Why Your Laboratory Needs a Strategic Informatics Roadmap

Posted on Lab Informatics. 23 April, 2019

The digital revolution is rapidly changing the landscape for R&D companies by making readily accessible information and data ubiquitous. As such, having a strategic informatics roadmap is crucial to harnessing this data.  This abundance of data, along with the technology to store and analyze it, has served to dramatically accelerate the pace of change in our world and intensify competition amongst businesses. Industry leading enterprises are investing heavily in IT initiatives in the laboratory that create pathways to accelerated product development, improved quality and compliance, enhanced customer safety, and reduced cost.

In order to fully capitalize on the promise of emerging IT technologies, it is important for IT leaders to align with business goals and objectives so that IT solutions are focused on returning significant business value. Unfortunately, many IT leaders find themselves stuck in a reactive cycle of responding to user requests for new functionality and struggle to adopt a more business-centric, proactive IT strategy.

In order to break this reactive cycle, it is critical for enterprises to develop a strategic IT roadmap that helps to unite business leadership and IT professionals in one common cause. In this blog, we will discuss best practices for developing a strategic IT roadmap for the laboratory, along with some of the benefits of doing so.

What is a Strategic Informatics Roadmap?

A strategic informatics roadmap is a plan for the evolution of the architectural aspects of systems that participate in the data lifecycle over the next 3-5 years. The objective of the roadmap is to help organizations leverage their IT investments to achieve maximum business value. As such, a strategic IT roadmap for the laboratory identifies gaps between business goals and the organization’s current informatics ecosystem and develops recommendations to fill those gaps.

Strategic IT roadmaps are particularly important for large, complex, multisite organizations in which technology investment decisions are not straightforward. In these situations, it is often not entirely clear which alternative to pursue (e.g., enhance the existing system or implement a new technology), how quickly an enhancement or new technology will be needed, or when/if it will be necessary to coordinate the development and/or integration of multiple technologies.

The better strategic informatics roadmaps are developed through close collaboration by business, laboratory and IT stakeholders and contain the following:

  • Strategic Statement – documentation of current state and a high-level informatics strategy
  • Candidate Architectures – candidate high level architectures addressing the opportunities with recommendations and justifications
  • Prioritized Opportunities – a prioritized structure of projects to reach the recommended architecture
  • Timeline –a visual representation of the initiatives and projects that will occur over the next 3-5 years
  • Project Justifications – high-level justifications for each initiative and project
  • Project Cost and Duration – high-level estimated duration and cost for each project
  • Resource Impact – high-level internal and external resource requirements and organizational impact for each project

A strategic informatics roadmap is meant to be a clear, concise, multi-year technology strategy for your laboratory environment. Since it is targeted at a future state, it is not completely prescriptive: it is meant to provide guideposts to direct investments. The final document should include a comprehensive list of recommendations that are prioritized in terms of what must be done, should be done, and could be done. In some cases, a strategic informatics roadmap also contains transitional stages designed to bring business value forward, as opposed to waiting for payback until the vision is fully implemented.

Creating a Strategic Informatics Roadmap

The process involved in creating a strategic informatics roadmap involves collaboration between business, laboratory and IT leaders. A qualified third-party consultant can be used to facilitate this collaboration if the required skills are not available in-house.

The first step is to interview the organization’s management team to determine the overall goals and objectives for the business. Once the vision (desired future-state goals) is established, an assessment of the informatics ecosystem in the laboratory is conducted to determine the current state capabilities.

Next, a gap analysis is performed to identify disparities between currently available informatics capabilities and the desired capabilities. Finally, a portfolio of initiatives and projects are designed to bridge the gap between the current state and the desired future state. The result of this process is a practical roadmap to implement an overall strategic vision for the laboratory informatics ecosystem that will provide significant business value.

Note that there are many factors that need to be considered when creating a good roadmap. Some of these include:

  • Direct and indirect project costs
  • The rate of return on project investments
  • Business priority of the capability to be delivered
  • The potential for organizational disruption from the project
  • Cost-benefit and technical dependencies in system integrations

These factors, and more, will need to be carefully considered during the development process in order to ensure the roadmap effectively and efficiently meets business needs.

Benefits of a Strategic Informatics Roadmap

A strategic informatics roadmap provides several important benefits for an organization:

Better Investment Decisions. A strategic informatics roadmap provides the information needed for organizations to make better decisions in selecting the technologies necessary to fill gaps between current capabilities and the desired future state capabilities.

Organizational Alignment. Helps develop a consensus about a set of needs and the technologies required to satisfy those needs, effectively aligning the different functional areas – management, IT, laboratory – under a common goal. A comprehensive roadmap developed through collaboration will result in better executive alignment and stakeholder buy-in before projects even begin.

Better Communication. A roadmap allows the IT team to be on the same page with both laboratory and executive management and have efficient communications around future technology investment. The roadmap will also allow the IT team to communicate and negotiate more effectively with laboratory staff who request new functionality that requires significant effort.

Cost Reduction. A roadmap allows company stakeholders to act strategically when making investment decisions and managing projects, thereby creating efficiencies that will reduce IT costs for the organization.

Improved Planning. The roadmap will allow improved planning for projects in terms of anticipating resourcing needs and costs, making assignments, etc.

Organizational Harmony. A roadmap provides a strategic and structured way of governing changes to business needs as they arise and encourages balancing priorities across the business, diffusing conflict before it arises.

Conclusion

A strong linkage between technology investment decisions and business goals is an important component to success in today’s highly competitive business environment, and a strategic informatics roadmap provides this linkage for the laboratory. Given a set of business needs, a strategic informatics roadmap details the path forward to ensure the overall informatics ecosystem in the laboratory will provide significant business value for your organization. Please note that roadmaps are not designed to be static tools, however. As both business needs and technologies are constantly evolving, a strategic informatics roadmap should be periodically reviewed and updated.

Creating an effective strategic informatics roadmap is a collaborative process that requires a diverse set of skills and expertise. Astrix professionals have the broad scientific and laboratory domain expertise, as well as IT skills and familiarity with a wide array of technology platforms, that are required to architect an integrated laboratory IT ecosystem for your organization that drives both current and future business value. If you would like to discuss your overall informatics strategy with one of our informatics experts, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

About Dave Dorsett

Dave Dorsett Dave Dorsett has more than three decades of experience in R&D informatics throughout the global pharmaceutical, chemical, and consumer goods industries. He has an extensive track record architecting, designing, and delivering commercial and in-house informatics solutions across the R&D spectrum, from early research through late-stage development.

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