As I occasionally like to do, I’m writing today’s post as a response to a search phrase that brought someone to this blog. This time, it is two phrases, with one phrase as “what is out of the box feature” and the other as “what does it mean when people say i am out of the box.”

It’s not just our laboratory informatics world that throws around the term “out of the box” but it feels like our own problem, as we run into the term, so often. We like to talk about COTS (Commercial Off the Shelf) systems with OOB (Out of the Box) features as if we can buy a box of software, install it and use it. It is this very expectation that probably continues to ruin project timelines. As yet another sales tactic, we talk about “configuring” the system, when we really mean we’ll write quite a lot of computer programs to make it all work for you.

When you purchase a LIMS, ELN or any other laboratory informatics software, keep in-mind that you will have to do quite a lot of work to implement it. Do a proper requirements analysis to know what you need in order to compare it to what you have purchased so that you can make a list of items that must be made to work for your project. Have a good project manager that will control the tendency to continue to add features at will. In addition to all that, always do a phrased roll-out, where you get the things you need most, right away, try them out to make sure they all work as you need them to, then continue to get features added as your project goes along.

In Regard to You
For those of you from other countries who wonder what Americas mean when we tell you that you’re thinking “out of the box” we mean that you’re thinking creatively. It means that you’ve come up with an unexpected, interesting way to look at the problem that has brought out a way to think about it. We mean it is a complimentary way. If someone were to smile and say, “Wow, you’re really thinking out of the box,” then they are pleased. If they happened to say something like, “You’re just too out of the box for our company,” then that would be one of the few negative examples that come to my mind.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

3 Thoughts to “What Does “Out-of-the-Box” Mean?”

  1. I agree completely that OOB and the word configuration leads to misleading sales tactics by many vendors. However, I do not blame the vendors. I am regularly in sales discussions where the client does not want to hear the truth. It does not match their expectations and thus we lose the sale. However, I do not blame my competition for misleading sales tactics. They are simply giving the customer the story the customer wants to believe. We are all adults here and the customer has total responsibility for the system they purchase. Especially if they deceive themselves into believing such stuff about configuration vs. customization. What you say is so true about that but no one wants to hear it.

    All this does is serve to reaffirm my belief that the person you can trust the least is yourself. People will deceive themselves into believing their own lies. The funny thing is, they cannot see they are lies and proceed as if the person telling the truth is the liar. Oh well, so sad, never mind.

    Here is the good news. Vendors listen to the customer and want to actually deliver what the customer wants. To that end, most all vendors continue R&D to create OOB functionality that is TRULY configurable by the user without coding. This is getting better all the time for most all vendors. I see a day when LIMS/LIS/ELN/LES will be true boxed software or software at the push of a button that is truly user configurable. That day is coming fast. In the clinical diagnostics area it is 99% there already. We are able to put in a clinical system and have the lab live and generating reports within 5 business days. The setup is canned and the interfaces are all canned. The time consuming part is training. Clinical is highly standardized and this makes it possible. I see many other industries adopting the same approach. This will drive down prices and over all cost of ownership and much lower labor costs for implementation.

  2. It’s the old adage: If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

    Thus, when people hear something that sounds too much like what they want to hear from one place when they are hearing something different from everywhere else, the buyer bears the responsibility for that choice. Whether or not the other person has culpability and whether or not they realize they are lying, when it’s your company’s money, you really do bear the responsibility for how you spend it just as you would if you threw your own money away based on bad sales advice on a home, car or anything else.

    As we so often hear in the law — “Caveat Emptor” (buyer beware) and we hear it for exactly that reason. When you buy something, you have to take some responsibility for the outcome of the purchase. You have to “beware” of the consequences. Not everything comes with a warranty and not all warranties are helpful to the situations you might end up in post-purchase.

  3. Dave D from WV

    Good counsel. Any time we’re implementing a new system/approach, my mantra is “We’ll worry first about data collection – and worry about reporting later.” The users get sick of it, but they tend to buy in. If you can’t trust the data collecting, you can’t trust the reports you derive from it. Also, rarely is anyone a good enough prophet to know precisely what reports will be needed in what layout. Focus on “The Key Three” (reports) and then focus on proper data collection.

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