Labii electronic lab notebook (ELN) and laboratory information management system (LIMS)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

4 Steps to Pick an Electronic Laboratory Notebook (ELN) That’s Perfect for You

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If you are reading this, then you must have an idea about the important role Electronic Laboratory Notebooks (ELNs) and Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) have to play in the global quest for safer, quicker, and much more effective data management tools in our modern laboratories and the pharmaceutical industry in general.

Electronic Laboratory Notebooks (ELN) has long been predicted by articles and technology as far back as the 1990’s as having the futuristic potential to solve data management problems for researchers. This dream is slowly becoming a reality with more and more scientists and organizations welcoming the switch from traditional methods.

However, the wide variety of available options today is making the task of choosing the perfect one even more daunting. In fact, a 2016 research study conducted by the University of Southampton, found 72 active products. And a Delft University of Technology petroleum engineer, in the Netherlands, Sian Jones, describes the scenario as insane and very confusing for researchers.

Here are FOUR STEPS to help you pick the ELN best suited for you;

1. Understand What You Need!

Start by asking yourself the following question: ‘What specific problems do I want to solve with an ELN?

Experts confirm that the importance of any purchase depends on whether it solves problems and meets stated goals. Therefore, evaluating any ELNs without first of all outlining the criteria to be met for a practical choice is the wrong way to go.

Such an analysis should cover what you are currently doing and what you are going to do in the future. For example, if you are currently taking notes in a notebook, storing data and performing data analysis in excel. Your specific problems are:

1) You need to get your notes documented and organized,
2) You need a repository to store your data and
3) And you need a customized function to analyze the results.

Other things that are good to consider are the type of data to be stored, how it should be stored, the workflow, collaboration facilities, data quality improvement, security, maintenance, scalability, and upgrade potential. 

All these will help you highlight specific MUST-HAVE features that narrow down your search to vendors more relevant to your needs. Avoid searching for ELNs that directly replace your paper methods and make sure you consider letting technology to drive productivity and collaboration.

Also, pay attention to the fact that you need an ELN that can seamlessly support your company’s growth with easy upgrade and uncomplicated additional applications in the future.

It is also helpful to read some comments online. Articles like the Comparative Analysis of Labii ELN & LIMS and Benchling Software Platform is very resourceful. 

2. Get a Demo!

After settling on a shorter list of potential ELN’s perfect for your organization, you can move on to utility aspects. Seeing a product in person will facilitate your understanding of how it works and an online demo can provide vendors with the easiest way to show the features to you. The goal of this demo is to further narrow down your list of ELNs that could meet your requirements.

All the products are different from each other and finding the features you want by yourself could be really difficult. For example, the features of Labii identify more with organizations that value data security, need customizations on specific data to store, and seek advanced functionalities in ELN and LIMS meanwhile, Benchling has the properties suited for end users looking for an ELN with molecular tools that are easy to access. Getting an online demo from them shouldn’t cost anything.

This is also a good time to ask questions. Be sure to tell your vendors what are the MUST-HAVE features, they will emphasize on these features and will let you know directly whether or not such functions are available. Check with your vendors how it could be done if your required function is not available, is it possible to customize, how much will it cost, et.al.

3. Get a Hands-on Experience, Get a Free Trial!

Although a majority of companies have free versions of their ELN software, they always have limitations on the functionalities, the data storage, number of users, etc. However, signing up for a free trial can give you a better sense of what value it adds to your organization or research setup.

The free trial period could also present the best time to educate yourself and other members of your team on how to use it. After the trial period, you can then propose the customization of a few more features that will make the ELN even more perfect for you or decide to try out another option on your narrowed list without any extra expenditure.

4. Negotiate A Good Price!

Succeeding to pick the right ELN can offer a good and fast return on investment. But the price has to be right as well. What you pay should be driven by factors like:

- At least 20-30% efficiency improvements
- Cost-effectiveness and R&D productivity enhancement by at least 7.5% per user
- Potential to improve your intellectual property by 25%

Most ELN vendors usually have price plans that are customizable and negotiable. With these in mind, negotiate the price that reflects the best deal for you both and discusses the development of any special features you may need.

Labii also provides Pay Per Use options, it allows you to use full functionalities of the ELN & LIMS without putting in too much budget upfront. If you can’t afford an expensive ELN or LIMS, The Pay-Per-Use option is a great option for you to try.

Follow this four-step guide and easily get yourself the ELN software that is designed to serve the specific needs of your organization.

Yonggan Wu

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