Lab Manager | Run Your Lab Like a Business

Managing Projects

According to PMI (the Project Management Institute), project management is the application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently.

by Pamela Ahlberg
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According to PMI (the Project Management Institute), project management is the application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently. It is a strategic competency for organizations, enabling them to tie project results to business goals—and thus, better compete in their markets.” While it might not be a lab manager’s distinct profession, basic project management skills and techniques certainly find application in most modern research facilities. If you manage one of those facilities, click here for John Borchardt’s five rules for successful project management. As with so many other management tasks, it is no surprise that communication is the critical component.

The importance of sound project management practices in the lab is echoed in this month’s “Science Matters” column in which Alan Edwards tells us, “When a lab can effectively adopt a work project model, it is embracing a spirit of teamwork and already a step ahead in adapting to the new business reality of the sciences.”

In addition to management skills, making the right buying decisions is equally important in running a lab. For that we provide product focus reports this month on centrifuges, PCR reagents, freeze dryers and electronic lab notebooks. Complementing the ELN report is this month’s “Ask the Expert” column, in which Tanuja Koppal talks to two scientists—one from pharma and the other from academia—about their experiences transitioning from paper to ELNs. Issues such as ease of use, customization, integration, and security are all discussed by these steely-eyed end users. In addition, this month’s Technology & Operations piece, “Building Transparency—A Top-Down View”, discusses a real-world project designed to gain efficiencies through the integration of electronic laboratory notebook (ELN) systems.

Another important technology that is having or will have an impact on scientific efficiency and productivity is cloud computing. In this month’s feature, “Concerning the Cloud,” author Mike Weaver says that the true disruptive technology that is emerging from the cloud is data—lots of it and that this Big Data is the offspring of the cloud’s main advantage: collaboration. “The collaborative potential in the cloud has woven together relationships like nothing the world has ever seen, expelling an hourly exhaust of terabits of data. Big Data may be defined as the analytical crunching of this massive amount of data into meaningful business productivity. The result: a true competitive edge,” says Weaver.

Integrated ELNs, cloud computing, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), Big Data, and high performance computing are the kinds of topics we plan to cover more thoroughly for the remainder of this year and next, when we launch an editorial section devoted exclusively to important scientific computing and lab automation topics.

Speaking of future editorial topics, we are currently at work on our 2013 editorial calendar and are very grateful to those of you who recently participated in our Readership Survey. Your comments and suggestions will help us identify topics of interest that matter most to readers. So thank you very much for that important feedback. For those who did not participate in the survey, feel free to send any and all suggestions to me directly (

We hope you find this month’s cover story about OSHA’s new Hazard Communication standard timely and useful as you set about to prepare your lab accordingly. Fortunately, you have some time, but best not to procrastinate too long.