Process Optimization

Need for Process Analysis

Informatics technology can help to facilitate improvements in laboratory efficiency, compliance and throughput. However, without a fundamental review, analysis and simplification of data and information processes before technology is deployed, such systems can have a negative effect on laboratory operations.

Best practice organizations use technology to support process change. These organizations research and analyze "as is" processes first, looking for information bottlenecks and opportunities for process simplification. They then re-engineer these processes to a "to be" state and develop requirements to this future state. The changes in the future state tie directly to the goals and strategy of the organization. Systems are piloted to the future state, looking for areas of additional simplification.

Our Approach

Based on several decades of experience, Atrium Research uses a structured approach to process analysis. Client involvement in the process is at many levels. Not only should management be involved in the discussion; users know the current operations intimately and can help to derive the current situation. Many times they have first-rate ideas for the future state. There are many ideas an organization often has to improve a process, but these are not consolidated in a fashion where they can be prioritized and acted upon. This is called capturing the "Voice of the Customer."

Initially, we interview all those who own a process, or the stakeholders. Stakeholders are typically direct business line management, executive management, regulatory, records management, quality assurance, and information technology. We review their visions, needs, concerns and goals and objectives tied together in a comprehensive data management strategy.

Next, focus groups of key users are assembled. These sessions (also known as a "workout session") are used to research the day-to-day details surrounding a process. Interactions between groups and other processes are explored. Bottlenecks or breakdowns in procedures are examined. Areas of improvement opportunity are highlighted. A single session typically lasts from three to four hours with eight to twelve individuals. The number of focus groups engaged depends on the span of the process.

After careful modeling of the research obtained, we develop a list of additional information that is required for the As Is State. To examine these questions in more detail, shadowing exercises are performed with the target audience. In shadow sessions, individual users are observed in their real time work environment. Usually, these shadow exercises take from two to three hours each, and the number of personnel involved is dependent on the extent of the project.

The process model is then further refined. If additional questions remain, these are answered via phone or in-person follow-up interviews. If the population is large and baseline metrics are required, an electronic survey will be sent to all personnel involved in the process.

The As Is State is then analyzed for areas of improvement with consideration of the organizational vision and strategy. Macro and micro issues are documented and process change proposals are highlighted. A meeting with project sponsors follows to discuss recommendations - usually with fit to operational goals or barriers that cannot be addressed due to project limitations or scope.

After agreement, a streamlined "To Be State" is created. This new process highlights the required operational alterations, modifications of current data flow, risks, the functional requirements of the supporting informatics architecture, and recommendations on the phased implementation. Operational improvements due to process change (i.e. data quality, experimental throughput, etc.) are documented in the baseline report. The To Be State is reviewed with key project sponsors to gain consensus.

Related Articles

  • Change Management and ELN Part 1
  • Change Management and ELN Part 2 - Building Acceptance
  • >Avoid the Grocery List Phenomenom - Voice of the Customer and ELN
  • Déjà Vu All Over Again: Knowledge management is not an IT problem, but a challenge to the culture of an organization
  • Informatics Convergence Presents Opportunities and Challenges

  • Why Atrium Research?

    Atrium Research is the only market research and consulting organization dedicated to laboratory informatics. This makes us uniquely positioned to provide the services needed to help successfully achieve project objectives.

    • Experience: We have seasoned professionals who have been working in laboratory informatics over 33 years. This provides our clients a unique insight unparalleled in the industry. Not confined just to technology know-how, we have the business management and laboratory expertise to provide a proper balance and perspective.

    • Supplier-Neutral: We do not perform implementation services of vendor products. These services are best provided by companies who are closely aligned with a supplier and this tight linkage affects impartiality.

    • Knowledge: Through our market research efforts, we spend significant time reviewing vendor software, examining best practices, learning from market failure and success, and exploring industry trends. We pass this knowledge on to our clients. Our connections in the industry offer a market insight found no where else.

    • Not limited to LIMS: There are many LIMS consulting organizations. However, there are very few that have experience with ELNs, data acquisition, SDMS, ECM, cheminformatics, and other laboratory software technology. We bring a broad perspective about finding the right solution to requirements, not just what the company knows.

    • Affordable: Versus the big consulting organizations, we focus on quickly and affordably achieving project success.

    Our Benefits

    Atrium Research provides considerable benefits to our client companies. By partnering with our clients, we strive to find the clarity they need in a maze of competing technologies. We help to:

    • Conserve money. By working with recognized industry experts, an organization can avoid the costs associated with trial and error. Companies gain from the experience and knowledge of why some organizations have succeeded and why others have failed. We minimize the possibility of selecting technology which will have a high total cost of ownership due to deficiencies which are not clearly identified by the manufacturer.

    • Conserve time. Through our independence and leadership, we provide the data and analysis that permit projects to stay on-track and on budget.

    • Conserve energy. Many professionals are doing the equivalent of two or three jobs already within their organizations. We offer facts and analysis to expedite project decision-making.

    • Protect your long-term investment. Through our experience and process, we can help select the right solutions for the long term from the uncertainty of vendor offerings.

    • Manage suppliers. We streamline the interaction with technology suppliers, permitting internal resources to be focused on project resource requirements.

    • Objective viewpoint. We have an objective viewpoint, separate from individual preferences of potential solution candidates.