Today’s bioanalytical (BA) scientists find themselves under a deluge of data. It’s no bad thing as this valuable asset is driving research and development (R&D) forward, but it’s only useful if that information is stored and curated consistently. Paper-based processes can defy order and structure, but in contrast, next generation electronic laboratory notebooks (ELNs) do away with these challenges and go above and beyond – offering workflow and process improvements. So what are the real benefits of this type of transformation and the key considerations for the management team as they tackle this decision?
Why go electronic?
Today’s competitive landscape calls for a re-evaluation of the paper-based approach familiar to most BA scientists. Particularly with the drive towards innovation and profitability putting significant pressure on labs to bring products to market faster and more cost effectively.
A change in US patent law, from ‘first to invent’ to ‘first to file’, compounds the need for speed in the R&D process. Most recently the focus has switched from simply documenting when the discovery was made, to a race for how quickly labs can consolidate data and file their breakthroughs. A real world example of the impact, both scientific and financial, is currently taking the scientific community by storm.
Cost and quality of data is another major theme for BA labs. Data efficiency for audit purposes and IP protection gains are good, but at a higher level being able to assure compliance is much more valuable.
How do I measure the benefits of an ELN?
In most corporate environments the decision making process to implement an ELN requires an ability to demonstrate tangible return on investment (ROI). The move to an electronic system must be based on both quantitative and qualitative metrics. Implementation gains can be tricky to measure as it is very much based on the strategy taken at the time of deployment. The nature of workflow in a BA lab is also challenging when it comes to measuring specific productivity increases. Instead, ROI based on the cost of the system, the number and cost of employees, alongside a projected productivity gain will highlight the value.
Soft metrics will also assess the value gained from the solution, with many BA labs looking to these benefits:
- Timely documentation and data entry
- Minimal time spent searching for data
- Ability to modify pre-existing methods
- Reduced re-work
- Faster ramp-up time for new employees
How will this move transform our organization and add value?
A single platform for R&D has the ability to transform the lab into a lean, process-driven operation, giving scientists time to focus on innovation, knowing that data is stored securely and is of a high, consistent quality. The cause of deviations can quickly be determined, and compliance monitored closely across the BA lab.
So much of science is about sharing information to generate knowledge. Opening communication channels via an ELN helps organizations to access a global view of their data. Relevant content is served directly to users, breaking down digital silos and delivering a new level of process insight. Increasingly these lines of communication also include external partners and CROs.
Forward looking organizations must look at the way they manage knowledge and realize that paper-based approaches can’t compete on productivity, security and compliance against a comprehensive electronic solution. Combined with a pragmatic approach to change management, the move to a next generation ELN is the next quantum leap for bioanalysis.