The Dirty Secret of LIMS Implementations

Dirty Secret of LIMS Implementations

I’m not going to sugarcoat this…LIMS implementations can suck at first. The vendors may not tell you that in their seamless demos or slick PowerPoint presentations, but business practices will change throughout the whole organization, some things may take longer than they did before, and almost everyone’s likely to hate the new system. These considerable changes can lead to employee confusion, resistance, and a breakdown in communications. This has the potential to lower the system’s value and negatively impact your project’s ROI.

So, how do you effectively make the best of the situation? In this blog, we’ll advocate for well-established, effective Organizational Change Management (OCM) practices that can ease the pain of LIMS implementations and manage the changes that go along with a new enterprise application. OCM won’t help you avoid the pain altogether, but at least everyone will know that there’s a plan and it has an end point.

It Will Get Worse Before It Gets Better…

A new LIMS is a high-value investment, but transitioning from the current state to the better, post-implementation state can be painful for the lab team and any other department that interacts with the lab. A well-implemented LIMS requires tasks that will be difficult for a lot of users at first:

  • Evaluating current work practices, which can make some users feel as though they are being put under a microscope and, therefore, resentful
  • Ensuring harmonized master data, which may require cross-department consensus, and often brings forward existing disagreements about the way things should be done
  • Managing master data properly, including getting agreement on naming conventions and formats, which can be complicated and time consuming, and users might not understand the cause of the delay
  • Replacing long-established practices disturbs the status quo and requires time away from the lab for training, which are changes that users often see as low value
  • Implementing new software, which can interrupt daily tasks or pull scientists out of the lab, frustrating lab employees and lab data consumers
  • Running dual processes during the transition, which may take longer than similar processes before LIMS and feel like a step backward, even though the final process will be lower risk and more efficient

People simply do not like change—regardless of the promised benefits—and will resist moving to new ways of working. Few implementations can meet all the needs of all users. Project teams must balance costs and features, so not everyone will be pleased with the proposed solutions.

Organizational Change Management: The Key to Making It Better

Effective OCM and clear communication with all stakeholders is the best way to overcome new LIMS implementation hurdles and get everyone’s cooperation. When everyone feels informed and involved, there is less fear and less resistance to the change.

Organizational Change Management Plan

A comprehensive OCM plan is the not-so-dirty secret to a successful implementation. Most vendors manage implementation projects to minimize their own risks, but an OCM plan helps laboratories keep control of the project and better advocate for themselves. Good change management practices are available, but managing client-side change is rarely in-scope for a software vendor. 

OCM plans address how the organization or project team will handle common change management tasks, such as:

  • How to communicate job function changes
  • How and to whom information should be communicated and at which points in the project
  • How and when to solicit feedback from stakeholders at all levels of the project
  • How to support and unify multiple stakeholder groups

In addition, the OCM plan should address organization-specific and even stakeholder-specific issues that might arise. For example,

  • If the new system requires additional, more time-consuming procedures during the transition from the current to the future state, the plan should address how to communicate these changes and why they have value to the project and the organization. 
  • If the scope of the LIMS implementation includes groups that have been resistant to past changes, the plan should recognize past problems and provide solutions to avoid them completely or lower the risk.
  • If the implementation involves LIMS-instrument interfaces, the OCM plan should define in-scope groups and identify risks related to each. The plan can also include mitigating actions, but some clients prefer to capture these in a separate risk mitigation plan.
  • If the implementation does not involve instrument interfaces, the plan should detail how to communicate the business rationale for not including this—or any—important component in the implementation. 

The steps to building a really great OCM plan are:

  • Requirements gathering and scope definition: To minimize opposition, be sure to conduct thorough stakeholder interviews before you even begin to select a LIMS. This will ensure the stakeholders’ needs are understood and help you gather a complete set of user requirement specifications.
  • Assessing readiness: List potential issues and interview key stakeholders and future end-users. To mitigate risks, identify and track the key risks, propose specific actions to address each risk, and agree upon a course of action for how to proceed (including a detailed training plan). Align business processes at this stage so that everyone understands what the end result will be.
  • Building stakeholder equity: It will take active involvement and focused effort from every member of your lab team to achieve the desired results. Think about how to get your lab team to work together and embrace your new LIMS.
  • Measuring success: Perform frequent surveys of, and follow-up interviews with, key stakeholders and end-users.

When you work with a CSols project leader on your LIMS implementation, you will get someone who understands the value of OCM and makes it a priority.

Communication: The Backbone of OCM

Additional components of successful organizational change can include training plans, communications plans, and plans for post-go-live support. Of these, the communications plan is probably the most important. Being honest with the stakeholders and end-users about the inconvenience they will experience will set expectations and, perhaps, increase user adoption. Despite your candor throughout the implementation process, you can expect some resistance to change. This happens for a number of reasons:

  • People may fear a loss of status or job security as a result of new workflows
  • Lab staff may be unable to see the long-term payoff for them
  • Fear of the unknown

When communicating with employees, empathy and a clear path to resolution are also important in overcoming resistance to change. If your lab staff are informed about how the change is in their best interests, they will embrace it.

…And It Will Definitely Get Better

Putting an OCM plan in place before the LIMS implementation begins allows everyone to see the path forward and understand the pain points from the beginning. When it’s done well, the OCM plan supports the ultimate goal of a successful LIMS implementation. A successful LIMS implementation increases data integrity, decreases the time it takes for samples to be run through the lab, and gets results to the right person faster. Your lab’s capacity will increase, and the overall business will be more agile. In the end, your business will be able to make faster decisions with better access to reliable data.

Have you had experience with organizational change management, for good or ill, in your LIMS integration? Tell us about it in the comments.

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