The Lack of the Ultimate System


I have a friend who does similar consulting to mine but that he works in the PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) sector. Years ago, he found a product that could handle any of the customers that came his way and with an associated cost that scaled well to the size of customer implementing the product. He altogether stopped doing product selections for customers and started telling them he had the solution for them. I’ve been envious of this every since he told me.

Too Much Programming and Tools That Are Not That Good
First of all, after all these years, I can’t believe how many of us are still spending most of our time programming here in the LIMS, ELN, LES industry. With all the hype about how “configurable” the systems we use are, too many of them are still too heavily based on doing programming to get them to work.

After all these years working with these systems, I had hoped that we would have better tools than we have. I had hoped we’d have some collection of “ultimate” systems that could be based on strong workflow engines that are easy to use, as well as configuration that is powerful.

Why This is So Difficult for Us
Some of the problem has to do with the complex data we work with. As just one example, creating product specifications will probably never be easy. There are tools that make it less painful, but none that can take away the fact that there are so many moving parts to them that have to be checked.

In addition, because we cross so many different industries and types of workflows, it can be challenging to test out a product in the various scenarios it would have to address.

On the other hand, other industries have complex data and workflow variety. To a certain extent, we’ve become good at making excuses for our lack of progress.

Why Product Selections Are So Hard to Do
Lately, I’ve had quite a few product selections come my way and I tend to ask people what systems they’ve worked on and what they liked and didn’t like about them. Here are some issues I continue to hear about these past systems people have worked with, and they usually mean brands that are still selling and popular when they mention these problems:

  1. They’re too complicated to learn and manage for the company to eventually be able to manage the system, internally, and in a cost-effective manner.
  2. The systems are so complicated they require support from IT-type teams as large as the scientific groups they service. This is a huge expense.
  3. Some of the products are not powerful enough to handle any real variety in the workflows.

Finally
I would like to be able to approach the issue of product selections the way my PLM-based friend does – that there are some good tools that can show they can handle the majority of the configuration issues we could throw at them and just start using those solutions, exclusively. In addition, and maybe I’m just dreaming, here, but it would fantastic if they systems had great tools and documentation to go along with them.

Unfortunately, if there is such a product, I doubt I’ll find it. I can imagine that the response when I post this is that software vendors will contact me to try to give me a demo of their system. As I always say, you can’t “know” a system by a demo – you can only know it by using it. And, since there’s limited time in all our days, there are a tiny number of products any of us will ever really “know.”

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises


4 responses on “The Lack of the Ultimate System

  1. I’ve been the IT support “team” for LIMS in three different industries. And this post is 100% true for all three. Most labs cannot afford IT resources, so they end up with “whatever we can afford” support from vendors. Which means product features lag years behind cutting edge features in other, non-LIMS, products out there. Or they end up building these Frankenstein’s-Monster hodge-podge of unconnected “systems” to work around the limitations of their LIMS. (Ranging from Excel macros to VB.Net applications to whatever home-brew products they can make work today.) Supporting those hacks over time becomes difficult. Eventually, no one knows HOW to support them.

    And most of those labs cannot afford to hire the staff to do it right. So they outsource, which is more expensive. And that means even fewer features get implemented properly, because every new change request becomes a ROI calculation…

    It is painful to watch.

  2. Cloud based apps can provide instant access for evaluation on a month to month basis. As more apps allow for this type of deployment, users and consultants can dig in and create a comprehensive eval.

    The big LIMS vendors cannot offer this but everyone else can but this will take 10 years before it is the norm.

  3. Any vendor can offer the cloud as an option but not all of them are necessarily practical. I mean to say that anyone can offer it but if it doesn’t work well then it’s not worthwhile.

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