Overcoming Challenges in Requirements Gathering

Blog: Overcoming-Challenges-in-Requirements-Gathering

It is impossible to overstate the importance of thoroughly gathering requirements for the success of an implementation project. Although that seems like hyperbole, unfortunately, it is not. When difficulties arise in a lab informatics or enterprise system implementation, it is almost always because of incomplete requirements gathering or a failure to understand the underlying workflows and processes fully. So, how do you ensure that requirements are gathered as thoroughly as possible? This blog post covers the fundamentals.

Understanding the Unique Needs of Your Laboratory

Each laboratory has its own specific workflows, processes, and data management requirements. These should be thoroughly mapped before any requirements gathering is done. This step will ensure that everyone works from the same set of As-Is processes and workflows when developing the To-Be situation that the requirements are meant to describe. This can involve interviewing laboratory personnel, observing current workflows, and analyzing laboratory data management practices. Some requirements not being met by the current workflows and processes will come to light at this stage.

When you understand the unique needs of your laboratory, you can write thorough user requirements that can be used to tailor the LIMS solution during implementation to support and streamline your laboratory operations effectively. This includes considering factors such as sample types, testing methods, data analysis requirements, instrument or system integrations, and reporting needs. Collaborating with laboratory personnel as the initial points of contact for the requirements-gathering process can be the foundation for ensuring that their needs and perspectives are addressed.

Ask for a demo from the vendor that uses a subset of your actual data. This will allow you to see how the new system functions in your environment and help identify gaps in your requirements. This also allows your subject matter experts to see how your data will flow in the new system and may make subsequent training easier.


Ensuring Effective Communication with All Stakeholders

Another common challenge in gathering LIMS requirements is gathering input from all affected stakeholders. Stakeholders can include laboratory personnel, management, IT teams, regulatory bodies, and other relevant parties. It is crucial to establish clear lines of communication and actively engage all groups of stakeholders throughout the requirements-gathering process. This is often easier said than done because of the constraints on availability that come with working in lean organizations. In a recent project at a pharmaceutical manufacturer, multiple changes in the client’s assigned resources significantly delayed the project.

Blog: Discussion

Effective communication with people whose availabilities are limited may require creative approaches like questionnaires or criteria-ranking tools that stakeholders can complete when time allows. These can be captured in spreadsheet programs. Effective communication may also require actively listening to stakeholders’ needs and concerns, asking relevant questions, and providing clear and timely updates on the progress of the requirements-gathering process.

For the pharmaceutical client, we offered informal training and demonstrations throughout the project to be sure they understood how the requirements were being translated and implemented. Checking in with the stakeholders throughout requirement gathering and development will ensure collaboration and leave fewer gaps in the requirements used to evaluate the choice of systems and then configure the new system. By involving stakeholders throughout the process, you can gather comprehensive and accurate requirements that align with the goals and objectives of all parties involved.

Engaging a third-party consultancy, such as CSols, for this work can be a good use of funds because of the importance of doing this correctly. The requirements must be thorough for the rest of the implementation to go smoothly.

▶ Related Reading: Strategies and Methods for Gathering Your Requirements During System Development

Navigating the Complexities of Technology Integrations

Blog: Complexities of Technology

Another standard stumbling block that we have seen is failing to account for all the necessary integrations, which would be helpful to add. The trend in laboratories is toward greater integration and better data access. A lack of consideration for existing or potential integrations with current systems can lead to frustrations as the implementation progresses. Compatibility issues, legacy data, and its migration, or limited system interoperability can pose significant challenges.

To navigate these complexities, it is essential to conduct a complete assessment of the existing technology landscape and to identify potential integration points and challenges. Understanding the current technology and how access to data could be streamlined by better integration is a worthy investment during the requirements-gathering process. This may involve working closely with IT teams and vendors to understand the technical requirements and limitations. It is also important to consider future-proofing when selecting a new informatics solution to ensure it can seamlessly integrate with technologies and systems as they evolve.

By addressing technology integration challenges early in the requirements-gathering process, you can avoid delays and disruptions during the implementation phase and ensure a smooth transition to the new data environment. Conversely, considering how the technologies could be separated during a spinoff or acquisition is also important in the requirements-gathering process.

This is another area of consideration where a third-party consultancy can assist. A complete, high-level overview of your organization’s data and system integrations can help to identify additional efficiencies. It is a best practice to think about these integrations prior to any large implementation project.

Managing Changing Regulatory Requirements

Regulatory constraints may be an essential consideration for your organization. These requirements can pose challenges when gathering requirements, as the solution needs to be compliant with current regulations and adaptable to future changes. Data integrity isn’t only a concern for regulated businesses, though—all organizations should take steps during implementation to minimize their risk.

To manage evolving regulatory requirements and ensure data integrity, staying informed about the latest industry standards, guidelines, and regulations is essential. Collaborating with the regulatory affairs staff at your organization or seeking information from the applicable regulatory bodies during the requirements-gathering process can help ensure that your informatics solution can maintain compliance as regulations evolve. Many of the data integrity regulations also enhance cyber security.

Implementing a Flexible and Scalable Informatics Solution

The importance of a flexible and scalable informatics solution is another consideration when gathering requirements. Laboratories need a solution that can adapt to their evolving needs, accommodate growth, and support changing workflows. You may not know what your business will look like in five years, but you can choose a solution that will help it if you gather your requirements with the right inputs.

To implement a flexible and scalable informatics solution, it is crucial to consider factors such as anticipated growth, changing testing methods, and emerging technologies. Careful evaluation of informatics solution vendors and their offerings, including their track record supporting scalability and flexibility, should be part of your requirements-gathering process. An informatics solution that will grow with your organization allows for easy integration of new functionalities, modules, and instruments as the laboratory evolves. Depending on your organization’s level of comfort with technology, it may be worth adding postimplementation support to your requirements, whether from the vendor or a third-party consultancy. When issues arise, your support resources can help smooth them over.

What do you wish had been part of your last requirements-gathering experience? Tell us about it in the comments.

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