LIMS selection is difficult even if there are many such systems within an industry, and that’s true of ELNs and LESs, as well. By the way, if the title of this seems awkward, it is, but I stopped wordsmithing it and just left it alone.
Recognizing a Need
There are times where I see that companies are on the verge of being able to and needing to purchase a system to manage their laboratory data. Sometimes, I see this happen within specific industries. It is sometimes the case that it is difficult to find something that is a good fit and it’s not necessarily the features that are needed that stands in the way but sometimes the price point.
Writing My Own
A few years ago, I started seeing certain types of customers needed a system to manage their laboratory data going toward a certain type of platform and I realized that, if I wrote a LIMS on that platform, that that would make it more straightforward for those customers to select and use a system. I saw that it would make the LIMS easier to integrate with the rest of the software on that particular platform.
I knew the tools involved might be difficult to gain access to and, in the end, that is what prevented me from moving forward with building a system. Try as I might, I was never able to get access to all the necessary tools.
Note: By the way, I’ll just add that I wasn’t taking this lightly – building a big system such as this is a huge undertaking but I figured I had the experience to do it and understood the magnitude of it, and who better to give it a try.
Making a Deal
Let me step back for a moment and mention that I have friend in another industry who picked an industry and picked software to implement in his space for that industry. When someone in that industry contacts him, he gets them up-and-running with that brand of software he has expertise in. There are no selection costs and he is confident that he can implement the customer with the system he uses.
His point was that those selection costs could go toward building the new implementation and that, if you have a product you’re comfortable with and have an expertise in, that success is much more likely, to begin with.
With that, I tried to apply his idea to our own industry. I tried to find a product that would be a good match for what I thought specific areas of customers would need, something that was robust and had enough hooks and features to satisfy a variety of needs, and to work with the software vendor to use it for my own implementations.
In the end, that was just as hard as trying to write my own system. Software vendors have specific ideas about how they want their systems presented and implemented and they want to control every aspect of it. You can’t blame them. It’s their system and they can do what they want with them. I want to be clear I’m not complaining about this. I merely mean to illustrate that this isn’t as easy to do as it might sound.
A Stray Thought About Open Source
So, just let me say that, despite some misconceptions about it, Open Source isn’t free nor does it mean you do your own work. However, with there being a variety of open source projects out there and, in some cases, some possibility of finding libraries of code that might work to the benefit of a LIMS, an ELN or an LES, I do understand why some customers think this is an attractive direction to take.
I don’t mean to say that it still isn’t quite a lot of work but I do see that there might be some amount of backbone structure and such that you could get from this.
To customers who want to do this, I still ask you, “Do you really want to become a software development company?,” although that is almost what they become when they implement some of these systems they purchase that are supposed to be COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf). But I do understand why professionals in our industry might see these as an attractive way to implement for several customers within a specific customer segment, for example.
The Final Word on Product Selections
As usual, I’ll remind every reading that doing a product selection doesn’t require using an acronym, as they tend to change meaning depending who you ask, but in presenting your requirements and meeting those.
The selection process can be difficult and can sometimes become expensive, in and of itself, but you just need to take it step-by-step. Start with requirements and don’t forget to rate your requirement items. That will help you when you become overwhelmed with the number of items you’re considering.