LIMS justification focused on your organization
When discussing the justification of LIMS acquisition for an organization, it’s easy to broadly speak about the typical challenges, requirements, and considerations for labs of all types. While this basic approach provides important deductions about LIMS for the laboratory industry as a whole, no two laboratories are alike, and the challenges, requirements, and considerations for your laboratory may very well differ from the typical laboratory’s. If your organization has already clearly stated its goals and potential risks, then rest assured that it has a head start on any organization-based justification for a LIMS; many of the justifications for a LIMS can be tied to meeting those organizational goals and minimizing those potential risks.
Four questions can be asked when focusing on the organizational justification of a LIMS:
- Why is acquiring a LIMS important to meeting the goals of your lab?
- What problems does the LIMS solve that currently affect your lab?
- What operational, financial, and personnel improvements do you expect to see in your lab because of LIMS implementation?
- Why are those answers important to the larger organization, as well as those outside the lab?
Before answering these questions, it may be necessary to familiarize yourself with a LIMS and what it’s capable of doing to support laboratory operations. One could, for example, examine a document like LIMSpec—a specification document for laboratory informatics systems—to gain a better understanding of those capabilities. Once more informed, it will be easier to answer the four questions as they relate to your organization.
Regarding the first question, if your organization has already described its goals, you may start matching those LIMS capabilities to workflow and method improvement, as well as time savings, and then in turn link that to better achieving those goals. This becomes organizational justification for the LIMS. If you can further make that goal-guided justification relevant and current to what’s presently happening in the lab, then it’s all the better; “the goals that are timely and pressing are those that earn priority.” Then that goal-driven priority can be emphasized during the formal justification process.
As for the second question on problems the LIMS may solve, those problems may be identified risks to the longevity of the organization, or they may be specific to a particular challenge posed by an existing laboratory process. Ideally, those risks and challenges have already been identified through a strategic planning process that successfully captures currently observed and potential future risks to the business and how it achieves its mission-critical goals and priorities. Drawing upon these real and potential risks and process challenges helps you better justify how a LIMS can mitigate or prevent them.
Finally, addressing questions three and four involves analyzing the economic and practical benefits to the lab (and the overall organization; see the next section) and—along with your answers to questions one and two—laying out the value judgment of the LIMS to not only the organization but also its internal and external stakeholders. That final question in particular recognizes that the same value judgment and “superior worth” of a LIMS applied internally also must be applied to the data and information recipients, i.e., the external stakeholders. It’s easy to ask what you, the laboratorian, gain by shifting from paper-based methods to electronic methods, but it’s also worth asking how clientele benefits from that transition. Similar to how lab personnel may get surveyed as part of the LIMS acquisition process, one can imagine how conducting interviews with critical external stakeholders should reveal strong evidence that the long-term future of the lab and its customers will surely benefit from a LIMS.
Panning out to broader economic and practical justifications for LIMS adoption
Lab management often thinks in terms of cost, and the further away management is in the organizational chart from lab operations, the more financial issues become a driving factor in understanding the impact of a LIMS. As such, it’s inevitable that when justifying LIMS adoption you’ll have to look at it (and address it) in economic terms. In particular, it’s easy for primary decision makers to fall into the trap of looking at such an acquisition in purely economic terms (i.e., as return on investment). While addressing the costs and cost savings is important, the justification needs to be viewed from more than this singular perspective. One might look at the cost components of LIMS acquisition, implementation, and maintenance (including project management, networking, hardware, training, licensing, configuration, and support) and break it down between in-house solutions and cloud-based solutions, coming to the conclusion that a cloud-based solution reduces many of those costs, making LIMS acquisition more economically feasible. Additional offsets like investment tax credits and accelerated depreciation rates may make those costs even more palatable. But this only part of the justification process.
A LIMS can also be argued as a “survival system,” without which the lab could not effectively meet its goals. Bringing a LIMS into the mix isn’t simply an incremental addition to a lab but rather the basis for better reorganizing and optimizing the lab’s workflow to meet its goals, support its clients, and prepare it for its future development. In short, with a LIMS, the lab will be moving from completely or near-manual operations to a system that allows for an improved working environment with reduced administrative overhead.
Then there’s the process of looking at cost savings in a practical, quantifiable way. For example, a lab could attempt to quantify the costs of operating paper-based methods, addressing the number of data entry errors and time spent on them, as well as the time spent entering orders, filing paperwork, waiting for resources, and performing quality checks on manually entered results. From there, they could estimate the time savings a LIMS and its automation tools bring in terms of full-time equivalent (FTE) hours. Tangible, relatively quantifiable functional aspects one could examine for LIMS justification include:
- Analytical support functions such as data entry through automated instrument interfacing;
- Work and resource management functions such as approving reports and managing reagent inventories;
- Quality assurance functions such as result validation, limit checking, instrument calibration, and maintenance management;
- Management support functions such as turn-around time analysis and equipment utilization analysis; and
- Business support functions such as customer billing and compliance reporting.
Of course, not all justification is tangible and quantifiable; a LIMS also brings intangible, difficult-to-quantify benefits to the laboratory. However, what one lab views as an intangible benefit may be viewed as tangible by another, and vice versa. Regardless, it’s important to note that any inability to quantify a benefit does not make it any less important to an organization acquiring and deploying a LIMS. Practical yet intangible benefits that can be used as justification may include:
- Improved support for manufacturing industries by providing a more rapid means of identifying production/quality issues;
- Improved perception of lab capabilities due to improved performance through better client relations and improved attitudes about the work environment by personnel;
- Centralized and streamlined lab information, data, and operations by enabling easier evaluation of workloads and smoother regulatory compliance activities; and
- Improved data management/governance through enabling greater data integrity and reducing transcription errors.
- Liscouski, J.; Douglas, S.E (July 2023). “2. Organizational, economic, and practical justifications for a LIMS”. Justifying LIMS Acquisition and Deployment within Your Organization. LIMSwiki.org. Retrieved 16 December 2023. https://www.limswiki.org/index.php/LII:Justifying_LIMS_Acquisition_and_Deployment_within_Your_Organization
- Cote, C. (29 October 2020). “How to Set Strategic Planning Goals”. Business Insights Blog. Harvard Business School Online. Retrieved 16 December 2023. https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/strategic-planning-goals
- “Strategic Planning Essentials” (PDF). Gartner, Inc. 2023. Retrieved 19 December 2023. https://emtemp.gcom.cloud/ngw/globalassets/en/insights/strategic-planning/2023/documents/strategic-planning-ebook-2023-risk.pdf
- Liscouski, J.; Douglas, S.E (July 2023). “3. Gaining buy-in from management and other stakeholders”. Justifying LIMS Acquisition and Deployment within Your Organization. LIMSwiki.org. Retrieved 16 December 2023. https://www.limswiki.org/index.php/LII:Justifying_LIMS_Acquisition_and_Deployment_within_Your_Organization
- O’Driscoll, A. (16 February 2023). “7 Best Practices for a Successful LIMS/LIS Implementation”. Clinical Lab Products . Retrieved 19 December 2023. https://clpmag.com/lab-essentials/information-technology/middleware-software/7-best-practices-for-a-successful-lims-lis-implementation/
- Novak, C. (27 February 2020). “The Benefits of Implementing a LIMS – Beyond ROI”. CSols, Inc. Retrieved 19 December 2023. https://www.csolsinc.com/blog/the-benefits-of-implementing-a-lims-beyond-roi/