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System Purchase and Implementation Issues

March 24, 2017

When selecting a LIMS, ELN or LES, potential customers look for functionality that matches their needs. Additionally, most companies will have some other criteria, such as the operating system or database they prefer to use. But when systems offer basically the same features and run on the same platforms, there are other technical considerations to review before purchasing one.

Web and Cloud
Products developed specifically for the web and for cloud usage are not the same as those that aren’t. Products might technically run in a web browser or in the cloud but it doesn’t mean they can do so, efficiently. If the product doesn’t have a track record running well in a web browser or if it doesn’t have any (or many) customers using it in the cloud, then don’t plan to use it, that way.

Another issue related to this is that products that specifically run in web browsers tend to best run in a specific one. Features such as the grid fill-down might not work if you don’t use the right browser. So, if you have users that have to run a specific browser and it’s not the one your new system best works with, it’s worth investigating whether this is a good idea. Sometimes, the product just doesn’t properly run at all in the wrong browser, possibly hanging during certain transactions, or not bringing up tabs or information that’s expected. If you have hammered your users into complying with a single browser, ask yourself whether you can now break their habit if you have to force them to sometimes use a different one.

Supporting the Beast
Yes, I mean your system. The big systems could especially be considered beasts. They take enormous amounts of effort to maintain and update. I don’t want to make it sound unmanageable, but it might be, depending on your situation.

One of the big support issues will be the tools you will use for making changes to your system. Many systems truly are just a bunch of buttons and such, where you don’t need to be a programmer to change them. But as you move up the food chain to the “big” systems, that changes. That’s where you need to consider your own internal skills and needs.

There are proprietery tools in some systems. LabWare LIMS/ELN and Thermo Fisher Scientific SampleManager LIMS/LES have these. LabWare has its LIMS Basic and SampleManager has its VGL. These languages are designed to be used to help you program in these systems. They’re extremely powerful. Sales people often insist we call them “scripting” languages so that they sound less scary, but you can make major screw-ups with these if you don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t think for a moment that you don’t need programming skills to make major changes with these languages, that includes an idea what I mean when I say “structured design,” SLC or SDLC (if you have to ask what these mean, you shouldn’t be doing it!).

Thermo Fisher Scientific SampleManager LIMS/LES also allows the use of .NET tools. Now, the ballgame changes because you have public tools that you can program in. While you do have a choice what tool you use, most customers use C#. This doesn’t mean you can go down to the corner and just hire any old C# developer, by the way. LabVantage LIMS is a similar situation, using Java, JavaScript and Groovy for programming/scripting changes. In these two cases, you have layers in these systems that you have to maintain. The StarLIMS product sounds much like the SampleManager product in that it has a proprietary language and some tie to .NET tools, by the way. While I know nothing about StarLIMS, being something of a discussion on the “big” LIMS, I wanted to at least mention it.

The bottom line is that you can’t have your software vendor or consultants do everything for you, forever. It’s just too expensive. At some point, you MUST have at least some skills to make a few changes and to be skilled-enough to do them in a supportable manner. Sometimes, customers will make the statement “well, then, we just won’t ever make these types of changes” and that doesn’t typically last long as it’s a strategy that’s contrary to the purpose of these products, which is to be extremely flexible.

So, if you don’t want to deal with software lifecycles, code vaults and similar issues, that should greatly affect your decision on which system to purchase and how to move forward both in your purchase AND your implementation.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

Web-Site Updates

March 21, 2017

Despite going off to take a full-time job, I did say I was going to keep working on updating the GeoMetrick Enterprises web-site. There are a few reasons that I’m taking the time to do this.

My Reasons For Adding More Work to My Already Full Plate
First of all, Dr. Slomczynski is still working on his SOPs, method development and related services through GeoMetrick Enterprises. For him to continue to do that, the web-site does need to be as up-to-date as possible.

Another reason is that it’s just in my nature to fiddle with these things. So, this weekend, I wrote some PHP and CSS. Before you ask, no, before yesterday, I had never done either one, before. That’s just part of running a small business; i.e., when you need something done, you figure out how to do it, yourself.

