A common difficulty in completing a LIMS implementation project on time and on a budget is scope creep. Avoiding scope creep is every project manager’s dream, although it is close to impossible unless the initial scope is given the appropriate amount of care. Assigning a dedicated project manager can help, because the project manager commits to and must defend the original scope. It’s important to develop a scope that is as thorough as possible from the outset. In this blog, we’ll provide our best advice for creating a LIMS implementation project scope that plans for success.
In an ideal world, the initial LIMS implementation project scope accurately defines the deliverables, captures all the possible user requirements, and covers all the contingencies, as well as clarifies what is not in the scope. In our world, that rarely happens. To get as close as possible to the ideal, CSols representatives will work closely with you during the development of the LIMS implementation project scope. Despite our best efforts, there are always additional considerations that can add time and money to the budget.
We advocate for clients to thoroughly understand their user requirements (laboratory needs and business needs) before finalizing the project scope. To do this, it’s important to secure some funding before the LIMS implementation contract is even signed. It takes time and resources to do the preplanning that lays the foundation for each successive step. User requirements can only be properly understood by taking the time to speak with and interview many different subject-matter experts (SMEs). If there’s conflict or uncertainty in the user requirements, a formal needs assessment may be appropriate. Don’t forget to consider how the new system will interact with any existing systems as well as any additional systems that might be added in the future.
Note that input from the SMEs will be required at several points throughout the LIMS implementation. Your SME users have day jobs, so coverage should be arranged before their input or participation can happen. This is another consideration that is often left out of the project scope. Failure to get buy-in from the people whose input is needed for success will not result in a successful outcome. Providing coverage makes securing that buy-in more likely.
The next important pillar of the project scope is the timeline. As the client, you should have a concrete idea of when you want to begin. Knowledge of your organization’s business cycle will be useful in choosing a timeline with minimal impacts on day-to-day operations. Choosing a start date that coincides with stakeholder availability is another way to ensure that scope creep is minimized. It’s important to be realistic about how much time will be needed. Does your organization know how long a LIMS implementation will take? If your answer is no, it will be even more important to be sure that as much as possible has been included during the project scope process. Take the time, in the beginning, to educate all the stakeholders about the project scope, so that everyone understands the importance of making themselves available at critical points in the schedule.
Can your organization commit the necessary resources (IT, lab, quality, business leaders) for the duration of the project? If the answer to this question is also no, it may be worth including a staff augmentation line in your project scope. Under-resourced projects are often targets of scope creep.
Once the requirements have been gathered and documented, they should also be prioritized. Some requirements may be left out of the final scope if they can be easily accomplished at a later date. A realistic view of what is possible with the resources available will benefit everyone.
We also advocate for a risk analysis as part of any project scope. In addition to looking at where the project could go wrong, the risk analysis gives organizations the opportunity to evaluate the risk of delaying the LIMS implementation. If the risk of waiting outweighs the risk of proceeding, the implementation should proceed.
As mentioned previously, the exploratory phase of a LIMS implementation often requires a monetary commitment. Can you get the support of upper management to pay for that due diligence work, including a potential needs assessment? When speaking with vendors and/or consultants, be skeptical of the lowest price tag. If all the considerations brought out in this blog post are not thoroughly explored in a vendor’s proposal, you could be disappointed with the result.
A thorough project scope helps to avoid costs associated with rework because it will define the order in which tasks should proceed. No one wants to make the mistake of working on critical reports before the database, from which they will pull, is properly configured.
There will always be some aspect of a LIMS implementation that hasn’t been accounted for in the project scope. These unknown unknowns can be accommodated with a flexible project scope that recognizes this eventuality and provides for certain necessary changes as they arise. Ensuring that your project manager has lab informatics expertise can also minimize the effect of the unknown unknowns. Giving the proper attention to your project scope before you begin can help ensure your project succeeds with minimal disruptions or cost overruns.
▶ Related Reading: Working with a LIMS Consultancy: The Help You Didn’t Know You Needed
What do you wish had been included in your last LIMS implementation project scope? Tell us about it in the comments.