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Top 4 Reasons LIMS Implementations Fail

Implementation-fail-spacedImplementing a new LIMS can be a huge challenge. There are so many aspects to consider and moving parts to manage that LIMS implementations can and sometimes do fail.  The reasons why they fail vary widely but the fact remains that a failed LIMS implementation can be a financial disaster and a huge waste of time.  Getting things right the first time is critical for your return on investment because let’s face it, these systems take considerable time and effort to implement! Here is a list of the top four reasons why LIMS implementations fail.

1. Not fully understanding what you need

It is not uncommon to see a recently implemented LIMS need to be fixed because either a key requirement was missed or no plan for expansion was made.  For example, a sample approval process can be implemented and work at go-live but then need to be completely changed later because a new business unit was added to the LIMS system.  It is very easy to get tunnel vision and base your requirements on the immediate needs of the business, thereby overlooking important details and flexibility that may be needed in subsequent phases.

Having a good understanding of what is actually needed now and in the future, based on your specific usage scenario, is critical for the success of the project.  One of the largest expenses incurred when implementing any LIMS is the cost to actually implement the solution. The effort to implement and maintain the system is greatly influenced by the quality and clarity of the requirements that have been gathered.  If you feel that you can’t afford the time and effort to do a proper analysis of the requirements, think of the cost and consequences if you don’t.

2. Biting off more than you can chew

Implementing a LIMS has a sneaky tendency to seem like a smaller task than it actually is.  Often times, things that seem easy and straight forward take much longer to implement than was originally planned.  Because of this, many requirements are added to the project scope that aren’t actually “needed” for go-live and not enough time is allotted in the project plan to accommodate problems that may arise during the course of the implementation.   That’s when functionality tends to be poorly implemented or dropped all together to meet the deadline.

One of the largest sources of underestimation can be the effort needed to configure the core static data entities.  Products, analyses, sample plans, etc. are the foundation of your LIMS and are handled very differently in each LIMS product. While configuring these entities may seem straight forward, slight nuances within an entity class can complicate implementing them correctly.  To minimize this, using a phased approach to your implementation can be beneficial.  In this way the first phase will include what is absolutely necessary with subsequent phases addressing the remaining “nice to haves”.

3. Failure to properly evaluate and select a LIMS

Ok, so you’ve done a complete analysis of your user requirements and you have a great idea of what your needs are, now what?  How do you figure out what is the best LIMS for you?  Do a Google search for “best LIMS”?  Many LIMS implementations fail because the correct LIMS system was not selected to meet the specific needs of the business and lab.  More often than not, LIMS systems are selected based on price and sales promises.  By the time you realize that the wrong one was selected, you are too heavily invested and turning back is not an option.  Following a well thought out, formal selection process including RFPs, scripted demos, vendor audits, and reference checks is industry best practice.  Doing so will guarantee that the selected LIMS will be able to meet your needs.  If this is something that your company does not have experience with or doesn’t have the resources to do, securing Subject Matter Experts with experience and expertise in this space is essential.

4. Not enough prototyping

Have you ever deployed something that you thought would be fantastic, only to have your users feel completely different about it?  For example, maybe you’ve put together a stability summary report that took a significant amount to time to develop.  That report goes all the way through validation before the users actually see it and they end up hating it.  Would this example make the implementation of the stability system fail? Maybe, if there isn’t enough money or time left in the project to fix it.

Prototyping frequently during the implementation process will avoid this type of situation.  It can also greatly increase the end users’ acceptance of the system and it will also reduce the amount of rework by helping to identify problems earlier.  By not prototyping often during the implementation process, you are unnecessarily increasing the overall risk of the project and the chances for failure.

Source taken from: CSols

Free LIMSOver the years there has been considerable grumbling about the cost of a LIMS to the point that LIMS vendors have often been vilified and equated with some of the worst thieves and scoundrels in history.  

Even though it was commonly accepted that it does cost quite a lot to develop, enhance, maintain, and support a LIMS, the actual software license costs and support fees just seemed way out of line to many organizations and labs.

So it was inevitable that onto the informatics scene a Free LIMS, or as it is referred to today, an Open Source LIMS would appear.  A huge sigh of relief could be heard around the globe!  Finally, we can run our labs efficiently and effectively without mortgaging our operation or securing a major grant to do so.  But is a Free LIMS really free?  And if so, does the old adage “you get what you pay for” apply?

