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Update on Resourcing and Whether There’s a Shortage

May 17, 2017

In previous posts, Where Have All the SampleManager Resources Gone? and Ditto For the LabWare LIMS/ELN, I talked about the fact that there seems to be quite a few people asking for Thermo Fisher Scientific and for LabWare resources but seemingly not finding them when there are actually resources available in the market. Then, last week, I made another update post Update on Resourcing and Whether There’s a Shortage. Since then, I have spoken with yet more people getting their viewpoints on this and will share more thoughts on it.

The Consulting Environment
Increasingly, customers continue to move to preferred vendor systems which require them to use only the largest firms out there. This trend has been going on for many years. This means that there are fewer and fewer customers using smaller consulting firms. Those small consulting firms are usually started by people with many contacts and a lot of experience. That means that the smallest firms hold a great proportion of industry experience per their overall size.

As the market squeezes them out, some of them will subcontract to the largest firms to continue to perform that same work. Other small firms will struggle to grab some of that business that remains. Yet others will give up and find something else to do.

My comment as a small business is this – if you don’t have your own customers, you have nothing. Subcontracting might pay the bills for a while but you can be replaced at any time. You’re just a widget to the big company. Sorry to say it, but it’s a temporary thing for them, too. While the small business is biding time until they can find more of their own customers the big firm is biding its time until it can train its own employees to do the work. Occasionally, a consulting company that does not have any laboratory software expertise will create a long-term relationship with another company that does have this expertise with no intentions of gaining this, themselves but, most of the time, this is not the situation.

Path Forward
Here is my advice to everyone. This is hard advice and I can’t say it’s easy for me to follow, either, because it’s sure easier to give advice than to act on it, as we all know. But with that said:

Small consulting companies like mine: Give up trying to get any business with the “big” LIMS. Instead of trying to work in these spaces, and regardless all the experience you have, go find smaller vendors that need services people or other products outside the industry where your skills will transfer well.

Big consulting companies and large services groups for “big” LIMS/ELN/LES vendors: Get your people trained. If you would have been training people to fill these gaps, all along, you’d now have more experts rather than coming up with these ridiculous plans where it takes half dozen people to be involved in every project because you have so few people who really know anything about the product.

Small product vendors: Wake up and start using some of the experienced people of the industry. These offers to if-you-sell-it-you-can-implement-it might get a few people who are good at both but you’re missing out on a lot of people who could make your product shine.

Customers: You’ll have to tough it out while junior people are trained and you’ll have to either create your own internal knowledge or just accept these more junior people, if they’re even available, because training people doesn’t mean the entire gap is filled, immediately.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

Fun SQL Server Posting

May 5, 2017

In honor of yesterday, May 4th (May the Fourth Be With You!), I received a SQL Server-related blog post, SQL Server: The dark side of NVARCHAR. I just thought this was so fun that I’d share it, even if it’s a day late.

Now, if I were that motivated, I would have created a post about “The Dark Side Of LIMS, LES and ELN” but maybe that would have just been too depressing.  😉

Meanwhile, the best I can do is to wish you all a good Cinco de Mayo!


Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

Update on Resourcing and Whether There’s a Shortage

May 3, 2017

In previous posts, Where Have All the SampleManager Resources Gone? and Ditto For the LabWare LIMS/ELN, I talked about the fact that there seems to be quite a few people asking for Thermo Fisher Scientific and for LabWare resources but seemingly not finding them when there are actually resources available in the market. Today, I make my update.

First of all, having moved onto working with the LVS system, I’m paying somewhat less attention to all this than I used to. What I do know is that I keep getting calls for LIMS work through recruiters. That is typically not productive for my business because it means that either the recruiter is calling to offer me a permanent job -or- another, bigger consulting company already has the work, has oversold the resources they have, and looking to remedy the situation, which also doesn’t help build my business. In any case, what it IS useful for is to provide a rough idea of the work generally going on in the marketplace.

With that said, I vaguely think someone did mention LabWare to me, and only the LIMS, not the ELN – but what I keep getting calls for is the SampleManager product.

The Usual Question: Is There Really a Shortage?
With all the calls I’m getting, is there actually a shortage? If my phone is almost ringing off the hook with SampleManager work, is there a real need in the industry? (and the “ringing off the hook” is an exaggeration, of course, but it’s been an extremely active time, just to tell you that)

Here are a few factors to consider:

  • Some customers just hire any warm body they can find to recruit for them and there is no coordination. With a limited pool of people in any LIMS area, the likelihood is that we all get multiple calls for the same openings. That is certainly the case, right now.
  • Some of these calls are not about work that is a good fit even at the most basic levels. Some calls are for junior resources. When you’re a senior resource, you’re unlikely to consider taking a spot meant for a junior resource, partly because the rates will stink and partly because the work won’t be interesting.
  • Even beyond the basics, there are reasons why customer positions sit open for long periods of time. In one case I know of, the customer wants to find a local person. In any part of this country, all the local people are probably working on customers all over the country or world and too busy to work specifically with whomever is looking. So, finding someone local is not always possible. In another case I know of, the customer needs such a wide variety of skills that it’s just hard to find anyone that matches the greater majority of requirements they have. In these cases, though, as long as there is enough lead-time, this might not be a problem. If you wait long-enough, you will occasionally find just the right person.

However, I was giving someone I know a little advice on this, the other day, and here is what I said to him, and I’ll share it with all of you: I don’t know that there is actually a shortage. But to be on the safe side, definitely leave extra room in your project plan.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

The Subtle Differences Between Similar Needs

April 18, 2017

I’m now about knee-deep in my mobile application development tasks. Being somewhat involved now in a couple things, I realized they’re good examples of how two things that sound similar can be so different.

First of all, I’ve had a wide variety of customers, over the years, and would say that working with an end-customer, someone who is doing research and/or making some kind of product, is much different that working with a software vendor who wants me to consult on their system or markets.

One Type of Customer
Right now, with this mobile application development, I worked to select an appropriate platform for my customer, iVention US, and am now creating a model of an application for them. This “model” is meant both to create a talking point about about what we could do and want to do, but also something they could hopefully show a customer to get feedback, as well. It’s also an opportunity for me to learn the platform to the point where I can give a firm overview of it along with a recommendation to them.

In doing this, it occurs to me quite often how different this is than, say, if I were creating a mobile application for an end-customer’s system. Since iVention sells their products to many different customers that could be using all types of tablets or phones, my opinion, which no-one has yet disagreed with, is that it has to run cross-platform. But if I were writing this for a specific customer, they possibly would be standardized on specific equipment and I might just pick something specific to that platform because selecting a platform form and building something that goes cross-platform has been a lot more work than one might imagine.

Yet Other Types of Customers
So, where we hear so much about how easy some of the tools are to use, when we select a “platform” to use for more general development, we can’t always pick the easier tools. But with that, it brings me to Dr. S., of the “HPLC ‘N You” blog. He wants to create a mobile application and needs my advice. With all this in my mind, I directed him straight toward tools that were specific to the device he’s currently using, which seems to be a much more straightforward path than what I’m taking for iVention US. For one thing, the app he’s considering creating probably doesn’t need to be a cross-platform app. So, let’s just make his life a bit easier and recommend a tool that will probably do the job AND be much less burdensome to maintain and use. He’s yet a different type of customer and I gave some thought to his needs as being quite different from those of iVention’s.

In the end, each type of customer, while doing what seems to be the very same things, actually has quite different needs and we as consultants have to have the ability to know where to direct them. That’s what being an expert is about. That’s why “best practices” don’t work – because, in the end, customers have a variety of reasons for having unique needs. “Best practices” are templates for people who don’t know enough about the topic to gather their customers’ true needs.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

Many Congrats on My Work Anniversary – The Irony

April 11, 2017

From leaving my business listed in my LinkedIn profile as current, many kind people have congratulated me for my 21-year anniversary at GeoMetrick Enterprises, last month. It seems a bit sad receiving all these good wishes when I’m no longer really involved with this.

Surprisingly, I still keep involved with all this more than I thought I would. People still contact me to ask for advice, tell me the latest news, and chew the fat a bit (mostly throught e-mail, though, because no-one uses the phone, any more).

It’s a strange feeling being between these two worlds – one where there is all this news and information going on and another where it’s just entirely unrelated to anything I’m doing. The other day, someone asked me whether it really made sense to try to give up my business when I’ve got so much experience and contact with the industry. My answer is this: if what people were calling me for was more related to doing consulting work for them, then keeping the business truly active would have been a good idea.

However, to keep it going so that I can give lots of free advice and chat with people isn’t a cost-effective practice. Now, as usual, I’ll add that I don’t mind giving a little free advice, here and there. I always did feel it kept people feeling relaxed about contacting me and sharing news with me. I don’t begrudge helping people out, now and again. But, as I’ve said, before, when it comes time to actually busy services, they go to the big companies. While the free advice wasn’t meant to be a tit-for-tat situation where I’d specifically receive something back for each bit of advice, when you look at it as a whole and, after getting advice from me, they still end up with a competitor, I was obviously doing something wrong. That’s the bottom line of all this. Unless I figure out what that “wrong” thing was, then there’s no point spending real time on the business.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

UX, and I Don’t Mean the OS

April 6, 2017

Some number of you reading this have, like myself, worked with the UX operating system (one flavor of UNIX). Today, that’s not what I mean. Today, I mean “UX” as “User Experience.”

In a recent post, I talked about how I am DEFINITELY not a designer at Web-Site Updates. This led to some of you responding with your own stories about how you also aren’t designers and ended up being a fun exchange of stories between us. In addition, just yesterday, I was e-mailing with Doug Holbrook of iVention US about the mobile app I’m creating for him and ended up telling him he’ll know it’s from me when he receives it because it’s just THAT hideous!  🙂

All joking aside, if it’s hideous enough that even I know it, even I can fix it up a bit, so don’t worry, plus Doug actually can match colors and will give me some changes, I’m sure.

Now, for the Actual Topic
Back to today’s topic, though, which is UX – User Experience. UX isn’t just about design – it’s about the entire user experience. How many times have users complained because the flow through the system is awkward or because they have to many steps or too many return keys? This is part of the “user experience.” When they don’t understand the controls on the page, that is also part of the user experience. UX experts looks at the entire experience, from the actual design to the flow. Some of the vendors in our industry employ full-time UX experts, others occasionally use UX consultants when they need to and, yet others, don’t bother with this, at all, and maybe we can even figure out which ones these are, in most cases.

As a person who designs these programs, myself, I will tell you all that programmer/designers like me do a great job understanding what the system does and staying within its boundaries. But leaving the entire process up to us isn’t always the best idea. For a COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) implementation, that might be fine, but it probably isn’t a good idea for an entire system build. Anyone working with software should read why in this book The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

Come See the Turnkey System in South Detroit

April 1, 2017

Come see the turnkey LIMS/ELN/LES/SDMS system demo in South Detroit. It will take place in the distant future including free champagne and caviar to celebrate its release.

April Fools!

Background: For those of you not from the United States, let me explain that April 1st is April Fool’s Day. We play pranks on each other, tell jokes, and try to lighten things up a little.

Of course, many of you must have guessed this was an April Fool’s joke since there is no such place as South Detroit (despite being included in a Journey song). Now, I know that no-one could have been fooled by the offer to see a “turnkey system” since we all know that there is no such thing.  🙂

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises