Evaluating Legacy LIMS Part 2: LIMS Migration

Posted on Lab Informatics. 24 April, 2018

Whether due to increases in data volume, regulatory constraints, M&As, globalization, outsourcing, or a myriad of other reasons, legacy LIMS are becoming extremely costly to manage, and many companies are finding themselves in a situation where their legacy system is not able to adequately keep up with changing business requirements.

Organizations looking to address deficiencies in their legacy LIMS have two options – re-architect/re-engineer their legacy system or purchase and migrate to a new LIMS. In part 1 of this blog series, we discussed the steps involved in re-architecting your legacy system, as well as the benefits of doing so. In this article, we’ll explore the other option – purchasing and migrating to a new LIMS.

Reasons to Replace a Legacy LIMS

There are many reasons why an organization may be best served by migrating to a new LIMS. Some of the more common include:

Highly Customized Implementation. Legacy LIMS implemented many years ago do not typically possess the flexibility and functionality necessary to adapt to modern workflows. Out of necessity, these systems have become highly customized over the years to continue to meet changing business needs. As a result, the legacy system has become extremely costly and difficult to maintain and upgrading to a new version has become nearly impossible (version lock).

Vendor Shifts Focus to Other Industries. Several early LIMS vendors that designed their LIMS to be applicable to all industries have since shifted their development focus to specific industries. A company that purchased the LIMS in its early stages, but is not in the prioritized industry, is thus left with a lack of industry-specific enhancements in version upgrades, leading to the necessity of increasing system customization over time to continue to meet business needs.

Personnel Changes. Turnover of key personnel that were heavily involved in the development and implementation of the legacy system makes it difficult for the company to continue to develop and support the system.

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&As). Globalization of the economy has led to increasing M&As in many different industries. Newly consolidated companies will often find themselves in a situation where several different LIMS are implemented in disparate sites. Standardizing operations through migration to one system is a common occurrence.

The Migration Process

The improved functionality and flexibility inherent in modern COTS systems creates a powerful incentive for these companies to explore the possibility of replacing a legacy system with a new commercial LIMS. Migrating from one LIMS to another can be a complex and intimidating process, however. Before embarking on a LIMS migration project, companies should conduct a thorough assessment to determine whether it is the best path forward for the organization.

If a LIMS migration is chosen as the preferred option over re-architecting a legacy system, a comprehensive and proven methodology should be followed to ensure that the migration maximizes business value for your organization. Some of the important items to consider include:

Workflow Analysis. A LIMS migration project is the perfect opportunity to optimize workflows. The first step in the project should be a workflow analysis. The future-state requirements that come out of this analysis will be used to guide the rest of the project and ensure that the fundamental design for the future state system is constrained to only those functions bringing business benefit to your organization.

Enterprise Architecture for the Lab. To accomplish an integrated laboratory environment that provides a high level of business value for your organization, it is important to design a laboratory informatics architecture that is aligned with business goals, along with a roadmap to deployment, before engaging in a proper technology selection process for your organization.

Technology Selection. The workflow and architectural requirements serve to guide the technology selection process to ensure you select the best system to meet your business needs.

Minimize Customization. The functionality of the legacy system must be transported over to the new LIMS, and new functionality configured and/or customized when appropriate. Best practice is to examine and understand all out-of-the-box features in the new LIMS and utilize as many of them as you can in your implementation to meet your requirements and simplify implementation.

System Validation. Once the new LIMS has been implemented, it must be validated in order to assure quality in your regulated business process software, and thereby reduce compliance risk, data integrity concerns, and business liability issues. A thorough risk assessment should be performed to determine the extent of the validation activities.

Data Migration. Both static and dynamic legacy data must be extracted, translated (biggest effort) and loaded into a new location. Depending on its value, data can be archived, transferred to a new repository where it can be consulted and reported on, or fully migrated into the new system to be actively used through the LIMS functionality. The actual migration is typically accomplished through a combination of automated programmable migration tools and manual processes. Dynamic data migration should be done last to make sure the new system contains the most up-to-date data.

Once the data has been migrated, regulatory requirements mandate that it must be validated to make sure it is accurate and has been transferred properly. Even if your company is not in a regulated industry, validating migrated data is important to make sure your data is sound.

Impact on Business Continuity and Other Systems. A LIMS is just one component of the overall Enterprise Architecture. Transitioning from one LIMS to another inevitably affects other systems and can result in downtime and delays in data flow across systems. It’s important to plan carefully in order to minimize disruptions to critical business processes. Business continuity and maximum productivity must be preserved.

Facilitating User Acceptance and Transition. The new system will be a failure if no one uses it. Users must be consulted and involved in the requirements development process in order to ensure that they will accept and use a new and unfamiliar system. In addition, change management activities should involve a comprehensive training program for users of the new system.

Conclusion

When a legacy LIMS is no longer meeting business needs, there are a number of different options – purchasing and migrating to a new LIMS, upgrading to a new version of your current system, or re-architecting/re-engineering your legacy system. In order to determine which of these options will best satisfy your business needs, it is wise to enlist the support of a quality informatics consultant like Astrix.

Our professionals can perform a LIMS Migration Assessment™ that will analyze the risk/reward ratio on all the different possibilities available to improve your laboratory environment. Once you have determined which option maximizes business value for your organization, Astrix can help. Our professionals have the skills and expertise necessary to architect, implement, integrate, validate and support best in class solutions for your organization’s laboratory environment.

If you would like to learn more about our LIMS Migration Assessment™, or if you would like to have an initial, no obligations consultation with an Astrix informatics expert to explore how to optimize your laboratory informatics strategy, please feel free to contact us.

About The Author

Jeff Policastro is Vice President of Business Development and Strategy at Astrix, and he is responsible for the commercial growth and market strategy of the Professional Services Division.  He has more than two decades of experience in Quality informatics throughout the global life sciences, chemical, and consumer goods industries. He has an extensive track record driving success and delivering value to his client’s projects.

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