June 17, 2020
Each laboratory is different from the other in terms of their requirements and workflows. A LIMS should be flexible to support the needs and workflows of laboratories, which is usually termed as system customization or configuration. Both these terminologies are often used interchangeably, however, when it comes to using them with respect to a LIMS, both hold different meanings.
Customization refers to change in the code with the help of programmers which includes developing new functionalities or enhancing existing ones. Configuration, on the other hand, refers to the use of inbuilt tools in a system to meet the requirement of individual laboratories. Some examples of configuration are defining users, configuring formula expressions, adding data elements such as sample and test types, defining input forms and reporting templates, building workflows, and triggering events, such as sending automatic alerts to laboratory managers when the quantity of laboratory inventory falls below a certain level, flagging abnormal experimental values.
Customization is usually carried out by changing the standard code or writing a new code right from scratch. Sometimes, the source code in many LIMS software is available in a compiled format and hence cannot be customized. However, in some LIMS, the environment is such that the code can be written to meet the specific requirements of the customer.
The configuration is done by bringing together functional elements of a LIMS to mirror specific laboratory workflows. Truly configurable, without a custom code written, means that a LIMS can be adapted quickly to meet user requirements in terms of workflows, reporting templates, data elements, terminology, and more.
Customization of a LIMS requires testing and validating code to ensure that it does not have any adverse consequences on the rest of the standard code. Customization requires considerable time and costs to disassemble, change, and reassemble the LIMS software. Furthermore, a lot of time is consumed in validating and testing the resulting customization. Despite customization, sometimes, a LIMS may not meet the needs of laboratory managers, and hence it may require further modifications or developing functionality from scratch. Although it appears that modifying the standard code according to specific requirements is better, it becomes an issue when a feature upgrade or a completely new version is provided by the supplier. Additionally, the laboratory requirements keep changing from time to time which may require continuous rework on the code. Furthermore, to make revisions on the code, a lab is dependent on the vendor and has to eventually give in to all the technical specifications and commercials laid down by them. This can lead to a situation in which the overall project turns out to be much more expensive than the product itself.
Customizations are specific to user requirements and workflows of laboratories, hence they may better cater to the needs of individual laboratories. However, heavily customized solutions in LIMS increase the cost and complexity, making it difficult to implement and maintain. On the contrary, LIMS configurations are inexpensive to implement and less complex to maintain and can be done by the laboratory itself.
Choosing a truly configurable LIMS ensures the long-term sustainability of laboratories. It is observed that a few LIMS available in the market still lack a secure and sustainable configuration strategy. They also do not have the ability to configure and hence put the integrity of the entire system at risk. LIMS implementations vary from small labs having simpler requirements to large labs having complex requirements. Since a LIMS helps in managing different types of laboratories, such as clinical, research, analytical testing laboratories, therefore, they must be easily configurable to suit various requirements and save a lab from costly customization projects.
If you are looking for a LIMS system that is flexible and easy to configure, you can sign up for FreeLIMS to seamlessly manage data and mirror your laboratory workflows.