As part of this week’s “back to work” theme, here in this product selection posting, one will consider the issues of this task. With so many products on the market, this is a more complex issue that some might think.

Too Many Features and Products
Today’s laboratory informatics products, whether LIMS, ELNs or other, offer a huge variety of features if we were to list every feature available in every product on the market. Each product has a different variety of features. No product will be the best in every feature a new customer might need. Even if a product has every feature a customer needs, it might still not be the best fit for the customer.

Then, there comes the problem that there might be several products that offer everything a customer needs and they all look pretty good. Then, selecting one over another becomes even more difficult.

For both these reasons, this is why a customer must have done a good needs analysis before they try to select a product. A customer must have a strong understand of the features they need and want, to begin with. Otherwise, they have no basis for comparing the products and the entire task is yet more overwhelming. Not only should a customer have a list, but they should prioritize their needs. Thus, it becomes easier to select between two products when one has a critical feature that another one does not have. So, you can see that it’s not about buying a product with the most needs, but buying the one with the most of the critical needs.

Other Issues
Companies can have a variety of issues that they need to ask software vendors about that appear to have nothing to do with supporting the laboratory workflow. Some of these issues might revolve around support, such as asking what time the support desk is open. Others might have to do with compliance, such as asking if system is validation-capable (and then getting details on why that is the case).

Forgetting to ask these questions during the selection of the product is a mistake. Depending on the issue, some of them can cause the entire implementation to fail. Occasionally, customers will say that they need to see what they like, first, then they’ll worry about the details. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case very often, these days, as most customers realize that there are a lot of good-looking products and great sales people out there but that investing time in a product without doing the due diligence that goes along with it just wastes everyone’s time.

Scalability is one of the many issues that should be taken seriously. Regardless how great a product seems, if a product can’t be scaled to the needs of each lab that needs to use it now and in the near future, it won’t be able to support these labs. Additionally, customers should try to buy products that are meant for their industry and meant for their project size. Buying a product meant for a larger company can mean a smaller lab will spend too much money and be swamped with too heavy a burden to implement and support the product.

Can a Company Do Its Own Selection?
If a company has someone on-staff who has selected one of these products, before, and people to support all the tasks that go along with it (such as requirements gathering), then there’s a good chance that they can. However, relying on a team member who has in-depth knowledge of just a single LIMS or ELN product or in a team that has never done requirements gathering – that’s a situation where a company should consider getting some amount of outside help, whether to give just a bit of guidance, or to take on the bulk of the work of leading the workshops and of managing the paper tiger that’s being created.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises