Lack of Laboratory Informatics Software Reviews and Case Studies

Today, as I occasionally like to do, I’m looking at the search phrases that people used that brought them to my blog and commenting on them. Today’s search phrases are: “labware lims failure”, “labware case study” and “labware lims customer review.” Additionally, I’m going to cover “how much labware lims” which I take to be a search to find out the cost of a LabWare LIMS implementation. However, I want to point-out that this posting is not specific to the LabWare LIMS, but covers the Laboratory Informatics industry, as a whole.

Lack of Product Reviews and Case Studies
While customers ask for product reviews and case studies, they merely ask for them — they seldom create them. Thus, every customer that looks for a case study or a product review when they’re looking to buy a LIMS or ELN notices that they can’t find any. However, in turn, they don’t alleviate this problem by creating this type of information to post to the internet once they do an implementation.

Some of this is a legal issue. Customers aren’t necessarily allowed to publish information about their projects. Also, if a customer did a negative review of a software product, there’s a certain amount of fear that that software vendor might sue them over it. Beyond that, people fear that the entire thing could result in being fired. Thus, whatever we might say about creating an open environment for people to share this kind of information, they still do it verbally and usually with people they feel some trust with, as opposed to publishing things to the world.

Thus, the years have gone by with a lack of case studies or reports on any of these project failures. We know that every product on the market has horrible and egregious failures but cannot know why because no-one is going to publicly publish that information. The very few articles and conference presentations that come out each year tend to focus on the success elements, not the failure elements.

Additionally, publishing cost information is considered private, as well. And, for a project that went quite badly, some companies would be embarrassed to publish the amount of the small fortune they’ve spent on their projects.

Three Ways to Learn About Failures
Plan that in articles and conference presentations to come that we’ll continue to see few stories of failure to learn from. There are actually a few, but VERY few. Here are three things you can do to get failure stories from people:
1. Attend conferences and other face-to-face types of meetings. While the presentations might not be that helpful in learning the “dirty secrets” of these projects, you’ll get some amount of stories from the attendees. Talk to them about their projects and, while some of them will give you a stellar story about how great they, their company and their project have been, a good number will share the whole story with you, unvarnished. This is something that you really can’t get that easily without meeting people face-to-face. That way, they’re more comfortable with you, especially if you’ve talked to them for a day or so, first. Part of the human condition is that we just tend to be much more open when we’re face-to-face. This doesn’t have to come from the big conferences, either. Check on your local professional organizations, such as ACS (American Chemical Society), RCS (Royal Chemical Society) or the like and drop into their meetings to get to know people on a personal level.
2. Hire an independent consultant. Those of us who are in the industry know quite a lot about what goes on with the products, especially when we have an expertise in those products. We can advise customers on how to be realistic about their project plans, how best to implement these products, and good other advice that isn’t tied to making the product look better than it really is, but is more focused on getting the best implementation for the customer. You’ll find that some software vendors will suggest that it’s a good idea to hire someone independent to help you figure out what products are right for you, how to best move forward on your project, and give you general advice on your laboratory informatics needs. Other software vendors will scream bloody murder that this is a waste of time and money, and when you realize that bringing someone in who might say something like “this isn’t the right product for your lab” or “this is an unrealistic way to attempt to implement this product” then you can understand why they don’t want outsiders around.
3. Spend more time learning about the industry, upfront. If you can devote more time, yourself, to understanding what the issues are with the products and their implementations, you can know some of the pitfalls, yourself. Many companies get an idea that they want to buy a LIMS, ELN, etc.. years ahead of doing so. If you start at that point to watch what’s going on in the industry, by the time you’re ready to buy, you might have picked-up on the clues around various discussions that go on in public enough to ask some private target questions to various other companies. Some of those other customers will ignore you. A few will offer to speak to you by phone and “off the record.” But this does take some time to keep asking, so you do need to start way ahead of your own implementation to do this because you might get a lot more people ignoring you than those willing to trust you with their information.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

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