Build Versus Standardized Buy

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If you are buying a LIMS a good resource to use is the ASTM E1578 LIMS Standard (which is under revision this year and should be newly updated early in 2013). The standard contains high-level definitions of what a LIMS should be able to do for your organization as well as some method for avoiding making a poor choice of a LIMS. Lots of DIY projects should at least take a peek at the ASTM standard before tossing it in the wastebin and focusing in on their core functionality while releasing incremental versions of their systems.

You may be wondering how one could, on the one hand, advocate the use of a LIMS standard and on the other advise DIY projects to largely ignore it. The answer is relatively simple: the standard represents what is well known about LIMS to date. It is not a document about creating innovations in LIMS; it is not geared toward advancing the state of these systems and addressing emerging problems in the market space. It is instead geared toward helping user organizations save time, effort, and money in selecting an existing system from a vendor that can purportedly handle present and foreseeable needs.

DIY projects often do not come with traditional vendors nor do they often ascribe to well-defined software development and quality assurance methodologies. This alone would discount them if rigid LIMS standards are applied. Nevertheless, they can succeed in providing the functionality when and where it is needed. How? By using alternative strategies.

Where a vendor may use TickIT to advise them on the best methods to write and test software the open source community (from which may DIY projects derive both inspiration and tools) will instead use one of the various Agile methodologies. Where a traditional vendor will apply an in-house knowledge base a DIY project may employ a Wiki. A vendor may opt to hire in-house dedicated support where a DIY project may employ a forum and a list of developers ranked by their contributions to the system (known as a meritocracy following the successful Apache
model) for paid support. The possibilities are numerous. There is little proof that vendor alternatives are in all cases better than these alternatives and in some cases, particularly for markets that are not of interest to any particular vendor, these alternatives have emerged to satisfy their respective needs.

In all, it should become the goal of every laboratory to become proficient enough with computing systems so as to be able to make decisions independent of anyone, including vendors and standards organizations. Participating in DIY projects can help improve your computing acumen. External organizations may guide your organization toward making decisions that are suboptimal. A standards guide can help steer you away from the wolves and pitfalls in the LIMS forest much like a map can guide you through a city but it can never make you a savvy traveler.

I'll leave you with an example. I was once on an extended drive through Wisconsin (this is a Midwestern state in the United States) when I came upon road flares that stretched across four lanes. A police officer with a pair of lighted batons directed us off of the roadway into a small town. Upon leaving the roadway I quickly discovered why we were redirected (I did not see any danger on the largely straight roadway). Large signs everywhere taunted of the benefits of shopping and purchasing goods in this small town. That, of course, and the circuitous nature of the detours -- past every shopping mall, eatery, and gas station the town had to offer -- led me to believe that the roadway emergency was merely a diversion to 'introduce' us to the town's wares. Standards committees, vendors, magazines, weblogs, etc. can all be similarly 'diverted' toward someone's aims. Your best defense is education. Your organization should always know how to find its own way, independent of external influence. Participation in DIY will help it do just that.

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Citation: Build Versus Standardized Buy. (2012). Retrieved Wed May 23 11:03:39 2018, from;iid=readMore;go=1348154371