LIMS Project – Letter to Self


Lessons Learned LIMS ImplementationDear Me,

It has been a long road but the LIMS is finally up and running, validated, and the laboratory staff and management are actually using it.  In fact, the requests for improvements, new reports, and new capabilities are already starting to come in.  As I look back on this journey, I wish that I knew then what I know now.  This project would have gone so much quicker and easier if we had done some of the things at the beginning that we ending up doing in the end.

When we first started we were in such a hurry to get a LIMS that it just seemed like a waste of time and effort to fully explore and document our business and laboratory needs.  Sure, we had requirements listed out but they were so generic that they really didn’t end up helping us very much.  What was even worse was that we never took the time to write out our work and data/information flows.  When I think of all the extra effort and delays we experienced along the way because we didn’t take the time to do this up front work, I cringe.  Luckily, we eventually realized that going through these exercises were essential, especially when we finally engaged our QA department as we started thinking about our LIMS validation.

→ Related Reading: How to Create Solid User Requirements for a System Application

Another key thing that I wished we had done from the outset of our project was get involvement and input from all of the stakeholders, not just from management who were the initial drivers of this project.  I realize now that if we had communicated with all the parties that would be involved in the implementation and use of the LIMS, we wouldn’t have had to continually redo and add capabilities and functions.  Who knew that the way the lab actually worked was so different from the way the management believed it worked!  We did find that “the devil is in the detail”.  It was so surprising that the processes that seemed like they should be simple and straightforward were often much more complex and convoluted.

Further on the communication front, I wish we had known that by involving everyone from the outset, we would not have had such an uphill struggle to get everyone to adopt and use the LIMS.  When we finally woke up to the fact that so many stakeholders felt no ownership of the LIMS and that they were ambivalent or even against the whole project, we had to spend so much extra time and effort to get buy-in across the board.  Happily, once we started really involving everyone and getting their input and communicating, we developed several great advocates within the organization who helped bring the remaining naysayers onboard.

→ Related Reading: Top 4 Reasons LIMS Implementations Fail
→ Related Reading: Laboratory Informatics Implementation Planning – Don’t Forget!

Bringing our QA group into the LIMS project from the beginning was another thing that I wished we had done.  Sure we knew that the LIMS had to be validated but we figured we could get all that done at the end – and how much time and effort would it really be?  We did, after all, buy the validation kit from the LIMS vendor.  I guess we were just naïve in thinking that this would be all it took.  When we finally contacted the QA group we were surprised at how much we really had to do to get the LIMS validated.  We never realized that we needed a Validation Plan and all the documentation (URS, FRS, Trace Matrix, SOPs, etc.) and even a vendor audit.  Thank goodness our QA department followed a risk based approach and we were able to contract with some LIMS SMEs that really knew the LIMS and lab processes or we would still be at it and not in production.

Now if only Dr. Who and the Tardis really existed and I could get this letter to myself before we started our LIMS project or if we had engaged some experienced LIMS and Validation consultants, we could have really had such an easy time with our LIMS implementation and our ROI would have been so much better.  Oh well, lessons learned…

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If you could start your LIMS project over again what would you tell yourself to do differently?  So you have other lessons learned beyond the ones stated here that you can share?  Did you involve Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in your LIMS project?  If not, did you wish you did? Share your experiences below.

You may also enjoy: Top 4 Reasons LIMS Implementations Fail

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7 responses to “LIMS Project – Letter to Self”

  1. Dave Breslin says:

    Loved the article , and how true. We are just coming to the end of our LIMS Project for a Forensic Science Lab. Always remember you need to customise for ISO and quality. As an IT person who was given responsibility for Project Management, I missed this completely

    • Howard Rosenberg says:

      Thanks Dave,
      Glad you liked the article. I am sure you had tons of fun ensuring that your chain of custody capabilities were rock solid as well! I should probably do a blog on the challenges of implementing a LIMS in a Forensics Lab. Thanks for the idea…


  2. Rich Lysakowski says:

    Excellent article !! Summarizes the key things that must be done in any informatics project.

  3. Ankit Jain says:

    Nice article!! will be very useful to look back at this article before starting new project. There are same very basic things in here which we already know but somehow miss during actual implementation.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. David Karns says:

    Nicely written. So very true on so many levels. The more complicated the project – the more the communication, stakeholder buy-in and detailed planning can pay off!

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