Why do we need LIMS developers and consultants?

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Consultants of all types make their money by advising clients to take some course of action. They offer an outside (hopefully) neutral perspective. Oftentimes they have a well-researched and neatly packaged set of best practices for you to follow to improve some important aspect of your business (if it were not important you would not be willing to spend money to improve upon it). LIMS consultants and developers work a bit differently from the general model and in some cases they work differently from one another.

A LIMS consultant may, like a traditional business consultant, have a ready-made plan for laboratory improvement. It depends upon their area of expertise. Some LIMS consultants specialize in helping laboratories meet stringent certification guidelines. Others may focus on lean laboratory best practices. The list goes on. A LIMS developer, on the other hand, normally has amassed so much experience with one or more LIMS products that they can make good on the vendor's promise of an effective system -- that is, the LIMS developer can make the system (via configuration/customization) actually support your complex and often changing laboratory workflow.

It is easy to get confused about the difference between the two. First of all, there are LIMS consultants that can configure an out-of-the-box system and there are likely developers who can advise the business about best practices. With so much overlap, how can one overcome the confusion?

Here's a good analogy to help you remember the difference. A car wash at a gas station uses the fictional Superwash 9000 system. The system is well known and widely deployed and has been in operation for a long time. A car wash consultant may come along with a plan to help the company use 50% less water and improve the number of repeat customers to the business. A Superwash 9000 technician (our equivalent of a developer here) on the other hand can bring the system up after a crash in 30 minutes and even replace broken parts in about an hour. The car wash consultant could provide the same service, but only after several days. Every hour the system is down costs the car wash hundreds of dollars, so although the need for the consultant is important, the need for the technician can be critical.

When the effect of the system on the business is large and the system is widely available the need for the technician arises. A chain of gas stations could standardize on the Superwash 9000 thanks to a well trained contingent of technicians. You could even pluck one from one region, put her on a plane, and allow her to service a Superwash in another country if needed. When LIMS supports mission-critical business operations the need for the technician-equivalent is a no-brainer. As a consumer you may not necessarily want anything new -- you might simply want to see the promise of the system itself be fulfilled.

That leaves one essential difference to understand -- the one between the in-house developer and an external one. Some of the best LIMS developers are also consultants. In-house developers are different from external ones in both experience and perspective. Normally the consultant works with a variety of customers and thereby is forced to see things differently each time. Although the in-house professional is an expert with the organization's data configuration, technology setup, and development/maintenance disciplines, etc. sometimes these can be suboptimal. If they are well-researched, reasonably flexible, and in-step with industry best-practices you are fine. In some cases, however, they are not and office politics may have created barriers for the in-house developer to correct the issues. Here is where the external LIMS developer comes to the rescue.

To summarize, the big difference between external LIMS developers and consultants is that the developer can make low-level, specific, and timely changes to a particular system. The difference between in-house and external developers is that the latter normally has a wider breadth of experience upon which to draw. Also, they will be less afraid of getting fired as a result of telling you the truth.

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Citation: Why do we need LIMS developers and consultants?. (2012). Retrieved Wed May 23 10:59:36 2018, from http://www.limsexpert.com/cgi-bin/bixchange/bixchange.cgi?pom=limsexpert3;iid=readMore;go=1353369484