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GeoMetrick Enterprises Wins Global Health & Pharma Award, Again!

August 15, 2017

Once, again, GeoMetrick Enterprises has been awarded an ILA (International Life Science) award from Global Health & Pharma magazine for Best Laboratory Software Provider 2017:
GHP International Life Sciences Awards 2017 (Full List)

GeoMetrick Enterprises’ Listing

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

Web-site Changes: My Memory Returns

August 10, 2017

In my previous post Web-Site Warning, I mentioned that I’m just this week returning to do some work on my web-site. It’s refreshing my memory on a number of issues.

While I won’t say that working on my web-site was the actual reason I looked for and took a W-2 job, having the web-site move hanging over my head might have been something of a motivator to procrastinate it by doing anything else, including taking a “permanent” job. Now that I’m back working on the web-site, I’m starting to remember how extremely tedious it is.

Even with all the templates and tools, the web-site still looks about like I personally put it together, and I don’t mean that in a good way. However, one good thing, is that I had to write very little code to get a couple things working the way I wanted them to, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much about it. In the end, though, at some point I’ll probably have to pay a designer to “fix it up” but I can possibly address some of the issues at WordPress events throughout this year, where I’ll likely meet plenty of people with design experience.

Side Note
When I was working at the U of M, they had needed some items added to the customer department’s web-site – just things like a few links and such, nothing that probably required any programming. They didn’t know how they’d get that accomplished so, trying to be helpful, I volunteered. They just plain insisted that they didn’t want that. At the time, I was puzzled that they’re rather let things go undone than have my help.

Now, looking at my own web-site, and knowing some of them might have seen the unfinished mess that I’d left my web-site in, I can imagine they were possibly afraid I’d mess-up the nice formatting they had and I think I now understand why they were hesitant. However, to anyone reading, I’ll just say that adding plain content, even if it’s in links, doesn’t tend to harm the formatting. That, plus the fact that you can always undo what you’ve done if you’re careful as most of us professional programmers are.

In any case, now, I can kind of laugh about it, as puzzled as I’d previously been. But if you think about it, people have their concerns about keeping things looking nice and it’s hard to allay their fears about that if their fears are strong-enough (and if your own web-site looks bad-enough).

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

Web-Site Warning

August 7, 2017

For those of you who might try to link to the GeoMetrick Enterprises web-site today and throughout the week, I will warn you that I’m working on it. If it appears to change before your eyes, it is actually doing that.

Some of you might suggest I make the changes off-line then stage them. However, it’s such a small web-site and there’s nothing super-critical that would get broken on there, such as an on-line store. With that said, I’m going to work on this, live (but with a backup, of course).

If anyone needs information they think they should have been able to find but now cannot with the changes being made, just contact me, directly, and I’ll be glad to respond to questions.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

One More GxP Compliance Issue

August 1, 2017

Just this week, I noticed the post GxP Versus Non-GxP had an unusually high number of readers. With Autumn quickly approaching, I will guess that people are starting to think about new projects and, with that, compliance issues.

Most of what I have to say about GxP situations versus those which are not GxP can be found in the GxP Versus Non-GxP post. However, I do mention in that post that we do sometimes want to combine GxP labs with non-GxP labs in the same LIMS instance.

That is a topic that comes up rather frequently – the question of whether to combine non-GxP and GxP labs into one system. The answer to that is that it depends on the system you purchase. If you think you might want to combine everyone into one system, you need to ask whether the audit and the electronic signature features can be configured (or programmed) so that they can be used differently by different groups of users in the same instance.

This is just a feature like any other feature – if you need details, ask for them before you buy the system. Getting a demo on what you need to do to split this up isn’t a bad idea, either.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

End of Time at U of M – Regrets? (The LIMS)

July 27, 2017

In all these posts about the end of my job, some of you might be surprised that I’m only now writing about the LIMS. Me, too. U of M runs the LVS Biobanking solution which I knew before I had an inkling I would work there so I guarantee I’m not passing along any secrets, here. It was easy enough to see from reading people’s LinkedIn profiles so they’re not keeping it a secret.

LVS – One of the “Big” LIMS?
First of all, there are a handful of LIMS that lead the market share in our industry. In addition, they are meant to handle a variety of situations. To match that, they are likely the most expensive systems, as well, but are meant to handle just about anything. We disagree on whether to compare by sales or by installed base, various lists say different things, but here is what I believe them to be and in alphabetical order so that we don’t get caught-up in the details of who beats who: Abbott Informatics StarLIMS, LabVantage Solutions (LVS) LIMS, LabWare LIMS / ELN, Thermo Fisher Scientific (TFS) SampleManager LIMS / LES.

