take anywhere from six months to a year and a half, for a global organization with multiple sites. 

Upgrading your existing LIMS to the newest version

This type of LIMS work can be relatively painless. You may not need to do too much if any, master data work when upgrading to a new version of an existing LIMS. The caveat to this is if there have been several new versions in between. In that case, you may need to do some data transformation. New functionalities may need to be configured for your lab’s workflows, and if you operate in a regulated industry the new LIMS will need to be validated. Expect this type of work to take a few months to as long as a year, depending on the amount of configuration and customization in the existing LIMS version.

Harmonizing LIMS technologies after a merger or acquisition

As you might suspect, this kind of work can be the most complex and costly of all LIMS implementations. In a merger or acquisition (M&A) situation, you will need to decide which LIMS instance to keep, or whether to keep one for some types of labs and one for another type of labs. Then you’ll need to figure out how to get to your desired end state. In our experience, harmonizing disparate LIMS instances can take at least a year and perhaps as long as two years. In an M&A situation, it can be worth your time to think holistically about the new entity’s approach to data and analytics prior to doing any informatics work.

The length of a LIMS implementation is dependent on a variety of factors, including the type of implementation you’re conducting. Wherever your organization is with respect to comfort with a LIMS, making sure that you’ve prepared as much as possible will save you time during the implementation. As mentioned previously, your lab and organization can have a significant, positive impact on the timeline by ensuring that your staff and your processes are as ready for the new implementation as possible. At any stage of preparation for that LIMS implementation, CSols is here to help

Have you had an implementation experience that falls drastically outside these estimates (shorter or longer)? Tell us about it in the comments.

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