Here are eight approaches to accomplishing this sometimes daunting task, in no particular order:
- Create workflows
Each laboratory currently has its own workflow. Create an “as is” workflow for each laboratory, complete with details on where each informatics solution interfaces with the workflow. This approach allows you to see any overlap between systems. Others in your company may already be identifying overlaps as part of business process realignment, so find out if you can get involved with or obtain input from those working on that realignment.
- Gather Requirements
Find out what your laboratories truly need by doing a Requirements Analysis. Depending on how different the laboratories are, how old their informatics solutions are, and what their current needs are, you may determine that it is more practical to buy an entirely new set of informatics solutions than retrofit any of the systems currently being used.
- Compare Laboratory Informatics Software
If the systems currently in use are similar, compare them not only in terms of how they are used within the workflow, but also in terms of the available features of each software package. Keep in mind that the laboratory may be using only a fraction of the functionality available from its informatics software. Other desirable features, which are not currently being used, may be available in the software package.
- Harmonize Your Activities
Wherever possible, harmonize. For example, it may be possible to move all the laboratories to a common chromatography system. Review each area and type of software, both as a whole and individually, to determine where and whether harmonization is possible and useful. If harmonization of a particular area or software does not offer any advantages, then it is probably not worth spending time and money trying to make harmonization work.
- Get Buy-In
While you cannot make everyone happy, people are more likely to cooperate in implementing change if they are involved with decisionmaking about such projects. This is especially important when companies merge or are acquired. These circumstances offer an opportunity to define the stakeholders and to make sure everyone affected or needing to know is kept in the information loop.
- Communicate At Appropriate Time Intervals
To keep your people happy you must keep them updated on what is happening. Even when a project stalls, it is a good idea to let people know it is still alive but on hiatus. Keep in mind that while you’re thinking they don’t need to know or that you already told them the news, they’re making something up to fill the communication gap and they truly don’t realize what a fiction they’re creating—fictions that sometimes harm the project to a level greater than we might realize. So it’s better to make sure they have periodic and official communiqués.
- Communicate Effectively
People at different levels in the organization need different types of information. The CEO of the company may just want to know that a harmonization project is underway, while personnel who will use the agreed-upon solution may want details about how that solution will work compared to current practice. So, giving the same information to everyone is obviously not going to satisfy anyone. When people are given too much information that is unrelated to what they want and need, they often miss seeing what was intended for them and what they need to get their jobs done.
- Don’t Become Overwhelmed
Comparing and combining informatics systems can be large projects. As with any other large and complex job, this project is most readily accomplished if it is broken down into pieces and planned over an appropriate and adequate schedule.