When you watch laboratory informatics software demos and the software vendor says the functionality is “out of the box” what does that actually mean?

Next to nothing.

For some features, it means nothing more has to be done to use them. For others, it only means that you could probably create the functionality within that software without buying another separate software package. Thus, if someone tells you that a feature or interface is “out of the box” some actually mean that someone has to do a lot of programming/configuration to accomplish it.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to determine what the true meaning of “out of the box” was until you buy the software and start to implement it. By the time you realize it, you’ll be far-enough along in the project that, while you’ll possibly be quite angry at the often significant extra expense and time added to your project, but you’ll have already spent too much time and money to undo the damage.

Thus, buyer beware. It’s no wonder some of the software vendors speak against having experts like me or any of the others in our industry come to work on their software projects. It’s not that we do know everything about some of these packages, but it’s harder to fool us.

Here’s something to try, but it’s not foolproof: mention you want help in your product selection from an expert like me to determine which items really are “out of the box” or that you want to bring someone like me in to work on implementation (because I’m an experienced implementor with systems such as the LabWare LIMS, for example, with great system analysis and LIMSBasic skills). If they freak out, it’s probably a sign they’re either hiding something or don’t really know what they’re doing (maybe they’re hiding that they don’t know what they’re doing). Also, if they smile but have a look on their face like they have a dagger sticking in their foot, that’s another sign they’re not that pleased. Some people are good at remaining pleasant through everything but those that welcome it are usually sincere in it.

Call to action:  If your goal for 2012 is to keep your project from blowing-up with these added, hidden costs that keep your project from finishing, contact me and I’ll be glad to discuss the ways this can work to your benefit. Many of my customers are those who were unhappy with their previous services or who need help working to get whatever their current services are, finished. So, if your LIMSBasic programmers can’t seem to finish and if you know for a fact it’s not because you’re constantly changing your mind on them (and think really hard about this!), then contact me and we’ll talk — especially if you’re in consumer products. I happen to have a soft spot for consumer product companies and have some food and beverage experience I can tell you about. By the way, as I always tell you, even if you’re calling me, ask for references. Don’t trust anyone just because they have a blog, write articles, give presentations or otherwise appears friendly. To find contact information, go to the web-site. There aren’t any cookies or things like that on the website that will ensnare you.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

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