The past year has been “eventful” to say the least. So many long-held truths have shattered in moments, taking with them institutions who were meant to be the model of probity and longevity. Only a fool could pretend that the business of modernising R&D by replacing Paper Lab Notebooks is unaffected by such massive events, and it is perhaps useful to peer into the mist and see what the future might hold. It is clear the Electronic Lab Notebook’s time has come, but perhaps we need to adjust our sights for the new environment.
Warren Buffet said “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked” and perhaps the hidden blessing in reduced financial circumstances is a renewed focus on value. Successful projects will be more disciplined, surviving suppliers will be more customer-focused, and the products that succeed will be capable of delivering a predicable Return on Investment within a short time period.
It isn’t just a simple matter that there is less money around; for sure, companies which are exposed to the wider economic cycle are clearly hurting badly (the Chemicals industry is perhaps the most obvious); Venture-funded endeavours that planned to go back to the market for additional funding are having to close or sell out. Even for companies which are well-funded for a few years, the general climate of uncertainty is causing significant caution and search for value. Suppliers who had pumped themselves up on cheap speculative money, with the intention of selling large amounts of high-ticket software and associated consulting are being forced to make cutbacks as their sales pipes evaporate, and the resulting revenue loss reducing their ability to service the sometimes onerous commitments they have made to their existing customers.
Despite all this, the problem remains – Paper Lab Notebooks are no longer “fit for purpose” and an ELN can deliver well-documented savings in both time and effectiveness for any R&D-based organisation. The question is, how can we achieve this in a cautious, value-focused climate?
The answer goes right to the core of how we have been currently approaching the problem. Yes, you can tweak around the edges – most suppliers now have rental options which removes some of the financial pain (although the consulting effort required by many “fully functional” products is still onerous), and some have even started offering on-demand SaaS-style (Software as a Service) offerings. However, in an environment of such uncertainty much more needs to be done – how can you expect a management team to support an ELN project which will require 6 months of customisation before it even starts to deliver value, when no one is sure what the business will look like on that timescale or even if they will be in business? The answer goes right to the heart of our assumptions about how to approach the problem of replacing the Paper Notebook.
You can read the next post in this series here.