January 15, 2021
A laboratory information management system (LIMS) functions as a centralized hub for managing many of the activities and workflows in modern laboratories. Selection, implementation and rollout of a LIMS is a high-risk activity for organizations, because inefficient or ineffective laboratory operations can translate into poor product quality, higher costs and regulatory compliance challenges.
A guiding principle surrounding digital transformation focuses on the efficient flow of data and information throughout the entire laboratory and business processes. LIMS is an integral component within the laboratory workflow required to effectively manage essential processes such as data management, sample tracking, automation and regulatory compliance across the enterprise.
LIMS projects require large investments of money, resources and time. Success in LIMS implementation projects can be difficult to achieve due to complex laboratory processes and the many different aspects of the enterprise that LIMS interface with. Some of the metrics which define success for a LIMS project include:
- delivered on time and within budget
- meets or exceeds all user requirements
- provides business value
- high-level of user adoption.
The last point, user adoption, is an often overlooked factor that is critical to the success of a LIMS (or any laboratory informatics) project. A newly implemented system cannot add business value to your organization unless people actually use it. In this blog, we will discuss a couple of important tips to help maximize user adoption for your new LIMS. These tips will be applicable to any type of laboratory informatics project.
Engaging Users in the Development and Implementation Process
One of the biggest mistakes that companies make during a LIMS implementation is to not do the strategic planning to maximize business value with the implementation. If the main focus of your implementation methodology, for example, is to simply speed up inefficient work processes with a fancy new informatics system, then you just end up with faster bad work processes.
In order for a laboratory informatics project to maximize business value for your organization, it is important to undertake a Business Process Analysis (BPA). BPA effectively documents the current state of laboratory systems and processes by engaging laboratory stakeholders in a series of interviews. Optimized future state workflows are also designed in a collaborative process, along with the system requirements that will be used to configure the new LIMS.
A major source of project failures is the lack of utilization of new systems in favor of reverting to pre-deployment systems and methodologies. A good BPA process facilitates user adoption through effective engagement with users. Users buy-in to the future state being implemented because they are consulted throughout the process and help to shape the future state workflows. This collaborative approach ensures the implementation will address user needs and thereby facilitates user adoption.
In addition to communication with users during the requirements development process, clear and frequent communication with all stakeholders during each phase of the project is imperative so they feel part of the process. It is vitally important to create and implement a comprehensive project communication plan as part of your LIMS project governance model. Along with providing critical information necessary to keep the project on track, the communication plan helps convey the ways in which the project will provide business value to your organization. This helps users feel motivated to use the new system.
The people facilitating communications between stakeholders in your organization will play key roles in the communication plan. Different aspects of organizations often speak “different languages” and may have trouble communicating with each other effectively (e.g., IT and lab personnel). It is important to have someone who is well-versed in all the different stakeholder domains facilitating communications in order to avoid misunderstandings.
Custom LIMS Training
Another key aspect of facilitating user adoption is an effective LIMS training program. Training on the new system needs to be conducted for all stakeholders that will be using the system – system administrators, super users, managers, lab technicians, scientists, information consumers, report generators, etc. Since each of these users’ training needs will be different, different role-based trainings should be developed. Otherwise, you will have a lot of annoyed and/or bored users on your hands, as they are forced to sit through training on system features that they will never use. Ideally, the training given to each of these users will reflect the parts of the new system (features and functions) that are relevant for their individual jobs. Designing modular, role-based training materials will allow you to easily create/adjust individual trainings so that they are most appropriate for an individual user.
Additionally, in order to minimize user frustration, user training needs to be customized to reflect the specific configuration of the system that has been implemented. Many organizations rely on generic training materials from vendors that have been designed for standard COTS functionality only, but this material will be of limited value in the training of personnel. Instead, for maximum user adoption, training materials should be customized and optimized by professionals that are intimately familiar with the unique features of your implementation, and also possess industry, domain and laboratory knowledge and experience.
System utilization is a critical factor in maximizing the business value of your new LIMS implementation and therefore the success of your digital transformation initiatives. As such, your organization should take appropriate steps to facilitate user adoption. Tips which we covered in the blog include:
- Engage users in the development of system requirements so they feel that they are heard and their concerns/challenges are being addressed.
- Develop a project communication plan that informs users about the business reasons for implementing the system so they will feel motivated to use it.
- Develop role-based, customized training materials that will effectively train users on the new system.
Astrix has over 25 years’ experience helping scientific organizations implement and integrate LIMS and other laboratory informatics solutions in the laboratory. Our experienced experts apply a comprehensive and proven methodology to ensure the success of your informatics projects and maximize user adoption. If you would like to have an initial, no obligations consultation with an Astrix informatics expert to