Category: Applications

Is your LIMS a roadblock to improving the performance of your laboratory?

Many years’ experience in the LIMS industry have shown, all too often, a high level of frustration with the speed of implementation of a system or the time it takes to modify an existing system to reflect changes in the business or laboratory operation. Often this is due to a lack of trained technical resources to carry out the required development. In this article we will show how a LIMS that incorporates a Low-Code Development Platforms (LCDP) can help resolve these problems.

LCDPs speed up development of applications by defining standard functions, or controls, as utilities that can be used in a drag-and-drop graphical user interface to create the desired workflows. This optimizes the configuration process, accelerates delivery, and reduces risk. LCDP blurs the lines between the IT and business and laboratory functions. LCDP removes the reliance on IT resources by not only speeding up the development process but also by allowing the business function access to the appropriate tools as required. The more open dialogue that results between IT and the business allows better choices to be made and solutions created that more closely meet the needs of the business.

Low-code platforms are a growing trend in a broad range of applications across the IT market because they break the traditional bottle neck of business functions not having access to the required IT resources. Industry analyst Gartner estimates that "by 2024, low-code application development will be responsible for more than 65% of application development activity."

How can LCDP help your Laboratory?

Creating controls used within a graphical environment removes the requirement for traditional coding skills. Laboratory workflows that meet the defined needs of the laboratory can be more easily created using an LCDP environment.

It is important to emphasise that LCDPs are more than just screen design tools. By allowing access to the full functionality of the LIMS in a controlled manner they allow systems to be configured in a way that, traditionally, could only be done using programming languages such as C, C#, and JavaScript. The controls have defined parameters that control their behaviour depending on the context in which they are used. For example, a list box control that displays data in columns and rows can be configured to show specific data at sample registration. The same list box control can, however, also be used to show completely different information such as test and result data at result review and approval. A sophisticated LCDP allows users full access to functionality that previously would only be available to highly trained programming resources. Data and information can be created, updated, and manipulated safely including, for example, the ability to create business specific workflows for functions such as sample registration, test assignment and result entry. The use of standard controls for these functions means that records are created and updated correctly, and all the required information is created and updated automatically including all required audit records.

Within Matrix Gemini LIMS configuration is always done via the built in Matrix configuration tools, which are a Low-Code Development Platform. This helps to break down the silos that often exist between IT and the laboratory (and other business functions), and it empowers both users and developers to create the perfect LIMS for their business need and operational preferences.

LCDP Provides LIMS Maintainability and Longevity

It is important to understand that the underlying software code is not changed when Matrix Gemini LIMS is configured using the LCDP platform. Instead, the workflows and screens, the controls used within them, and the options that the controls use, are stored separately. Because Matrix is an LCDP no software code (C#, Java, HTML etc.) needs to be developed.

This has a number of advantages:

  • All customers receive the same software when a new version of Matrix (with extended features and bug fixes) is released, after extensive internal testing. Customers can upgrade to take advantage of these new features without the risk of losing the existing configuration.
  • Customers may make their own configuration changes, should they desire, or use Autoscribe’s technical services team to configure their system. Autoscribe offers a three-day configuration training course which allows IT literate laboratory staff to configure their own systems. Many take this course so that they can make changes to their LIMS throughout its lifetime.
  • Software upgrades are simplified since workflow configurations are kept separately.
  • Each configuration change can be stored as a separate version in the database, allowing roll-back to any previous version, if desired. In addition, ongoing configuration changes are not seen by laboratory users until they are approved and released for general use.
  • Each screen within the workflow, or the entire workflow, can be simply downloaded and sent to Autoscribe to aid debugging and support, should this be necessary.
  • Since underlying software is never changed, all customer configuration changes are fully supported by Autoscribe within the standard support contract.

LIMS LCDP Benefits

The trend in the software industry is to move towards Low-Code Development Platforms to speed up system deployments, avoid the constriction of skilled IT software developer resources, and to collapse the barriers between IT and business functions. Whilst the term was first coined by research analyst Forrester in 2014, Autoscribe has used the LCDP concept in its LIMS solution since 1996.

Testing LIMS functions once and reusing them many times provides a robustness of behaviour that is hard to replicate. LIMS solutions where new code is continually merged, and functions modified to suit the needs of individual laboratories, simply cannot replicate this robustness. The choice Autoscribe made over 25 years ago was to encapsulate the required functions with enough flexibility to meet the very specific needs of LIMS solutions.

During that time Autoscribe has moved from supporting a desktop interface to supporting web applications, developed the underlying source code to take advantage of the latest technology, improved the Matrix Configuration tools, and vastly extended the number of controls and their options available. Autoscribe’s roadmap provides a solid future for laboratory users, with digital transformation, lab4.0, and the future highly connected laboratory at its heart. You can be sure though that Autoscribe’s LCDP, which provides a LIMS specific configuration platform unique in the industry, will remain at the heart of all it does.