Now, with all that said, if you had seen the web-site, recently, and looked at it, now, you might not notice many changes. I figure that, if I incrementally attack this, I will eventually make a difference. What I now have working is that the buttons on the home page now actually show the blog posts for “Out on a LIMS” and “HPLC’N You” but they do look ugly, I’ll admit. Still, being there and ugly is better than not being there, at all, in my opinion.

When You Shouldn’t Do-it-Yourself
This actually brings me to another issue from my past of running my business: friends of mine couldn’t figure out why I hired a website designer and webmaster. They didn’t understand why I didn’t do it, myself. After all, HTML is easy to learn and, like many of them, I do know other markup languages. So, for anyone out there who knows a markup language of any kind, it’s easy to learn another because you’ll understand the concepts of it. But the issue for me wasn’t learning HTML but in creating a decent design. Anything I’ve designed comes out fairly ugly and I recognize this issue. Any customer who has had me create a report format knows this – I can get the most complex of data together for the report but it will never look “nice.” So, I’ve always needed help with that aspect and I figured I might as well pay the web designer to keep it all up-to-date for me. (e.g., my customers know not to tell me to “pretty it up” but to say “move the title ten characters to the left and get rid of the bright green font color”).

A Boring Story About Me That Only a Few Will Get a Chuckle Out of
Here’s a story that those of you who know me will probably understand all too well:  I created a dashboard for iVention’s iLES product for Doug Holbrook of iVention US.  He and I had been talking about a potential market for the product and we thought an example dashboard of the potential workflow would help sell it to customers. He appreciated that I took the time to do it and thanked me (he’s such a nice person, really, I can’t describe what a positive person he is!). But, and knowing that I appreciate constructive criticism, he suggested that, next time, it might be easier if I used the drawing tool to create it. Here’s the rest of the conversion:

Me:     Yup, I did use the drawing tool to create this.
Doug: Ummm… (the short version of “And it’s still terribly hideous, anyway?!?!?! Yowza!!!!!)

In my defense, I’m a “computer programmer” not a “computer artist.”  😉

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

No LIMS/ELN/LES in Sight

March 19, 2017

One effort I’m just finishing is to replace my main office machine and now have a situation I haven’t had in many years – I don’t have a single LIMS, ELN or LES installed on it. It’s a weird, weird, weird feeling!

As happens with many of us, by the time I retire a machine to some alternative duty (i.e., not running as the primary machine for my office), there is just way too much junk installed on it and too many files that I no longer use nor need to save. I always look at this as an opportunity to do some cleanup.

As such, I copy everything but I make a list of all the software I know I want to install and then I install it on the new machine. But I have a copy of everything in case I’ve forgotten something and I can always add it, later.

But as I was making this list, I realized there is not a single piece of laboratory software in my list. There is no LabWare LIMS/ELN, no Thermo Fisher SampleManager LIMS/LES nor Nautilus LIMS, no Autoscribe Matrix LIMS – nothing like those. Not a single one!

So, while I do sometimes login to an LVS system at work, that’s on my work machine. And while I do login to the iVention iLES system, the versions I’m using are in the cloud – I don’t have to install them on my own machine.

So, for now, at least, my machine seems so barren without these – a virtual wasteland. This is a situation I’m struggling to adjust to. Honestly, it’s left me feeling a little creeped-out. And it forces me to ask myself this question, “Without LIMS, ELN or LES, who am I, really?” So, it’s a bit of an identity crisis situation.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

Thermo Fisher Scientific and CoreLIMS

March 8, 2017

Someone e-mailed me, yesterday, and asked if I’d heard the news about CoreLIMS and Thermo Fisher Scientific. Of course, I hadn’t, because I no longer keep up with this type of news. Even so, I had my first guess what the news must be.

