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Key Considerations for a LIMS Vendor Selection

Selecting the best Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) for your business is a process that should be approached with careful consideration. Although seemingly a daunting task, the LIMS vendor selection process doesn’t have to be overly complicated, particularly if you think through your specific business needs, current processes, and your team’s capabilities and bandwidth.  

The following is an overview of key criteria to consider for a LIMS vendor selection. While each situation is different and should be taken as a “case-by-case” evaluation, taking the following thoughts into consideration can ultimately help your company meet its business needs and goals.  

Internally vs. Externally Hosted

It’s important to establish whether it’s best for your company to consider solutions that have internally hosted (on premise) versus externally hosted (AWS, Azure, etc.) servers/data centers. This needs to be defined up front, because if the LIMS needs to be hosted internally, this removes options such as SaaS, Cloud LIMS, etc.  

Does your organization have any special security restrictions or policies that require the LIMS application and servers be physically on-site and under control of your company, as opposed to an externally hosted data center with legal agreements? Maintenance of an internally hosted solution is a consideration as well. The overhead of maintaining server rooms could make an externally hosted solution more attractive.   

If SaaS or Cloud solutions are a consideration, is your company ok with downtime and new releases rolling out at the vendor’s discretion? Releases may roll out new functionality (minor or major enhancements), and sometimes this new functionality can be set to “turned off,” meaning it will be invisible to your end-users and not activated. Other times, this may not be an option. Having your position on Internal vs. External defined will help when you are evaluating vendors. 

Level of Internal Commitment to Administering the Application

When considering any implementation, it’s necessary to think about your company’s bandwidth, from deployment activities to training to change management. One element that is often overlooked is long term system maintenance. Before implementing a LIMS solution, companies need to think through what their level of internal commitment will be when administering the application. Understanding your options will be helpful as you are selecting a vendor. 

Does your company intend to develop or commit full-time administrator(s)? Do they exist currently, and are they trained? What is your knowledge transfer or hand off strategy after “Go-Live”? Will the internal admins take over 100%, or will it be a rolling hand off from the vendor over a set amount of time? What type of and for how many users is system administrator training provided? 

If there are internal resource constraints, the LIMS system might need to be externally administered. And if so, you’ll want to evaluate an example SLA from your Application Managed Services provider for changes, testing, documentation, end-user training, support, etc. specific to the LIMS solution that is selected. 

Scope and Flexibility for Business Processes 

As companies evaluate the right LIMS solution for their specific needs, they must consider the scope and flexibility of their current business processes. Is your scope of workflows targeted, such as sample tracking and data reporting, or is it a complete lab lifecycle from sample receipt and chain of custodies to usage decisions and data reporting and analytics?   

Additionally, consider the flexibility of your internal business processes. Are your end users adaptable? Could your company leverage pre-configured industry LIMS workflows with local configuration? Or are your business processes rigorously defined by internal and external regulations?  

LIMS workflows may need heavy configuration to meet local needs, so you’ll want to know if your LIMS solution can support this in addition to understanding the level of difficulty for configuring those local workflows.  

Scalability and Cost 

Companies should consider the scalability of a LIMS solution. The number of end-users anticipated to use the system at the same time will determine what license options might be best, whether it’s named user license or concurrent licenses. Each option has a price consideration that must be budgeted. As your lab grows and looks to automate more processes, are there costs associated with any additional modules that must be added as the LIMS footprint increases? 

You’ll also want to think through your existing and future lab equipment, the instrument interfacing strategy that will be supported by the LIMS application, and the associated fees. Does the vendor have experience with the technologies and manufacturers, or will they have to create custom interfaces? Will it be a separate fee for each instrument, or a one-time fee for an entire system controlled by a Chromatography Data System (CDS)? What type of validation testing and troubleshooting support will they provide, if any?  

These costs add to the Total Cost of Ownership and need to be considered in the decision-making process. 

Data Integrity 

Reducing opportunities for human error is of utmost importance when it comes to data integrity. When considering a LIMS solution, you need to determine what your strategy will be to get your reported data into LIMS and ensure that the solution itself can support the correct data formats (CSV, Excel, XML, AnIML, etc. and/or ASTM standards). Companies will also need to determine if the solution supports open-source format or if it’s proprietary to the vendor. Making sure your LIMS solution can interact seamlessly within the systems to ensure data integrity is critical.  

Forward Compatibility for Current Configuration 

Finally, companies need to be thinking about forward compatibility. Can the LIMS solution promote current configuration or customization to future minor or major releases? If so, will the solution provide the ability to confirm successful versioning-up of the software? If not, you may have to recreate all the work completed to date to maintain existing functionality, resulting in a large amount of revalidation, SDLC documentation updates, regression testing, and more.  

Finding the Right Partner for the LIMS Vendor Selection Process

When going through the LIMS vendor selection process, it can also be helpful to partner with outside, unbiased LIMS experts who can provide leading-practice perspectives, promote collaboration, and ensure that all cross-functional requirements are understood and accounted for in the selection process. Our team of LIMS consultants at Clarkston has experience helping companies select a well-aligned, sustainable, and scalable LIMS platform to meet their current business needs and long-term objectives. 

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Contributions from Melton Coskrey

Tags: Data Integrity, LIMS
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