Laboratories are like fingerprints. No two are entirely alike. No two laboratories mirror each other in terms of their requirements, workflows, and processes. From the moment samples start their journey to the moment when results receive approval to the final act of presenting results and handling finances, each laboratory’s workflow is different. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the distinction between configuration and customization in the world of Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS), a journey as varied as the laboratories themselves.
Customization involves adapting procedures through modifications to the standard software code provided with the system or writing fresh code from the ground up. Typically, customization entails altering the default codebase or generating entirely new code. Occasionally, certain LIMS software packages present their source code in a compiled form, rendering customization infeasible. However, in most LIMS instances, the environment allows for the creation of code to align with the precise needs of the client.
The process of configuring a LIMS involves assembling functional components to create a solution that meets the user’s requirements without altering the standard code. Being genuinely customizable, without the need for custom coding, implies that a LIMS can be swiftly adjusted to align with user needs concerning workflows, report formats, data components, terminology, and additional aspects.
Implications of Customization vs. Configuration
When laboratories consider how to optimize their systems, they often face a critical decision: whether to configure or customize. This choice has significant consequences, both in terms of initial costs and the long-term adaptability of the system. Let’s break down these key factors and considerations.
Initial Monetary Cost: Customization involves spending money upfront and having skilled programmers make necessary changes.
Complexity Risk: While customized solutions may seem appealing, they can hide underlying complexity. This can be risky because customized systems might not fully meet your organization’s changing needs, leading to functional gaps.
Maintenance and Upgrades: Custom code’s lifespan is closely tied to system upgrades from the supplier. This connection can require extra work and potentially result in additional costs and the risk of the code becoming outdated.
Changing User Needs: User requirements are ever-evolving. Therefore, flexibility is crucial. As needs change, your code may need to change too. This process can have financial implications, including further code modifications and potential re-validation of the system’s functionality.
In the true configuration approach, the potential pitfalls of rigid software setups can be sidestepped. Here, users can create data types, such as sample, test, or instrument types, custom attributes, complex formula expressions, reporting templates, and workflows without the daunting task of coding modifications. They can effortlessly manipulate standard objects such as combo boxes and buttons, creating configurations that are finely tuned to their unique requirements. This configuration is securely housed within the database, impervious to any supplier-initiated upgrades.
Discerning the Configuration vs. Customization Distinction: 4 Indicators Users Can Use
Distinguishing between true configuration and a customized approach can be crucial, as some suppliers may interchange these terms. Here are four key indicators to discern the difference:
Is the supplier using the term “programmers” to describe their technical consultants?
Do system upgrades demand significant time and financial investments, necessitating the revision of your alterations?
Does the supplier’s characterization of the ‘configuration tool’ involve languages such as C, C#, and Java?
Do they use the term ‘coding in the modification’ when discussing alterations to standard functionality?
If your answer to the above questions is “yes,” it’s likely that the supplier is leaning towards customization rather than configuration. It’s crucial to clarify this distinction to ensure your LIMS implementation aligns with your specific needs and resources.
Customizations are tailored to the unique demands and processes of laboratories, making them well-suited for addressing the specific requirements of each laboratory. However, an abundance of customizations within a LIMS can escalate costs and complexities, rendering LIMS deployment and maintenance challenging. On the other hand, LIMS configurations are cost-effective to implement, simpler to maintain, and can be executed by the laboratory staff.
Opting for a truly configurable LIMS ensures the long-term viability of laboratory operations. Unfortunately, some LIMS options in the market lack a robust and sustainable configuration strategy. Given the diverse requirements of laboratories, ranging from small-scale, straightforward needs to large, intricate demands in various industries, such as clinical, research, biobanking, and analytical testing, LIMS should easily adapt to these needs, mitigating the need for costly customization.
For laboratories seeking a flexible and easily configurable LIMS solution, CloudLIMS offers a seamless platform to manage data and align with laboratory workflows. We also develop custom features to better support the unique workflows of laboratories so that they stand out in the crowd.