Was your first guess that Thermo Fisher Scientific bought CoreLIMS? Well, then you just spoiled the surprise for the rest of us, here.  😉   I’m just kidding. Of course that’s everyone’s first guess and no surprise. It’s the truth, too, and here’s the press release for those of you that are interested:

Thermo Fisher Scientific Acquires Core Informatics, Provider of Leading Cloud-Based Scientific Data Platforms

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

My Unbelievable Pittcon Story

March 7, 2017

I have a Pittcon story to tell that isn’t really that exciting but a lot of people have a hard time believing it. Most people can’t fathom it.

But first, let me tell the story about a previous Pittcon: the last time I was at Pittcon, I was overscheduled. I was meeting with all the magazines, leading a networking session, giving a talk or two, invited to evening receptions, and having coffee/lunch/etc… with various people. I didn’t say “no” to a single one of them and I was so packed with activities that I could barely get to them all. One problem was that I was accepted for everything that I put in an abstract for, which I didn’t expect, and that tipped me a bit over-the-top on the whole thing.

That was a learning experience for me and, for the following year, decided to attend Pittcon but to volunteer for just one single thing. The networking session I’d led had gone so well, people liked it so much, got so much out of it, all said they wanted to do it, again, that I decided that would be the event I would volunteer for.

Here’s the part people have a hard time believing – it wasn’t accepted. I was just blown-away people all the attendees were so positive about it I just wasn’t prepared that the idea would be turned-down. Pittcon said something about running out of space. In any case, I suddenly found myself with nothing at all scheduled (on top of that, no-one I knew seemed to be attending, either, that year, by some odd coincidence).

The outcome was that I didn’t attend. There were so many conferences, for a while, that I had made a policy that I wouldn’t attend if I wasn’t somehow involved in a conference. With that in-mind, I did not attend Pittcon, that year. In fact, I have never returned. By the way, I’m not upset and boycotting Pittcon, it’s just by chance that I never saw a good reason to return, since then. And, now with a W-2 job as a customer, there’s no reason I’ll ever be back (but thank you to the kind person that suggested we might see each other at Pittcon, this week).

Anyway, we all think that you can’t be turned-down at Pittcon. It’s not true. I’m the only person any of us has come across that was turned-down. It can happen. But if you don’t believe me, I’ll understand.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

Clarification on Last Post

March 3, 2017

In my last post, Gone But Not Forgotten, er, I Mean, Actually Gone, mentioned the Mobile development that I’m doing. Some of you probably thing I mean that that’s what I’m doing in my new job. Keep in-mind that I promised I would be staying away from talking about what I’m doing at my job.

I meant that that’s what I’m doing for other development purposes and, in this case, it happens to be for iVention, US.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

Gone But Not Forgotten, er, I Mean, Actually Gone

March 3, 2017

Despite posts to say “goodbye” and to indicate I was going to sell this trademark and blog, none of that has happened. I didn’t actually intend to keep this all going but I’ve been thinking about other things and have spent no time at all trying to determine the worth of this.

So, I’m gone, but not “really” gone. And I’m definitely not forgotten. Strangely, people keep singing-up for this blog, the read rates have been fairly impressive, especially since there’s no new content in here, and people keep writing me to urge me to keep this going.

On the whole, I don’t actually have anything to write about. I’m not allowed to write about work and the work I’ll be doing isn’t really something I would write about, anyway. I haven’t even missed the blog. A lot of you don’t believe that but I have barely thought about it, at all.

Until yesterday. Then, I realized Pittcon might be coming up. And I realized it’s next week. While I haven’t been to Pittcon in quite a long time, I had written about it, every year. It seemed strange to let it come and go with no comment. So, from me to you, please go to Pittcon in Chicago, next week, and think of me every time you go outside.  🙂  That brisk March weather will wake you and and get you ready for all-day walking and sessions!

Meanwhile for those of you who have asked what other things I’m doing, I’ve gotten interested in mobile development and using C# with a bunch of plug-ins because I do actually want to run these laboratory apps on Android AND iOS. So, thanks for asking.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises