Dispelling a Laboratory Informatics Myth

One of the great myths of our industry is that you MUST use services from your software vendor. If that were true, none of the rest of us providing services would exist.

Let me explain: let’s suppose that you purchase a LIMS, ELN or any other product in our industry. There is theoretically no good reason that you have to use the services of your software vendor. In fact, the larger the market share of the product, the less reason you have to use the software vendor’s services because there’s probably a multitude of services companies out there that can manage to provide services to your implementation.

With that said, there are some software vendors that are probably refusing to sell you their product unless you also buy services from them. The reason for this is because the license purchase is actually a tiny portion of the true sale. The services are a huge business and much greater than the licenses and support.

This is why you’ll hear your software vendor insist that no-one but them can do the job right, and you’ll hear the services vendors insist that the software vendor couldn’t manage to service themself out of a paper bag, and whatever other sales pitches you’ll hear.

The truth is that some software vendors have decent services groups and others don’t. Many services-only companies provide excellent services and others don’t. Everyone is there to sell the services and will say what they have to to make that sale.

And, while it’s in the best interests of small companies like mine that sell expertise in systems such as the LabWare LIMS /ELN and Thermo Scientific SampleManager LIMS and LES systems to tell you that you should consider us as viable options to the services of those vendors, that doesn’t make us wrong, either. And, of course, it’s in the best interests of those software vendors to insist that that’s NOT true so that they make the sale, themselves. That’s how the sales process works – with all of us insisting the other side is just wrong,

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

7 responses on “Dispelling a Laboratory Informatics Myth

  1. I think you are oversimplifying your rationale for vendor services. There certainly is a place for third party service providers like yourself. However, the statement that vendors will refuse to sell you their product if you don’t buy services for revenue reasons is false, at least from LabWare’s perspective. We invest heavily in creating Industry Template Solutions that provide Best Practice configuration for common work flows. To make this effective, the customer needs to work with someone who is familiar with the solution. In other words, you need keep up with the product which is a tough task if you don’t go to training, get certified, and work with the constantly developing solutions or functionality. We aren’t trying to get every dollar of service revenue, we are investing in our service professionals and our industry solutions so that our customers can get the most value from the product with the least possible cost.

  2. When you talk about “services” what do you mean? There are several types of support services and the source we select depends on the type of service. When the service is an implementation or significant system modification, I agree completely with your comments and have found service companies are often the an excellent option. However, a vendor’s standard service contract provide unlimited phone support for assisting with periodic problems and free access to software upgrades and patches. These are services which I have not had success in receiving from non vendor service providers. I would be interested in to hear how service companies address these latter types of service.

  3. David, the types of services I’m talking about spans the range, from support (such as calling with a problem or asking “how do I get this feature in my system to work”), project management and business analysis, product selection assistance, implementation services (such as configuration/programming/scripting), and anything else related.

    A few years ago, if we had had a conversation on this topic, I would have said that examples of services best NOT PROVIDED by the vendor would include validation services, yet, in today’s world, software vendors do provide this service and I get the impression that some customers use these services and are satisfied. Likewise, I would have said that examples of services best PROVIDED ONLY by the software vendor would be things like basic system support, yet there are companies out there who now contract this as a service, although whether or not customers really like it isn’t something I can comment upon – I get the impression it’s done as a cost-savings measure more than anything but maybe someone using these can comment further.

    If any of the non-vendor services companies who provide these services can comment, I’d be interested to hear more details about how they address the issues of coordinating bug fixes and such – things that the vendors normally do.

  4. Let me clarify something related to John Newtown’s comment – by the fact that I mentioned that software vendors don’t have to let you purchase their product if you don’t buy their services, and by the fact that the post happens to mention that I provide services for LabWare LIMS / ELN and Thermo Fisher Scientific SampleManager products – I definitely didn’t mean to link those.

    I’m NOT saying that the two go together. I realize that John isn’t suggesting I said anything of the sort, but I do want to make sure that readers understand this point.

