The Legacy LIMS Folly

Many laboratories face this same issue. A dated, legacy LIMS exist. It lacks needed capabilities. It cannot be remotely accessed. No client portal exists. It does not integrate with all of the newer instruments. It cannot produce new, needed reports. It cannot effectively update QC reports. Its query functions are extremely limited. It is failing under the higher workload. It cannot operate on the “new” computers. Yet, it, that old LIMS, is vital to the day to day operation of the laboratory. “If we could just get by this one more year… We’ll replace it next year!” And that has been said for five years straight.

Time and time again, as a LIMS vendor, we see laboratories pull the plug and decide to FINALLY purchase a new LIMS for one or more of the following reasons:
-Technical support is no longer offered; either base on old versioning or a LIMS that no longer exist
-The legacy LIMS will not operate on any version of Windows after XP (or earlier)
PS –I’ve seen DOS systems in place still recently
-Reporting needs cannot be met (final reports, QC reports, etc.)
-The legacy LIMS cannot handle instrument downloads
-The increased workload at the laboratory cannot be handled by the old LIMS.

As anyone who has worked in a laboratory knows, a new LIMS is a big deal. As a salesperson for a LIMS company, I often tell a new client “You will like me and the LIMS I sell when you sign the PO. You will like me and the LIMS again in two to six months when it is fully implemented”. Implementing a LIMS, while maintaining normal laboratory operations, is just not easy. BUT, it is worth every second and every penny spent. By its inherent nature, a LIMS is the central nervous system of the laboratory. Every aspect of a laboratory can and will operate better with a new LIMS properly configured. The new, little features of the new LIMS that you paid little attention to at the demo are suddenly those things that you cannot imagine living without!

After a complete implementation, we hear that same words said time and time again. “Hindsight is 20:20”. For most laboratories trying to hold onto a legacy LIMS, one or all of the following efforts were made:
-A high cost to programmers were paid to patch things
-A great deal of time was consumed trying to make the square peg fit in the round hole
-Third party applications were purchased to tease things together.

What did all this lead to? As eloquently stated in one of the LIMS session I ran at a national conference “INCALCULABLE HEARTBURN, FRUSTRATION, HOPELESSNESS, DESPAIR, ANGER, EVIL THOUGHTS”.

It is an understandable folly to keep an old LIMS alive. Simply by having worked in a laboratory, one can understand that temptation. Most of us who have worked in a laboratory have lived through it at some point. But, it is a folly.