Building an intelligent lab informatics system is fast becoming an intrinsic part of the long-term strategy for a wide range of industries, all with one common aim – to drive productivity and decision-making based on improved data analysis. As a result, the need to effectively utilise the data and apply knowledge management is being discussed at the top level of organisations, but how are we as an industry reacting to these changes and how will they impact the future?
One topical discussion surrounds the debate on internal verses external systems and integration, with both approaches having their own advantages and disadvantages. Michael Elliot, CEO at Atrium Research, summed up the debate as the ‘concept of a monolithic application from a single vendor, particularly those that are trying to combine things like ELN and WIMs and registration systems all in one big application from one vendor versus integrating best of breed solutions from multiple vendors.’ He added that the current trend from the suppliers is to do more within a single stack.
Both internal and external integration can be challenging especially when faced with deadlines and as Eva-Lotta Westberg, programme manager at AstraZeneca, explained: ‘The first challenge is to convince management that integration takes time. Management just take this for granted, but it takes also calendar time to get all the groups together and plan for meetings. It takes time. It takes more effort than you can believe.’
Due to the complexity, costs and time constraints most companies like AstraZeneca are opting for a mixed approach to systems integration. ‘Sometimes it’s easier to [integrate informatics systems] in-house, which gives you more control, but sometimes you simply can’t,’ said Westberg.
The key question is what can vendors be doing better to assist the needs of companies? Describing her experience at AstraZeneca, Westberg commented: ‘Some vendors think we have to buy everything from them, but I don’t see that in the future will do that because it doesn’t work like that. We are too big and we have to be more flexible, and buy something that is already out there instead of waiting for somebody to finish an application for our needs.’