My “Are ELNs doomed?” Presentation at IQPC

Our marketing dept signed me up to do a presentation to the general session at IQPC in Brussels, with the rather provocative title “Are ELN projects Doomed?”. Um, thanks guys. No real guidance on what to say, but an expectation it will be provocative!

I’ve become increasingly concerned that what’s said in public forums (e.g. articles, conferences etc.) isn’t a true reflection of what’s really going on. A lot of ELN systems are being introduced based on tools companies already have (Microsoft Office being typical), and those don’t get any publicity (no vendor to push it!), and of course you never hear about the problems, disasters, and near misses!

This systemic fault in how the industry communicates is really serious – and will result in an awful lot of money being wasted, and our credibility damaged – just because people think doing X is the safe way (for any given value of X), but in fact the case study they’ve seen was the only one where X has worked and there are 10 other people who tried X who have hit really serious problems (often fatal).

Given the nature of our business and product we see an awful lot of ELN projects across a wide variety of businesses, disciplines, and vendors. What we’re seeing in terms of best practice is at times completely contrary to what you’d think listening to conference talks, reading magazine articles etc. Of course, there’s no reason to suggest we’re right and everyone else is wrong, but on the other hand there’s a huge gap and that’s a worry.

So my presentation was an attempt to draw attention to this and propose some solutions:

  • Be very careful about the use of the “ELN” word, as it’s too ambiguous. Ideally, stop using it entirely. It is especially useful to get vendors to describe their offerings without using the term “ELN” – then you find what their real focus is.
  • Keep the ELN project as simple as possible. I mentioned some of the frameworks we use for this – The Triangle, Broad Vs Deep, etc.
  • Blog – read blogs, and join in yourselves.

You can download a copy of the presentation here here. I had some interesting chats with people afterwards – I’ll try to expand on some of these points in future posts.

As an aside, I’ve nearly given up on SlideShare – the Keynote conversion process doesn’t seem to be working well.

Update: Rich Apodaca over on Depth-First makes some contributions here.

3 Replies to “My “Are ELNs doomed?” Presentation at IQPC”

  1. Nice article, good comment & thoughts on the issue of ELN. The ppt indeed points out your vision on that issue: and I can agree in full on your statements in slide 25 (reduce scope) & slide 44 (KIS = keep it simple).
    Actually I give this comment as a former LIMS-projectleader. I see with ELN the same problems raising as with the implementation of LIMS. Althought LIMS can be set-up more structured (runs mainly in routine labs I’d say on non ad-hoc samples) also there you have the toasters & the eaters: and only 1 in 3 LIMS project really brings additional performance & what was promised.
    We had in our LIMS implementation the discussions how to handle ad-hoc analysis thus unstructured data. We came up with a simple straightforward solution that everyone agrees upon, where the bar is not put up to high: integration of a free float ‘xls’ table in LIMS (x & y you define yourself & it could be compounds fi in the x and concentration in the y), by doing this we combined both needs for structered & unstructered data.
    Mind that one of the reasons for obtaining new software tools (LIMS/ELN/…) is the promise to the upper management front that they can manage the ‘dataproces’ much better in the future. Indeed now we can follow up status, send out bills, do statitics, … perform LPI (lab performance indicators).
    So the endgroup should be informed of the need of GLP & their contribution in it, only then it can work.

  2. I found it interesting that you start by saying we should stop using “ELN” to describe what we’re doing, and then proceed to use “ELN” throughout the rest of the presentation.

    I agree that “ELN” by itself is too general and misleading. However, it also is a very useful shortcut for describing the kind of work we’re trying to do. What’s missing is the context. What would be helpful would be a common set of modifiers we could use singularly or in combination: IP protection, compliance, work flow management, collaboration, data management, etc. Then, whenever we start a conversation about a specific ELN project, we can identify the kind of ELN we are trying to build. And because we have a common vocabulary, it would make sense to the listeners.

    We’re not there yet, which is your point.

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