The Free LIMS Landscape

According to LIMSwiki (www.limswiki.org), which is a great resource, there are 21 open source LIMS currently available.  These come in a variety of shapes and sizes and were developed in different environments.  Most are very specialized LIMS like ones designed to manage genomics labs, proteomics labs or other high data volume environments.  There are also open source LIMS that are oriented towards managing biospecimens and freezers.  Most were created in academic labs or research institutes to solve their particular data and sample management issues.  After developing these tools and then using them for a time they were then made available as freeware/open source systems.

There are, however, very few Free LIMS that come close to offering as full a feature and capability set as their for cost cousins.  There is even some debate in the informatics community as to whether there are any truly viable, full featured, open source LIMS available today.  In fact a new effort, OLiMS, was recently launched to fill that void on a supportable enterprise platform.

Free LIMS Implementation

One of the largest expenses incurred when automating your laboratory with any LIMS is the cost to implement the solution.  We are not talking about installing the LIMS, although that does take effort and resources.  We are talking about understanding your needs and requirements and then configuring, tailoring, and perhaps even customizing the LIMS to meet those needs.  The cost for implementing a full featured LIMS to support a mid-sized to large laboratory organization can be twice the cost of the software licenses in the traditional LIMS world.

In the Free LIMS world, the time and expense associated with understanding and documenting your requirements and then implementing your LIMS solution do not magically evaporate.  They are still present.  The question, however, will become “Who is going to do these tasks?”  Of course, LIMS consultants are available to help with the needs and requirements gathering, workflow analysis, etc.  However, there is no LIMS vendor to turn to for implementation services and it is highly unlikely that a LIMS consultant with expertise in the Open Source LIMS would be easily located.  There might be an active open source community where you can seek advice, help and support, but the reality is, you most likely will be on your own.

Interestingly, there is at least one full featured, broad based, open source LIMS provider available today that does offer implementation and support services.  In essence they are actually pseudo-vendors that are utilizing the Free LIMS paradigm to make revenue for the company via the services provided.

Free LIMS Enhancement & Support

Assuming that you have your Free LIMS up and running and your users are engaged actively with the system, there will come a time when you will have a problem with the system.  It is as inevitable as the Borg!  With an Open Source LIMS you may have a community to turn to in order to get help with your issue but you may also be on your own.  There are some organizations that do offer Support Services for open source LIMS on either a contract or per use basis.  So again your Free LIMS may not really free.

Over time it is likely that you may wish to automate additional aspects of your laboratory operation that your free LIMS does not support.  In the open source paradigm, you or the community may take up this item and provide additional capabilities over time.  If you end up coding and testing this new feature, that is more time and expenses that you will incur.

So at the end of the day, is your Free LIMS truly free?  The answer is No!  There are still costs and expenses associated with them.  Yes, the licenses are free but there is also a higher level of risk.  That being said, depending on your environment, needs, and resource availability, a free, open source LIMS may or may not be a viable answer for you.

Country Profiles on Non-Communicable Diseases

The Caribbean region faces a heavy burden of Non-Communicable diseases and has therefore placed high priority on addressing these conditions. Click the following link from the World Health Organisation for NCD profiles of individual Caribbean countries.


HIV Specialists Drill Down on Prevention Benefits of Antiretroviral Therapy in Caribbean HIV Patients

Multidisciplinary specialists gathered in St Maarten from 24th-28th August, 2014, for the 3rd Joint Meeting of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training (CHART) Network, the Caribbean Cytometry and Analytical Society (CCAS), and the Caribbean Med Labs Foundation (CMLF) and the 11th CCAS HIV/AIDS International Workshop. 

The organisers selected the theme " Prevention Benefits of Antiretroviral Therapy in Caribbean HIV Patients: the Central Role of Patient Engagement In the Continuum of Care" to allow participants to drill down in detail about what constitutes a succcessful treatment and prevention programme. Such a programme begins with an accessible HIV test capable of reaching vulnerable populations. With this comes the perennial challenge of addressing HIV stigma in our small island settings while extending the necessary support to assist diagnosis and recuritment of positive persons into care.

The next step in the continuum is to retain and monitor patients during care to stage antiretroviral therapy and treat co-infections. And finally, possibly the most challenging step is to provide the necessary social support to counsel effective drug adherence in patients, thereby driving down HIV viral load and securing the full prevention benefits of antiretroviral therapy by cutting back disease transmission in our communities.

At the St Maarten meeting, a four-person team represented CMLF, comprising Director-Laboratory Manatgement Specialist, Ms Valerie Wilson; Laboratory and Qualit Management Systems Specialist, Ms Wendy Kitson-Piggott; Laboratory Information Systems Specialist, Dr Wayne Labastide; and Administrative Assistant, Ms Louise Mathura. 

