How to increase your success rate in LIMS implementation?
Hi everyone, it’s Amber Shao, founder and CEO of AduroSys, a laboratory data management software company. Welcome to AduroSys podcast. I’m joined today by our special guest Gloria Metrick. Gloria is the Principal Consultant at GeoMetrick Enterprises. She has been implementing LIMS for large pharmaceutical companies as well as companies in the consumer goods and energy industry. Gloria has won numerous awards including “Best Laboratory Software Implementation Company - Midwest USA” by GHP Magazine just as one example.
Amber: Hi, Gloria. It's great to have you back.
Gloria: Thanks, Amber. I'm really excited to be back again.
Amber: According to the study, 70 percent of the IP project fails. And the reason behind the failure, of course, varies. However, the fact remains that the failure usually leads to a huge waste of time and money, right? So the lab software implementations are no different. There are many aspects to consider and there are many moving pieces to manage, so that makes the implementation a huge challenge. Have you come across any failure in implementing lab software like LIMS?
Gloria: Well, sure. So that statistic sounds about like our projects as well. And one story I'm going to tell, the most extreme story I have is that there's one implementation I worked with where the customer had selected five different software products and failed to implement five times and then did the final selection a second time and I guess got something working, but overall, they had to do six implementations with five different software products before they got the whole thing to succeed. Now, what's alarming about this story isn't just the number of times they did these selections and failed, but when I tell this story to other people, they always think they know who the customer was and they're wrong, which means that there are a number of these stories out there and that's what's really scary.
Amber: Wow. Six times. That sounds crazy. I can't imagine how much resources has wasted there, but I'm really glad it worked out though. So just like you, Gloria, I implement a lot of lab software like LIMS, you know, throughout my whole career. I find the more I implement, the more I think planning is extremely important. So let's talk about some of the areas where people should pay attention during planning. First of all, what are some of the common causes that you have seen that lead to failure? So the reason that's important to me is because I think knowing your pitfalls and that's how you can avoid, try to avoid them during the planning.
Gloria: So some things that delayed the project. For example, if you have the lack of the right resources, it's not good enough to just resource a project with a lot of resources. This is a common issue with the big projects is that groups will get lots and lots of people to work on the project, but they're not the right resources. And if you have a lack of the right resources, you can't be successful. A lack of leadership is another problem and probably is the greatest percentage going back to support the 70 percent of I.T. projects to fail. Because if you don't have good leadership, you're not going to have good decision making. Sometimes you lack a steering committee that will resolve important issues, you might lack the ability to force commitments, to stick with the time and resources that were supposed to be on the project or the ability to negotiate for these.
Some more problems are, you know, if you don't understand your needs. We had a podcast, you and I, about requirement gathering so that people would better understand what they need. If you don't understand what you need, you're not going to be successful in your project. So go back to our podcast on requirement gathering and actually help you out. If you don't control the scope, your project is not going to succeed. Everything does not have an equal importance. Everything that you want does not need to go into the project. Also, some projects get too far into the process before they realize there are significant gaps or that there are issues or big mistakes that are kind of too late, to allow the project to continue within a timeframe or budget that was originally planned.
Amber: Besides better planning on those aspects, is there anything else user can do to ensure the success?
Gloria: Well, there are some key elements. So for one, you do need to carefully define success or, for example, define your scope. Define and follow the requirements that you already gathered, and you'll use those to define your scope because everything does not truly have the same priority. There are certain things you should do primarily over others, and you need to define what those are.
You need to also talk about your approach. So in our industry, it's common to use what we call a phased approach where we don't do it all at once, we put together some modest plan to get an initial phase to get people live, and then we add things into phases, to get people live with more and more features. There's also a lot of collaboration that's required to do this. So it's common to demo and test often and to use it early so that we can cover issues very early in the process. So what I mean is we do smaller blocks, we get people live and there's less risk that we get the whole system built and find that some critical mistake was made. And by showing users very early, they get an opportunity to think through their process.
Now, this is key, users will often feel a bit shy about expressing their opinion if they have not used the LIMS before. But this is what the expert is there for. The experts going to show the user something that they believe is going to work for the users process. The user will think through their process and watch this process be used and they'll give feedback based on whether they think it's going to work or not for them, So it's not an expert saying you have to do this and it's also not an expert giving a whole lot of options. You don't say, well, we do it this way, this way, this way, this way, this way, which one do you want? They come up with one, possibly two options. And you only come up with the second option if there's some critical piece that you have to make a decision on where you want to see it one way over another.
Gloria: It's also important to do good expectation management. This goes back to the project once again, similar to scope and following requirements. Expectation management is part of a good project management. So you want to make sure that you tell people that what we're doing is we're meeting expectations. This is not about liking the system. This is about meeting the business expectations and making the system work well so that it helps users primarily in their workflow process.
Amber: Those are great tips, Gloria. So just to summarize, here's what I think I heard you said. First of all, get buy-in from upper management, because this is a complicated project. Having strong leadership and also project management is extremely important. And then spend the time on analyzing your needs, your requirement. Do a thorough analysis. Understand very clearly what's important, what's not, and what is the priority. Don't think about having to implement everything all together, but instead take the phased approach. You can spread out requirements across different phases. And so you can't implement them over time. This is also a type of project where usually multiple parties involved from different teams, so great communication, collaboration, and strong teamwork is absolutely essential. Last but not least, set the right expectations. Thank you so much for sharing those tips, Gloria.
Gloria: Well, I'm glad you asked me to share with you, Amber. This is always fun to work with you on these tips.