Still, in what I tend to see in the marketplace, I think that the LVS system is probably part of this top tier. In the way the system is built and sold, it definitely seems competitive with these other systems. As for actual market share, as market share goes up-and-down for each product and as other systems float up into the market share for annual sales of systems, I’m just going to leave this aspect alone because it could be a discussion all its own.

Comparing the LVS System – The Markets
Each of these products seems to have markets where all-bets-are-off and customers might select any one of these products to fill the needs of the implementation, based on some overall features, price points, technology, and other factors. However, there are specific markets where customers tend to select one over the other.

For example, my impression is that SampleManager has the largest market share in the energy business. It is my impression that the LabWare system has a larger part of the market share for the clinical work (not “THE clinic” but the clinical laboratory work for the studies). I believe that customers trend toward the LVS system and Thermo Fisher Nautilus for biobanking.

This doesn’t mean the other systems can’t be used in these areas. However, it might mean that the particular vendor has built a “solution” for this market. That means that there should be something built specifically for this market and a knowledge of how to implement what the market needs. It doesn’t always work that way but that is what it’s SUPPOSED to mean.

It also doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other applications out there that compete in the market. We just sometimes talk as if the largest market share means a product is the best fit and that is NOT true.

Note: You might wonder this, “What is the difference between a feature and a solution?” My response is this: a feature is built-into the system. You might be given options with this feature, such as dropdown lists and radio buttons that let you “configure” how it will work but you cannot change it. On the other hand, a solution is built on top of a system. It’s an initial set of programming and configuration combined to get you started. And that’s all it’s meant to do is get you started. You still have to do your workflow and compare to what you get. With that said, you can modify it to fit your needs.

For example, if you look at the LabWare Pharma Template, this is a “solution.” It’s a LOT of LIMSBasic programming and configuration that sits on top of the LabWare software. You can’t change the LabWare system, itself, but you can change all this code and configuration in their Pharma template, if you need to. Now, my caution is this – this is specifically meant for a Pharma QC implementation. Each situation probably has a few adjustments they want to make but if you find yourself as a Pharma QC operation making too many major changes to this, you should rethink your motives.

Comparing the Technical Stuff
From the technical side of things, the LVS system has a little in common with both the LabWare system and SampleManager, yet still has some unique things of its own. Each of them addresses differences between their various instances in different ways, for example.

With regard to building the system, the underpinnings of the LVS system resides in a lot of programming that the user has access to. It has a variety of layers that must carefully be tracked and managed to maintain an understanding of what has been changed specifically for your system. This is similar to how SampleManager works. For example, in the LVS system you would create your own area for programming and if you wanted to change something that is core to the system, you wouldn’t do it, directly, but would copy it to a new area and, at your own risk, make changes. But you wouldn’t change the initial source. Ditto for SampleManager where we keep separate directories of code and copy it to a directory for new or changed code. I won’t talk about the gory details regarding why we do it this way or the benefits and risks, just will say this is how you need to do it. Period.

This is as opposed to the LabWare system where the code is managed separately from the base system. When you create LIMSBasic, you’re not changing anything native to the system, per se. You don’t manage the code with a variety of directories. You might have a variety of directories where you save your LIMSBasic for historical reasons in order to track or distribute it but it’s not because you’re controlling your build. Caveat: I want to say that you can still totally mess up your LabWare system if you’re not careful what you put in your LIMSBasic. Don’t get too cavalier with what you do in there and be careful to follow ALL the rules or you’ll be sorry (seriously, you think won’t but you will and that’s coming from 21 years of experience with these products).

When we get to the system administration, I see the LVS system appears to have more commonalities with the LabWare system. Examples escape me, right at this moment, but that has always been my first natural impression from using it.

A few unique aspects to the LVS system over the other two and these are just a few things about the system that, as an implementer, I especially liked.

  1. Instead of just database tables and fields, you basically build entities in the LVS system. These are combinations of database tables and fields that are grouped-together so that they can be used, together. So, for example, the table for sample data has certain fields in it but the entity for the sample might reference yet more fields that are not entirely appropriate to put in the sample table but that are commonly needed when working with samples. In other systems, we handle this more with views but having them initially tied-together is convenient.
  2. The way the web pages are managed is both powerful and you can do quite a lot with them without writing code. There does come a point where you have to give in and write code and you do have to include some SQL queries in some of the web pages to tie things together but their tools for this, while not dead simple to use are something business analysts could be using at some level without waiting for the programmers.
  3. While I did only put together some example dashboards for my group, it was generally easy to do. There were a couple minor gotchas to learn but there’s not much to it – you slap things on a dashboard and it’s there, more or less.

