How to Integrate Lab Software Tools

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Lab software tools can have a huge impact on the day-to-day running of the lab. Whether you’re integrating surveillance systems or introducing a new type of electronic log, taking advantage of new technologies can signal exciting times. That said, software integration typically comes with challenges, including downtime during installation and configuration, as well as a learning curve as staff become familiar with new systems.

“One of the biggest challenges is business disruption,” says Neil Lander, Senior Product Manager, IT Marketing at Waters Corporation. “There will be downtime for instruments as they migrate from old software to new software. This results in lost revenue, so there must be a careful balance between business disruption and the need to upgrade to new software.

One way to overcome this problem is to run old and new software simultaneously. “There may be a time when the instruments work with the existing software while the new software is being installed,” says Lander. The transition can be done gradually to minimize disruption.

Other challenges may arise during the integration itself. For example, existing instruments need to be connected to new software, which often involves upgrading firmware and transferring data. Internal SOPs and training will need to be revised to reflect the move from existing software to new.

Additionally, any computerized system that collects, processes, reports and stores data must be fit for purpose. “This is accomplished by performing a Computerized System Validation (CSV),” says Lander. “The challenge of running CSV is the lack of in-house expertise to do it.”

Although there are obstacles, these can be overcome with careful planning and ensuring that all key stakeholders are involved in the onboarding process. Lander notes that lab staff should be included in the project management team that works with the manufacturer. He advises that key staff tasks include preparing a list of instruments that need to be transferred, identifying data that needs to be imported into the new software, and reviewing any SOPs that need updating.

Another key area to address is training, and Lander suggests developing a training matrix that defines who will need guidance and to what extent. “Training should be tailored to each lab (or group) and should include hands-on exercise, such as collecting and processing data for which results were previously calculated using the old software.”

While the onus is on lab personnel to make the transition as seamless as possible, manufacturers also have an important role to play here. “Manufacturers can be a partner in this transition to the new software and are willing to hold regular meetings to work together during this time,” Lander says. “They can provide a range of services such as site surveys and validation of relevant instrumentation, CSV and training of laboratory staff.”

Ultimately, good planning, thorough training, and strong collaborative efforts will ensure the software is integrated with minimal disruption to lab operations.

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