“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single laboratory in possession of a good quantity of data, must be in want of a LIMS.” Apologies to Jane Austen—that’s not really how the line goes (and it’s not from Persuasion), but it is true that once a laboratory’s data gets to a certain scale, the need for a LIMS or other informatics solutions can become undeniable. So how do you get management, who holds the purse strings, to put out the coin? This blog post has answers.
Once you understand the various factors that will play into the cost, the key to funding approval will rest with the ability of management to see the value. The approach you take to demonstrate the value of a lab informatics implementation will depend on your specific situation. In what follows, we’ll take a look at several of the most common situations you might find yourself in, then we’ll share ideas for how to get management buy-in for a change to your lab informatics setup.
Quantifying the return on investment (ROI) is an important lever for ensuring management support for the cost of infrastructure changes in the lab. It’s also the most difficult thing to measure when that infrastructure is the lab informatics system. In fact, most of the time, it is the intangible benefits of implementing a LIMS that end up being most important to the business. Some of those benefits include reducing the risk of an audit if your business is regulated, eliminating inefficiencies in your current processes, and enabling faster responses when something goes wrong. Automating workflows reduces the number of manual processes, which frees up your staff to spend more time doing science.
At CSols, we know how to help your lab develop the As-Is and To-Be statements that will demonstrate how these benefits contribute to the value of the lab so that management is more inclined to sign off on the project. Now let’s look at some specific situations, where we’ll provide insights to help your lab make a successful pitch.
This may be the situation in which it is hardest to make the case for a LIMS, ELN, or CDS solution, simply because there is no basis for comparison. There’s no way to know what the total ROI will be when your lab undergoes a digital transformation, although you can demonstrate areas of improvement.
Moving from paper-based to electronic workflows will absolutely produce gains in efficiency and throughput. Your lab will be able to process an increased number of samples with the same amount of person-hours, which will automatically provide a certain amount of ROI. If you’re operating in a regulated environment, increased data integrity will also be a point in favor of a new informatics system.
When you’ve been using Excel sheets or a database someone put together five years ago, you’ll have some historical data on which to base your estimate of the potential ROI. Scaling up to a purpose-built LIMS will bring default capabilities that you may not already have or that have been provided in a nonoptimized way.
Some of the additional capabilities you will find when moving from a home-grown data management system include user access controls to improve data integrity, more robust capabilities for additional sites, and easier technical support and upgrades. A purpose-built system also lets you take advantage of efficiencies gained from integrating instruments, or supported modules that exist out-of-the-box (OOTB) within the system, such as Stability or Environmental Monitoring.
In this situation, your lab staff and management, too, will be very familiar with the perceived ROI from lab informatics systems, but they may need persuading that a newer product will be worth the expense.
To make this argument convincingly, there are a few key points to keep in mind. A common reason for looking at a different LIMS product is that the business may have changed or outgrown the current LIMS. A different LIMS might better meet the current needs of the business. Another reason to switch is if you have a heavily customized LIMS that has become inefficient. At a certain point, the expense of maintaining a customized LIMS to do what the business needs becomes greater than the cost of a new LIMS, in which OOTB functionality may be sufficient to meet the needs previously addressed by customizations.
Replacing an older LIMS with a more modern version can provide the opportunity to perform advanced system integrations and more robust instrument integrations. If you upgrade and stay with your existing vendor, your site or user licenses may transfer, reducing your out-of-pocket expenses. One more consideration for upgrading to a newer LIMS is that most LIMS products now have robust data visualization capabilities and prebuilt, industry-specific modules with defined workflows. Another possible advantage of a new version is that it could provide the option to host in the cloud, reducing internal infrastructure costs.
After the research into potential sources of ROI has been done, you’ll want to carefully structure your presentation to management. All of your intelligence gathering will be for naught if your pitch falls flat. Numerous articles have been written about making a successful management presentation, from the likes of Harvard Business Review or Forbes. Most executives are concerned with overall profitability, so you will need to provide a breakdown of anticipated expenses in addition to the potential for revenue or growth. Read up on best practices, but be sure to tailor your approach to what will work within the structure of your organization.
▶ Additional Reading: 5 Things to Document When Justifying a LIMS or ELN
To find the right information to present, a lab systems audit or gap analysis may be useful to provide appropriate data points. A lab systems audit will identify where data integrity can be improved and what is needed to bring your lab into compliance with industry best practices. A gap analysis will show where a more robust product could make your lab’s work easier. It’s always best to have a platform-agnostic third party (such as CSols) perform these services to avoid any bias. Engaging a third party will also show management that the evaluation was taken seriously and performed by experts.
Do you have another idea for making a successful pitch to management for a lab informatics proposal? Tell us about it in the comments.