Selecting a LIMS? Why Services Are Just as Important as the Product

Whether you’re choosing your first laboratory information management system (LIMS) or thinking of upgrading to a different platform, it’s tempting to focus solely on product features and capabilities. But that’s only looking at part of the equation. It’s equally important to consider the services available for the product through the vendor and/or third parties.

In our previous post on selecting a LIMS using a data-driven process, we talked about how important it is to get to know LIMS vendors, so you make the right choice for your lab. Something else to recognize is that while some LIMS vendors can help you implement the platform, others will refer you to a third-party professional services team, like Semaphore Solutions, or expect you to find your own provider. This is a step many labs forget to factor into their LIMS decisions.

In this post, we’ll share why considering the services you’ll need is a critical decision that you should make at the same time as choosing a LIMS.

the best solution = the right LIMS + the right services

Why services are a key part of the equation

In our experience, LIMS implementations follow a common lifecycle:

A lab evaluates LIMS on the market, selects the product that seems to be the best fit, implements the LIMS, and maintains and supports it. Over time, as the lab’s requirements change, the LIMS might not evolve at the same rate. At this stage of the LIMS lifecycle, the lab has a choice:

  • Make further customizations.
  • Search for a new LIMS that will meet more of its current requirements and long-term goals — what we call “replatforming.”

Figure 1: A common LIMS lifecycle

Various factors can have a huge impact on how this journey plays out. For example, you could have:

  • The right platform and the wrong services team: In this scenario, the lab could face an implementation phase that is significantly longer than necessary, or an unreliable system during the maintenance-and-support phase. This, in turn, might require the lab to take on a separate evaluation cycle to choose a new professional services partner or even another costly replatforming.
  • The wrong platform and the right services team: In this scenario, the lab might need significant ongoing maintenance and support until it has the budget to invest in replatforming.
  • The wrong platform and the wrong services team: In this worst-case scenario, the lab might have to completely abandon the LIMS implementation and start over, conducting a new search for a LIMS and an effective services team.

In any of these scenarios, the lab is likely to face additional costs it didn’t include in its original budget.

On the other hand, if you choose the right platform and the right services team concurrently, your lab is less likely to need to replatform.

Questions to ask a prospective services team

In our professional consulting work, we’ve never seen an instance where a LIMS met all of a lab’s requirements out of the box. Instead, it’s the implementation and additional customizations — designed and built specifically for a lab’s unique business — that make the LIMS fit for purpose. That’s why the services team you choose is crucial to the ultimate success of your project.

When you’re evaluating a team, we recommend asking these questions:

  • Do they have experience in your industry? Can their technical team communicate effectively with your laboratory team?
  • Is the team capable? Do they have the required expertise, including software engineering expertise?
  • Are they responsive to requests? Do they communicate clearly?
  • Do they have a robust change management process?
  • Do they use tools that are compatible with what is used in the lab?
  • Do they understand regulatory compliance?
  • Are they large enough that losing a team member wouldn’t derail your project?

Services make a LIMS fit for purpose

A LIMS implementation can be a complex project that takes thousands of hours of work and a significant financial investment. In cases like this, choosing a services team is a critical decision. Without the right team to implement and support the LIMS, your lab could struggle to achieve its business goals and might fail to see a return on its investment.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t care about the features or technology underpinning a LIMS. As a software development company, we know how important it is to select the best tools for the task — in this post we discuss features that are specifically important for molecular diagnostics labs. Our point is that you can’t have one (the right product) without the other (the right services team) and that each one is equally important.

While choosing a LIMS based on features is important, it’s working with the right vendor or implementation partner that can make a real difference. The right services partner can bridge the gap between what a LIMS does out-of-the-box and your specific requirements.

Please reach out if you’d like to learn more about our trusted LIMS implementation and support services.