Posts By Derek Perry

LIMS: Love It, Maybe Sometimes

For some, LIMS stands for Laboratory Information Management Systems but for others, it stands for Love It, Maybe Sometimes.... The pressure is reaching an all-time high for the pharmaceutical industry to lower prices, maintain a competitive edge, deliver products to market faster and operate in compliance with increasingly strict regulations. For years, pharmaceutical companies have invested in LIMS technology to help meet these goals, only to find that they must spend even more time and money to obtain the efficiency gains that prompted them to consider LIMS in the first place.  An article in Chemistry World reports that the software is usually around 40 percent of the overall cost of LIMS, but that helpdesk support, maintenance, configuration, integration, training and other consulting services makes up the remaining 60 percent. This is a significant cost that often becomes a roadblock on the path to loving LIMS. We found this to be a universal pain point facing lab managers and LIMS administrators. They had LIMS in place, but they weren’t fully maximizing its potential because they were spending a considerable amount of time on redundant work with extremely high manual labor expenses. That got us thinking – what if there was a customizable solution that would sit on top of any LIMS platform that defined and organized master data requirements? And what if the solution leverages object templates that are configured to your LIMS? Now there is a solution - LIMS Accelerator™, a tool that standardizes templates and facilitates use of automation to largely eliminate manual data entry and the transcription errors it causes. With LIMS Accelerator, resources can get back to the job of being lab managers and analysts, not data entry specialists. And they can get back to loving LIMS.

LIMS Support Best Practices

In "Built to Last," author Jim Collins builds the case that companies should focus on their product (or their purpose). That is to say, a company should “be a clock builder, not a time teller.” Within the life sciences industry, supporting LIMS and other scientific data quality systems typically falls within the responsibilities of several organizations with differing charters and motivations. In Collins’ words, they are “time tellers,” in that support for these systems is not their organizational “main thing.” There has been an increasing trend of outsourcing these support tasks, allowing the company to shift focus back to their ultimate purpose of R&D, sales and manufacture of quality product. Support for a LIMS entails many important disciplines, including infrastructure, low-level and advanced technical support, master data implementation, enhancement and support for investigational activities. These areas are disparate in their resource needs, ranging from the IT-centric infrastructure support to the scientific technical master data and investigational aspects. Because of the varied nature of these tasks, a LIMS support organization is frequently split across IT, R&D, quality control and quality assurance organizations. Furthering the challenge are geographical and language constraints as LIMS systems are deployed on a harmonized basis across organizational units and manufacturing sites within companies. Being effective as a support organization can be viewed in two ways. The first means of being effective is providing for the needs of the users of the LIMS, a straightforward goal. The second dimension of effectiveness is being aligned cost-wise with organizational needs. From RSI’s experiences building and maintaining support organizations within the space, the following points have been identified as best practices: Begin with the end in mind. Understand the parameters involved in support by identifying the stakeholders, organizational involvement, current resources and cost considerations. Foster a sense of accountability. Support organizations that “sit” under a single organization are more effective in delivery and avoid the support gap that can be present when multiple groups are involved in support delivery. If multiple organizations are involved in support, clear definition of roles and responsibilities is critical. Structure centrally. Aligned with the trend towards harmonized LIMS systems and data, a LIMS support organization built centrally for an organization or organizational unit can significantly lower the total cost of support for a system by leveraging work across the unit and sharing of pertinent and relevant information such as reports and master data. Employ Agile Support Practices. Using Agile support practices shows a demonstrable benefit in several ways. By employing systems such as Kanban, visualization in the priorities and current status of the support team are readily apparent, especially across geographical or physical locations (using excellent tools such as Trello). Deliver frequently. A support organization is trusted by their stakeholders when they are able to frequently deliver upon their promises. Delivering frequently, as opposed to coalescing large releases or enhancements, may seem counterintuitive in a quality-oriented field. By delivering “smaller,” stakeholders are able to more quickly get value for the support effort and quality verifications can be more focused and accurate. Define success and measure against goals. Defining what a success is, whether it is codified in service level agreements, or a less-formal approach, is important to any support organization. Established what success means allows the support team to be measured against criteria, and is a lever for making changes to the approach, team or strategy if goals are not being met. Editor's Note: This blog was updated from its original post.