It is not unusual that organizations will decide to upgrade their LIMS to the latest version without fully exploring their options. The reasons that this commonly occurs includes the beliefs that upgrading will be easier, less time consuming, and less expensive than implementing a completely new LIMS. While this may be true in many cases, it is not always such a clear-cut decision. Because just like the popular HGTV show “LOVE IT or LI$T IT” where homeowners compare renovating their current home versus purchasing a new home, the ultimate decision to upgrade your LIMS (i.e. renovation) or implement a new informatics solution (i.e. new house) can be complicated.
Before getting too far into this debate, it would be good to review why organizations are likely looking to undergo a LIMS upgrade in the first place. The main reason that upgrades occur is to gain access to bug fixes and new features being offered in the latest version. Another big reason is the need to upgrade to the latest version in order to support your IT infrastructure (hardware and software) which will have changed over time. Also, LIMS upgrades are undertaken to move off of an old version that is nearing its “end-of-support” point which removes or restricts access to technical support and greatly increases your risk.
Companies in non-regulated industries have a greater rate of upgrading compared to those in regulated industries due to the latter’s need to validate their laboratory software. Regardless of your industry, it is always a best practice to undertake a Risk/Reward (R/R) Analysis when contemplating an upgrade. The reward of gaining access to the latest version and its new features and fixes is not always worth the risk, time, and cost of upgrading. It is also important to determine if the new version has any undocumented changes which, if you choose to upgrade, may alter your work processes or otherwise affect how your LIMS operates.
As mentioned above, performing a R/R Analysis is a best practice when contemplating an upgrade of your LIMS. However, this analysis does not truly give an organization a comprehensive view of all their options. In order to do so, the scope of the exercise needs to be expanded to include not only an analysis of the potential upgrade but also an analysis of possible new informatics solutions. This is what we have termed the “Love It or Leave It” Upgrade Review and Analysis.
A decision to Love It (i.e. upgrading your LIMS) is made when the analysis shows that the upgrade has benefits for your organization that justify or outweigh the risks of upgrading. Additionally, any changes (documented and undocumented) in the new version would result in acceptable changes, if any, to how your lab processes are automated and how your lab and LIMS solution operates. A Love It decision also indicates that the analysis of the new solutions available did not yield a better R/R ratio.
A decision to Leave It (i.e. opt for a new informatics solution) is made when the analysis shows that a new informatics solution has benefits and lower risk compared to upgrading your current solution. A Leave It decision may also be reached if the new informatics solution is a better fit for current and future needs compared to the upgraded current system. A better fit is generally attained when the features and capabilities of the new solution provide the flexibility to allow you to automate your lab operation with primarily standard system capabilities. This will then require a reduced amount of customization of the LIMS to meet your needs, which increases the solution’s supportability and lowers your long term costs.
Do you feel locked in to your current LIMS and upgrade to the latest version by rote? Before deciding on upgrading your LIMS to a new version, would you perform a “Love It or Leave It” upgrade review and analysis? Or would you just analyze the Risk/Reward of the upgrade? Have you looked at new informatics solutions when contemplating an upgrade?