IDBS Blog | 24th February 2017

Purchasing an ELN – 5 Hiccups You Can Avoid

So, you think to yourself: “I need an ELN!”

You see the use of “ELN” here, “E notebook” there and occasionally the term “paper-on-glass” somewhere over there. How do you begin to start looking for the right electronic solution, and how do you do it without wasting time?

Here are five hiccups you should avoid when deciding on the right data management solution for your organization.

1: Clearly define the problem or the problem will define you

Think about why you need an ELN system. Managing paper notebooks alongside “just a few” other systems might not seem like an immediate problem for some staff. Perhaps finding data within the organization takes a bit of time, but no one really sees this as a huge issue – it’s always been this way, after all. Your team may even think that paper notebooks work… Everyone knows how to use them. And they’re a great way to practice arts and crafts!

Before you begin your ELN shopping, it is important not only to be aware of the problem at hand but also fully understand the breadth of the problem. Oh, and don’t forget about your end user community! After all, they will be the ones using the “ELN” software. Ask yourself: “Are the business goals and IT goals aligned for this ELN project?” Understanding the problem is a great start to finding the right electronic data management solution for your organization.

2: Explore beyond the traditional “ELN”

So, you’ve started your research to see what “ELN” products are out there. Although searching for an “ELN” is a great start, it’s not the only option available. Consider going beyond the “ELN” and look at data management solutions too.

Remember, many vendors market what they call a platform. But not all platforms are created equal. It’s not a bad idea to ensure the platform you choose for your organization is a single, natively designed and integrated platform and not just some pieced together IT solution comprising a variety of technologies acquired through corporate acquisitions. These “pieced together” platforms involve significant consulting time to implement and have considerable hidden costs.

Some vendors may claim to have a platform, but beware! Their platforms are not likely to be scalable and may not be able to manage process workflows, leverage data for improving operational efficiencies, or meet user expectations for mobility. Now, from the end-user perspective, using a single platform with the same modern look and feel is the obvious option. End users are, unsurprisingly, not keen on having to continuously learn yet another outdated tool, that’s meant to be part of a platform but looks and feels like a different product.

3: Leverage SaaS subscription services

It may be that you are looking at more than one vendor to provide you with your “platform”. Managing multiple products from different vendors can present challenges for research and collaboration. Did you forget or forgo the SaaS option? Do you have an IT presence in place? Is your IT team attached to their on-premise hardware and software installations?

Storing data on a single, SaaS platform facilitates data sharing among collaborators and embracing SaaS flexibility frees scientists from the constraints of their desktop PCs. It makes sense to take advantage of SaaS subscription services that enable the enterprise to share competitive data across a variety of collaborators and agilely shift ownership of IP across partners. Systems that are maintained on-premise, and behind the corporate firewall, can hinder the new model for scientific innovation. Accenture predicts that “by [2020], many pharmaceutical companies’ R&D operations may no longer own or invest in their technology solutions.”

SaaS subscription services offer scientists significant advantages, including scalable system capabilities that grow with the needs of the organization; a platform for data exchange and innovation between collaborators; faster time to value that delivers improved business outcomes; and cost transparency. SaaS services typically need less time for upgrades, meaning newly released features can be used faster than previously possible.

4: Buying on value

Fast forward in time… You and your project team have made the purchase decision and chose the least expensive product that uses all the buzzwords like ELN, platform, Cloud, etc. Buyer’s remorse may undoubtedly kick in and then you’ll think of all the alternative options that were available to you. You will have wanted to select a data management solution that protects your IP, excels at capturing both experimental structured and searchable data along with the scientific narrative to interpret the information…this is what adds value to your organization.

A data management solution should provide an environment for collaboration and innovation, provide a documented history of improving efficiency and can save R&D organizations time, money and resources. Satisfied customers choose not to compromise quality in exchange for the lowest cost option on the market.

5: Ensuring a satisfied customer

Once a system has been deployed, scientists eagerly begin using it to capture scientific data. Quite often we find end users may not use the purchase software as intended and some don’t use it at all – choosing instead revert back to a paper system. Why? Because the new software does not actually meet their needs. With the right data management solution, scientists will see significant productivity gains, sometimes 30% or more, and can achieve greater insight(s) into their processes. The result? Both the scientists and the organization benefit – win, win!

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