  5. Within LinkedIn, one person commented that another issue is that the same consultant will be submitted twice, once by the software vendor, another time by an independent services provider. I tried commenting within LinkedIn but my response was too long-winded, I couldn’t quite get it short-enough, so I’m going to put my response in here, hoping people will still see it:

    One of the issues, and with all consulting groups not just our industry, is that when you use people who are not actually employees of your services group, you can end up with this overlap.

    Some consultants actually work only with one services group, even though they aren’t employees, and some services groups prefer to use these additional resources for the very reason that they won’t have these types of mistakes. The benefit is that they’re not paying salaries, benefits and such to keep a large staff but they can grow their team if they need to.

    On the other hand, it is not always possible to have these types of agreements and it is important for services groups to verify with each consultant they are trying to include on their team that that consultant has not yet been included on some other proposed team to the same customer.

    However, that’s not so simple, either. Some consulting firms won’t tell the subcontracted companies/people who the customer is because they’re afraid the customer will be stolen from them. What I say is this – don’t work with people you can’t trust. It’s as simple as that. AND, boycott those firms and consultants that try to cheat you in this manner.

    And, more to the point of the initial comment, when the software vendor is using a services firm as a subcontractor, there can be times when they are in competition with each other. The services vendor might think that they can submit the third-party services vendor’s people to a project WHILE AT THE SAME TIME that third-party services vendor is also trying to get the same contract and submitting the very same people.

    As with any other services situation, make sure you ask which resources you can submit before you do so. And, you MUST do this for EVERY piece of work or these situations will happen.

  6. Things have changed. In my chequered past, and admittedly quite some while ago, I worked for a software house that did a LOT of customisation of a specific LIMS system, because the vendor (H-P, at least in the UK) apparently didn’t WANT their small number of LIMS staff to be doing work for specific customers. To that end, their daily billing rate for their staff was unrealistic – three times what we used to charge for our senior programmers – so once the would-be customer had recovered from their heart attack, H-P would suggest they spoke to us. H-P even GAVE us our copy of the software for free, plus a load of “internal” documentation (in those days, we were in the top 20 of British software houses).

    I agree with you about multiple submissions, though. That was a major curse of working through agencies – the agencies wouldn’t tell you their clients, and so you were left with trying to estimate from the “closeness of fit” of the job specification whether you’d already been submitted or not. Some prospective customers automatically discarded double submissions because they didn’t want any possible hassle with competing agencies. That, of course, left you open to the pre-emptive call, where an agency just called you to try to take you out of the running to favour THEIR preferred client.

    And if you threw up your hands at all this and tried to find your own business, you’d get some very big companies (I’m looking at you, ICI!) who would refuse to deal with a single contractor UNLESS you worked through an agency. The most frustrating experience I had, by a long way, was haggling over a rate for some work, and then being told to go through an agency, with the 35% overhead that entailed in those days.

    • For a number of years, I had a huge client who knew that they would eventually have to stop using my company’s services. One day, they told me that that day had come but that they really valued my services and suggested that I pick one of their preferred vendors to subcontract to. They even gave me the names of some of the preferred vendors they thought might have the best potential for that.

      So, actually, I brought a little business to a preferred vendor who had not known about that project and not had any of their people on the project, but who then charged a 50% markup on the project. That’s not just 50% of the services but 50% of everything, including all travel expenses. Suddenly, I cost the customer such a fortune that, despite how much value they felt I brought to their project, even they could no longer justify using my services at that rate.

      Actually, that customer had once tried to force the preferred vendor program to include my company but the criteria to get into it was way beyond me, with minimum profits per year many times what I could ever achieve. I was flattered by that customer’s extreme efforts to keep using my company’s services and I got many years of work from them. It’s hard to see all the work they have out there and the huge volume of people they need and be left out of that, but I remember the years I spent with them, fondly, and I’ll never forget the efforts they put in to keep me. They went above and beyond!

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