Supporting Life Science IT with Laboratory Informatics as a Service

Posted on Lab Informatics. 5 February, 2020

Modern Life Science laboratories typically utilize many different applications and legacy systems to manage their workflows and data, but unfortunately, there is often very little integration between these systems. As such, managing all the IT dependencies in these modern labs is a significant undertaking.

Today’s Life Science IT professionals need to be both knowledgeable across scientific domains and experts at the informatics. The reality is that creating the necessary integrated laboratory ecosystem and the subsequent support, maintenance, and extension of it is such a significant undertaking that only large companies with sufficient budget and resources have been able to attempt it.

With the rate of data generation increasing exponentially in Life Science R&D laboratories, there has never been a time when laboratories are so tightly coupled to informatics systems and scientists so dependent on IT. In this challenging environment, IT professionals often get bogged down in supporting current infrastructure instead of developing and maintaining strategic roadmaps to be ready for future demand. In order to future-proof your lab, a third-party informatics vendor with industry experience and expertise in laboratory informatics systems can be a valuable partner to your organization by providing Laboratory Informatics as a Service (LIaaS).

Chris McClure, Managing Director of the Astrix Managed Services Program recently gave a webinar entitled Supporting Your Laboratory Informatics Ecosystem with Laboratory Informatics as a Service (LIaaS) where he discussed best practices for transitioning your laboratory to a Life Science informatics managed services program and highlighted the benefits available to your organization once the program is up and running. This blog will summarize the key points from this important webinar.

Choosing Your Manager Services Provider (MSP)

Some of the key characteristics of a quality managed services program for a Life Science laboratory include:

  • Provider has a services methodology that is based on industry best practices
  • Designed to fit the specific needs of the business
  • Service delivery/execution is transferred to provider and tied to an outcome defined with SLAs and KPIs
  • Delivery risk remains with the provider via a legally binding SLA
  • Managed through robust governance and reporting
  • Retains flexibility to expand or contract the service with the needs of the business
  • Provider controls resource management and delivers access to broader teams of industry experts and specialists
  • Enables budgeting for flat, stable, monthly rate of service
  • Supports your organization’s ability to focus on strategy and requirements
  • Provider works to assess ongoing service activities and continually improve services

There are many different managed service providers out there, but not all of them have the kind of comprehensive methodology and expertise that is necessary to effectively service Life Science laboratories. MSPs that are qualified to deliver services to Life Science laboratories will have a best practice methodology that contains the following aspects:

Service Strategy. You want an MSP that is focused on providing best practice services to the Life Science industry. Such a provider will have the following characteristics:

  • Technology agnostic vendor
  • Extensive experience with traditional recruiting and team augmentation with the ability to provide resources that are familiar with local environments and culture
  • Life Science IT domain expertise
  • Extensive partner network with scientific software and instrument vendors
  • Ability to evolve relationship to be a more strategic partner
  • Ability to create a solid foundation for support that allows your organization to staff more project and ad hoc work

Service Design. The MSP should have the ability to design mutually beneficial processes with the following aspects:

  • Assessment – Every single MSP engagement should start with business process analysis (BPA) that collaborates with all stakeholders to assess current state, design optimized future state work processes, and accurately captures prioritized requirements.
  • Alignment – Synchronize business goals with IT and business priorities, develop standardized processes, improve communication and productivity resulting in better end-user services
  • Risk Management – Reduce risk by providing cross-project visibility to quality metrics, developing contingency and business continuity plans, and continuously monitoring the status of testing and service development.
  • Governance – In a good MSP, everything is being measured, reported, and reviewed. Every MSP should have a full governance program that starts with joint executive alignment between the customer and the vendor. Additionally, MSP managing directors/leaders in both organizations should be conducting monthly service reviews to make sure KPIs are being met and scientists are happy, while an operational delivery manager works to measure effectiveness and efficiency of delivery teams on daily basis.

Service Transition. The MSP should design a well-defined and detailed transition plan to facilitate a smooth transition of services to the MSP. The transition plan should include the following aspects:

  • The Initial Assessment Provides the Foundation – The service transition plan will be built off the current state and optimized future state workflows that are identified in the initial BPA process. The plan will ensure Business-IT alignment, manage risks and define the timeline.
  • Communication Plan – A comprehensive communication plan is essential to facilitate “no surprises” and ensure stakeholder buy-in, user adoption, and effective transition governance.
  • Managed Service Operations Transitions – Begin shadowing existing services and document all steps and processes, commence metrics capture and reporting.
  • Access to Talent – Ensure partner has access to critical talent to staff their services. MSP should have the ability to provide onsite dedicated resources, remote resources that have ability to come onsite, nearshore resources.
  • Invest in MSP Employees – The MSP should invest in their employees via long term staff development programs and relationship-building to facilitate good retention.
  • Committed to Growing the MSP – The provider needs to have systems in place to grow their business and respond effectively to increased demand. A recruiting and staffing engine to build a pool of talent is a necessity for a quality MSP.
  • Critical Mass of Expertise – The MSP should cultivate a variety of staffing, service and technology partnerships to augment the MSP and be able to gain access to necessary talent and/or technical information quickly.

Service Operations. All MSP operations should be based on a best practice methodology to optimize operational efficiency across projects by implementing consistent, repeatable processes. A few key aspects of this methodology should include:

  • Run Book – Document the processes to support all service delivery activity
  • Program Management Office – Maintains the oversight of all MSP activities.