The major areas of focus were : Immunology and Virological Suppression; Role of Laboratory and Laboratory Networks in the Continuum of Care; Caribbean Country Reports; and Benefits and Controversies of Early Antiretroviral Therapy.

Ms Wilson participated in a panel discussion on WHO Treatment Guidelines 2013 and she also did a presentation on a Regional Framework for National Laboratory Policy Development. Click here for the CMLF presentation on issues around the WHO Treatment Guidelines 2013. Click here for the presentation on a Regional Framework for National Laboratory Policy Development. 

Dr Labastide presented on Using Laboratory Health Information Systems to Support Patient Care and Surveillance. Click here for this presentation. 

Ms Kitson-Piggott presented on a Monitoring and Evaluation System for Tracking Caribbean Network Performance. Click here for this presentation.

For the full programme of the 2014 CHART-CCAS-CMLF meeting and CCAS HIV/AIDS International Workshop, click here.

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad -- Closures of hotels and cruise ports due to outbreaks of communicable diseases, environmental challenges like climate change, and poor health and wellness in the tourism workforce, can result in significant losses in revenue. These were the major catalysts for the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) partnering to address issues affecting health and tourism in the Caribbean region.

During CARPHA’s Health Research Conference in Aruba, last Friday, CARPHA and CTO launched its innovative Regional Tourism and Health Programme geared at strengthening the links between tourism, health and environment for more resilient and sustainable tourism in the Caribbean.

Minister of tourism of Antigua and Barbuda, John Maginley, a long standing champion in the region for the establishment of this programme and one of the first to invest seed funding, delivered the keynote address at the launch meeting. 

Maginley recalled hotel experiences in which millions of dollars in revenue were lost because of food-borne illnesses and other health problems. He said negative events can cripple the Region’s tourism industry and recognized the need for training, standards and clear regional protocols to protect the industry. Maginley believes that this programme will change the way the Caribbean moves forward with tourism and will create a new brand awareness.

Premier and minister of tourism of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Dr Rufus Ewing, said that tourism is the mainstay of many of the economies of Caribbean nations and contributes to more than 50 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP). 

However, he also pointed out that the tourism industry is constantly under threat as the speed and frequency of travel from other regions bring new and emerging diseases and he described recent first-hand experiences with norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships that spread to the resident population. 

He explained that an adverse event on one island in the Caribbean is generalized in international forums, as being the Caribbean as a whole, and in turn negatively impacts the tourism industry of all islands. 

Ewing added that, along with an increasing number of violent crimes and reduced safety of visitors and residents alike, collaborative action becomes critical, if the region is to achieve a profitable and sustainable tourism industry.

Executive director of CARPHA, Dr C. James Hospedales, noted that outbreaks of food and water-borne diseases may be the most common health problem in visitors with major negative economic impact. 

He said, “In the early 2000s, within a five-year period, losses of over US$250 million were estimated to have occurred in the Caribbean tourism industry due to preventable outbreaks.”

Further, Hospedales spoke of major environmental challenges including beach water quality. He said hotels and tourism facilities face challenges of water and energy conservation to reduce carbon footprints, not to mention the overarching threat of climate change. 

He informed the audience that the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre had agreed that joint action with the health sector and environment was essential to improving resilience and mitigating and preventing the problem. In fact, according to Hospedales, a 10% improvement in the energy efficiency of the region’s hotels, could significantly contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases, as well as improve financial performance.

Hospedales reminded those in attendance of the additional issue of the health and wellbeing of the tourism workforce and preventable costly epidemics of overweight and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) affecting the entire work force. He pointed out that high levels of overweight and obesity, hypertension and diabetes, are prevalent among the staff and decrease productivity and increase health costs. 

Hospedales added that the tourism workforce health and wellness component of the programme will be led by the Caribbean Tourism Organization, with support from CARPHA.

Sustainable tourism product specialist at CTO, Gail Henry, further emphasized the need for risk and crisis management to ensure that potential issues, such as the spread of diseases, are minimized and that enhanced surveillance and responsible reporting of diseases was encouraged.

CARPHA’s tourism and health programme coordinator, Dr Lisa Indar, outlined the objectives of the programme, including awareness-raising for intersectoral and interagency collaboration, partnerships for addressing tourism and health as a joint priority, food safety and environmental management training and certification, public health surveillance and response systems and developing a healthy tourism workforce.

CARPHA and CTO are confident that this tourism and health programme will result in triple bottom-line returns: in health, by having fewer and less costly outbreaks; in environment, by improving beach water quality and reducing the impact of climate change; and, in the economy by reducing costs and improving productivity of the tourism workforce.

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CMLF News Issue #7
27th January 2016