On 25 May, LabVantage held the UK leg of its European LIMS tour, the first European user meeting since its acquisition of SQL*LIMS from Life Technologies in 2009. The tour is designed to cater for both Sapphire LIMS and SQL*LIMS users providing information about the functionality available in new releases of both software platforms (Sapphire R5.1 and SQL*LIMS v5.1) and plans for the future directions of the two products.
In an article published in the 2010 issue of the Laboratory Informatics Guide, Stephen Mounsey looked at the importance of the LIMS user meeting, both from the customer's and vendor's perspectives. A lot of the points made in that article were borne out to some respect at LabVantage's UK user meeting. Jim Aurelio, president and CEO of the company, explained that invariably, the number one value that customers place on these meetings is the peer-to-peer contact. Users meet with others using the system and understand what processes are being employed. 'When we first started user meetings, they were more "let us share with you what’s going on in the company",' commented Aurelio. Now, he continued, the user meetings are larger training and education conferences, to give the attendees much more scope to interact with each other and address any specific issues they might have with LabVantage's software developers and engineers. 'These things are a lot of work to prepare for but absolutely worth it,' Aurelio stated. LabVantage also recently held its Customer Training and Education Conference (CTEC) from 18-22 April 2010 in Orlando, Florida for its North American user community.
Speaking to some of the attendees at the UK meeting, there were various comments that backed up Aurelio's statements. A Sapphire customer working in food testing commented that LIMS is specialised for the laboratory and it was really just him that handled any development of the system – LIMS is largely outside of an IT department's remit. Therefore, he felt the event was useful just to meet other users and discuss any problems they might be having with the software.
Within the sessions, attendees posed questions based on their specific experiences. This could be as simple as whether Sapphire only saved data once the analyst had clicked 'save' or whether there was an option for saving results automatically once they'd been entered into each worksheet cell. The attendee that raised the question had encountered instances where data had been lost because the analyst had walked away from the system before saving and then had logged out later on losing any results. While, it turned out, this was not a functionality of Sapphire R5.1 it could be built into future versions of the software. It's through these user meetings that, in part, subsequent releases of the platform are shaped, although Aurelio noted that attention also has to be paid to longer term trends taking place in the market as well as specific functionality suggested by users.
The event detailed Sapphire's eForms module that allows traditionally paper forms, such as clinical biobank requests, to be inputted into LIMS; previewed v6 of SQL*LIMS, which will be powered by Sapphire; and introduced VantageCare, LabVantage's customer care and support centre including its open source community initiative, which has been expanded to cover both SQL*LIMS and Sapphire users. The European LIMS tour moved to Milan, Italy on 26 May; Amsterdam, The Netherlands on 27 May; Barcelona, Spain and Basel, Switzerland on 28 May.