What I should stress about the LVS system that it has in common with the other two is that they are called “Big” LIMS for another reason. They require a level of maintenance above what other systems would need. You need serious database administrators for these systems, should have people around with strong SQL query knowledge, and you will need some hardcore experienced programmers unless you intend to keep shelling out money to consultants to do it. You will need processes in place to maintain these that you will build because you will have your own unique combination of servers, databases and such.

Also, having just finished an upgrade from LVS V6 to V8, I could have written great deal about the types of differences you’ll see, upgrade challenges and such. But here is where you have to hire me for my services. I don’t mind giving a few tips, here-and-there, but this is where I see some opportunities for consulting work. As such, if you’re about to go from V6 or V7 to V8 and you want someone around who can help make the transition smoother, please give me a shout.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

End of Time at U of M – Regrets? (I’m Still Glad I Did It?)

July 25, 2017

In my previous posts End of Time at U of M – Regrets? and End of Time at U of M – Regrets? (Open Courseware), I talked a little about experiences with this newfound employment. I’m still glad I did it.

Why Am I Glad I Did It?
I’d been speaking quite a bit, over the past months, with other consultants who were also considering “going W-2” and they will all probably ask me if it ended up being worth it.

What I would say is this: I’ve had few W-2 positions in my life. I’ve spent most of my adult life working for myself and, like anything else, it has both positive and negative aspects. With that, the prospect of getting a W-2 position had some appeal because it seemed like a new adventure, plus all the other aspects such as this one being close to home and working with a new group of people on a system I had not previously worked on.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the best part – direct deposit. Get this, and I know it almost sounds too crazy to be true, but – every month on payday, money just shows up in your bank account. You don’t have to send an invoice, call anyone or check on anything – MONEY JUST SHOWS UP!!! Wow! This was just the best idea, ever. I LOVE direct deposit. I mean I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it!!!!! Do you get the picture that I like this? If so, let’s move along…

At the end of my first day back in my office, here, I was thinking about whether it was worth the six-month chunk I took from my business to do it and I will say this – I’m still glad I took the plunge. To those of you who offered me other jobs along the way, I still maintain that I had taken the idea into my head that I wanted to do this, was especially looking forward to it, felt a commitment to it and, if I hadn’t done it, would still be wondering “what if?” As great as some of your other jobs sounded, I can now look back and know that I gave it my full attention and that there was not much more I could have done, even with the famous human hindsight we all have.

The other part is this – as consultants, we work with other consultants and with employees. Employees have a very different life than we do. We can commiserate with them about that only to a certain extent but actually having a recent experience with employment really brings light to the types of things that employees deal with that we don’t. All of us have probably had at least truly toxic project. But the consultants know, no matter how bad things are, in the end, they escape. The employees don’t have that consolation. I think that makes a big difference in the way you react to the situation and it’s just useful to remember that.

My Paid Vacation
In addition to all of this, what I recognize is that I was at a point in my business where I did need a break. I needed a new perspective. I prefer to look at this period off as kind of like paid vacation, albeit a working one. Even so, I did get to step back from my business and see it in a new light and I believe that made it all worthwhile.

So, in all this time, I haven’t talked at all about the LIMS I worked on. I will write a little about that in the next blog post.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

Working With GeoMetrick Enterprises

July 20, 2017

Monday was the last day of my job. Tuesday and Wednesday were spent entirely just catching-up with people via e-mail and phone. Some of it was bona fide business development and there are some questions that keep coming up that I decided to just publicly answer for anyone who wants to know.

Anyone that wants me, personally, to do some work for their project needs to contact the Owner of GeoMetrick Enterprises (that’s also me – it’s a small company). The point being that I do have a registered company. The company pays the usual quarterly estimated taxes and has a variety of insurance based on the requirements of doing business with our industry unless you are doing government contracting and, at that point, there are other requirements to doing business that I might not be able to obtain, depending on the situation. For example, I know of no way to get a security clearance. That’s just one example.

I do have example contracts for those of you who are small-enough that you do not yet have your own contract template and the terms are always negotiable, to a point. I just mean that it has to remain entirely legal, obviously, and that both sides have to feel satisfied with the final version in order to sign it.

None of this was a secret nor unusual nor probably all that interesting but it just seemed that there are a handful of people that want to know and I want to make it easy for them to know it.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises