If you are about to buy software for your laboratory, LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System), LIS (Laboratory Information System), ELN (Electronic Laboratory Notebook), SDMS (Scientific Data Management System) are just a few of the acronyms you’ll run across. As you start to pursue which to select for your laboratory, how do you know you truly understand the situation for laboratory software? Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you totally confused about which product does which things?
  2. Do you question which one you should purchase for your laboratory?
  3. Do they seem to have a great deal of overlap?

Rate Your Answers

You think you have a handle on it all:    You’re probably in a state of denial from the multitude of information you’ve gathered. Have a coworker shake you out of it. Alternately, you’re still in a state of ignorance and need to go out and gather more information. In either case, you’re not ready to read the rest of this.

You’re totally confused:               Congratulations! You have a good handle on the situation. Please keep reading.

Why Confusion is Good, in This Case

If you’re confused, that means you really understand where things are at. Here’s the situation:

  1. We have a multitude of acronyms.
  2. The acronyms are poorly-defined. Even where they appear well-defined, they’re confusing or outdated.
  3. In the past year or two, products are starting to blend together.

We’re in a state of transition. Period! If you understand this, you’re now as knowledgeable as many of the “experts.”

What to Do in This Time of Transition

Simply stated, if you are buying laboratory informatics software, such as LIMS, LIS, ELN or SDMS, you have two choices:

  1. Get outside help. There are many people such as myself that are willing to take your money to help you figure this out. Warning: many of them won’t know what to do any better than you will.
  2. Ignore the acronyms. Sure, someone might eventually redefine them to be meaningful but that doesn’t help you, now.

Regardless which choice you make, you’ll have to define what you want and ask potential vendors if they service those needs. Ignore the label on the product – go strictly for features.

By the way, speaking strictly about features is the only way to do this – it was never about the labels. And, yes, I do know how time-consuming this is. That’s why customers pay people like me to do this – it’s not that they can’t do it after reading my articles on how to do it – they just don’t have the time. So, commit to the time it will take (a LOT) or find someone else to do it – if you’re looking for the simple answer – that was it!

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises