The Evolution of a COTS LIMS through One-Off Applications and Client Ideas
Posted on : December 12, 2016
By Robert Benz, Sales & Marketing Director for Khemia Software
Like many laboratory products, LIMS change with evolving technology and regulations as well as client ideas. In the past, I’ve worked with a laboratory products manufacturer who made great profits off of client ideas for new products. There is nothing that rings the ear of a consumable products company owner like “I’d give a dollar each for…”
Over many years, with a configurable off the shelf (COTS) LIMS, we have created a great, solid program that offers every bell and whistle a laboratory needs. We release the product to our clients and immediately find out what is missing. We then add a host of additional features in short order. At this point, the LIMS has all the great features a laboratory could ever want. And then, once again, we sell the LIMS to more laboratories and learn new twists. I make the assumption that all heavily regulated industries are roughly the same; everyone does the same thing but in a different way and most importantly, sometimes better. New ideas on handling the same tasks come up. Additionally, ideas on handling something new come up as well.
I have always enjoyed working with and selling to universities. In part, for the unique ideas they bring to the table. Academia is a phenomenal place to gain new insight. Non-profit groups working with universities are no less dynamic in their request and ideas. For example, one issue we recently faced while working with a non-profit included samples from a research vessel offshore. Samples often made it to the laboratory via small craft while still within holding times, however, it could take weeks before the larger vessel came to shore and provided the accompanying field data. Teasing those pieces together in an effective way was no small task yet, doable with some fresh thinking. Most importantly for a LIMS company, we have developed a new way of pushing information together outside of the normal situations we’ve encountered.
In the opening paragraph I talked about a client who said “I’d give a dollar each for…”. Well, as it turns out, numerous years after giving that suggestion and the product being made, EPA approved, etc., that particular client never purchased (though I understand much later on after changing hands they finally did). Unfortunately for sales, and fortunately for development and other clients, the same happens within the LIMS industry. One potential client asked for a complex scheduling program far exceeding what we offered. We tasked the programmers to make this enhancement as all of us with some laboratory background thought it would be a great, meaningful LIMS feature. It turns out the scheduler is fantastic! Though, the client who made the suggestion still has not purchased.
A number of laboratories have asked us to allow more keyed in notes in more places. We’ve added access to specialty calculations for specific projects/clients. The multi-laboratory option we now offer was inspired by client discussions and needs. A number of system alerts were also based on client input, as well as the “module” for employee training and accreditation tracking. From these suggestions, we, as a LIMS company, have to decide whether the asked for option is a true one-off application or valid feature to offer in the LIMS. At the end of the day, no matter how much firsthand experience a LIMS company has in-house, getting true feedback from clients and potential clients is invaluable.
As a model based on Darwinism, LIMS evolve as laboratories evolve, sometimes on their own and sometimes truly through client needs and prospect feedback. From both the ground and a bird’s eye view, I see our technical people, technical support, programmers and implementers carefully evaluating input and potential product improvement all the time; much of it as a result from suggestions.