Service Delivery. The MSP should have service ticket operations that contain the following aspects:

  • Event Management – Services should be constantly monitored, with all events filtered and categorize in order to decide on appropriate actions.
  • Incident Management – All incidents should be managed over full lifecycle with the primary objective to return the IT service to users as quickly as possible.
  • Request Fulfillment – MSP should have a defined process to fulfill service requests, which in most cases are minor changes (e.g. requests to change a password) or requests for information.
  • Access Management – MSP should have a process to grant authorized users the right to use a system or service, while preventing access to non-authorized users.
  • Problem Management – MSP should manage the lifecycle of all problems with the intention to prevent further incidents from happening, and to minimize the impact of incidents that cannot be prevented. The MSP should practice proactive problem management by analyzing incident records and user data collected by other IT Service management processes to identify trends or significant problems.
  • Service Tiers – MSP should have a tiered service delivery model that ensures MSP resources are utilized appropriately and efficiently (Tier 1 – Lowest level of MSP support; Tier 2 – Provide in-depth troubleshooting, technical analysis, and support from the backend; Tier 3 – Delivered by MSP Subject Matter Expert (SME) on the product or service in question; Tier 4 – Engage Third party vendors/partners for product or service solution)

Continual Service Improvement. The MSP should build the services such that KPIs are tracked/measured and reported, and then have defined processes in place to improve service execution, efficiency and effectiveness over time. This allows the MSP to demonstrate a commitment to excellence that ensures quality customer service, while also allowing a multi-year contract commitment with stable pricing, even as costs/salaries escalate over time.

The Astrix MSP Approach

Astrix has established a comprehensive, proven methodology to deliver successful, repeatable, managed services in the life science domain that integrates all the above-mentioned aspects of quality service delivery. Our approach focuses on four key areas that we have found to be most impactful for life science organizations:

  • Laboratory Computing – Whether your laboratory is involved in R&D or operates in a regulated environment, if it involves a PC in the laboratory, including PCs tied to an instrument, we own it.
    • Maintain asset inventory including equipment life-cycle, aging and priority designations
    • Provision, remediate, and decommission laboratory PCs on a standard platform/image
    • Coordinate OS patch management deployments
    • Manage backup and recovery processes across the laboratory
    • Execute Info Security risk mitigation including anti-virus, firewall, and network access
    • Troubleshoot issues between PC and instrument assets and escalate to host instrument vendors
    • Migrate Windows XP, 7 OS systems to Windows 10​ while managing asset for end of life isolation
    • Provide computer system validation services across all GxP laboratories
    • Document all processes
  • Scientific Application Support – providing support for all applications scientists use on a daily basis:
    • Maintain software inventory​ – track license renewals
    • Version control – manage software updates, site harmonization
    • Manage user control access and authorization – provide access to applications across the lab environment including GxP
    • Proactively monitor enterprise system availability – stay ahead of system downtime
    • Troubleshoot issues between software, hardware, instruments and environment – advocate for the system and host instrument vendors
    • Provide Tier 1 and Tier 2 support across the full spectrum of life science applications – record requests, incidents through ticket help desk
    • Deliver Tier 3 support on focused list of enterprise systems – practices and partnerships established around key applications
  • Project Management – Astrix works to provide PM MSP services that are tailored to the needs of the customer. Available options include:
    • Supportive PM MSP – Delivery is primarily a support service that collects, compiles, and reports on information
    • Governance Project Management Office (PMO) MSP – Responsible for defining and controlling use of methodologies, standards, templates, and policies
    • Directive PM MSP – Responsible for providing program and project management resources
    • Complete PMO & PM MSP – Couple the directive with the Governance PMO MSP model to provide complete PMO/PM function
  • Business Analysts – Astrix Business Analysts (BAs) have extensive domain knowledge and work to ensure your organization selects the right technology for your business needs. Our BAs work to:
    • Analyze the domain and business processes
    • Execute detailed requirements gathering
    • Facilitate effective technology selections
    • Manage the software solution deployment

Conclusion

Life science organizations are finding themselves under pressure from several different directions:

  • increasing data volume and complexity
  • rising standards from regulatory agencies for data integrity
  • increasing complexity and variety of informatics systems designed to process data
  • need for reduced costs and enhanced operational efficiency, scalability, and agility in order to be competitive

In this blog, we explored a new approach to how life science laboratories can meet these challenges with a new capability-based Laboratory Informatics as a Service (LIaaS) offering.

Astrix Technology Group has over 20 years’ experience supporting scientific organizations in managing, maintaining, upgrading and integrating their laboratory informatics applications. Whether you are simply looking for help desk support, or an all-in-one solution that includes hardware, software and service, Astrix can deliver a customized support solution that is right for your business and your budget.

If you have any questions about Astrix Technology Group service offerings, or if you would like have an initial consultation with an Astrix informatics expert to explore how to optimize your laboratory informatics strategy, don’t hesitate to contact us.

About Chris McClure

Chris McClure As Managing Director of Astrix Technology Group in the Informatics Professional Services Practice, Chris McClure leads the Astrix managed service program and oversees all professional services delivery in the NE region. With over 25 years’ experience in the life sciences, Mr, McClure has led informatics product development and professional services delivery across many different leading pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

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