When we talk to labs about choosing a laboratory information management system (LIMS), a common question we’re asked is: What will a system cost? First, it’s important to note that with any LIMS purchase, there are three cost categories to consider: the cost of the licenses for the software, the cost for implementing the system into your lab’s specific environment, and the cost for supporting the system and its implementation over time. In this post, we’ll explore the things that factor into the costs, depending on your lab’s requirements.
Total cost of ownership
The most important thing to consider is the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the LIMS.
This single number includes one-time implementation fees, recurring costs for support/maintenance/updates, and variable costs such as hosting and usage fees. In our experience, whether labs strategically plan upgrades or simply react out of business necessity, they often re-platform their LIMS systems every 5 to 10 years, on average. Given that, it may be prudent for your lab to budget for system retirement and data export costs as well.
Key factors in the cost of a LIMS
There are many factors to consider that will impact the TCO of your LIMS. These factors are exponentially variable when it comes to your specific implementation.
- Your industry. A clinical LIMS implementation will generally cost more than a non-clinical implementation.
- The size of your organization and how many people will use the LIMS. Most modern fourth-generation LIMS charge per user, so how big your organization is will correlate with your LIMS licensing or subscription fees. More on the subscription versus perpetual license model later.
- Your lab’s requirements, such as how much automation you need, the number of workflows or assays you have, and the types of instruments and software you want to integrate with the LIMS.
- The type of assays you are running. Are you running standard off-the-shelf assays or novel laboratory-developed tests (LDTs)? Building out LDTs in a new LIMS will likely take more work than standard assays.
- The type of LIMS you choose. This can affect the nature of the implementation — whether it is straightforward or more complex — and how difficult it is to adapt to your requirements.
- The size of the implementation project. Before any work begins, it helps to gain a basic understanding of the problems the lab wants to solve and establish the approximate “T-shirt size” of the project: is it a one-month, one-year, or multi-year project? This will depend a lot on your specific requirements.
- How your organization accounts for staff time. Does your organization consider the cost of staff’s time in selecting, building, and maintaining their systems? If so, the difference in total cost can be significant.
- What the ultimate disposition of the system will be. How will you account for the costs of moving your data from one platform to another when you retire the system after 5 to 10 years? On the front of the new project, or on the end of the old? If you can’t get the data out in a meaningful format like a FAIR data format, you may have to pay to maintain the system in perpetuity.
Which licensing model, and how much?
There are currently two major licensing models for LIMS software. One is the traditional one-time purchase of a perpetual license with associated yearly maintenance fees. The other is a monthly or yearly subscription to the software, usually on a per-user basis.
On top of both of these models there are also implementation fees to be considered, which are almost always charged in addition to the one-time license or subscription fee. Commonly, when talking about licensing fees, the implementation and maintenance cost is not included, which is why we like to use TCO.
The bottom line
Budgeting enough for your LIMS project is critically important, regardless of whether you are seeking external funding from investors or writing a proposal for a grant. Only with adequate financing in place, can you be assured that your LIMS implementation will be completed to your requirements, giving your lab the foundation it needs to innovate and grow. Because there are so many variable factors that go into a LIMS implementation cost, each situation needs to be evaluated on an individual basis before a budget can be formulated.
If you have questions about LIMS implementation, and the risks and costs you should consider for your budget, please contact us. We can provide a free consultation and budget estimation based on a high-level analysis of your lab’s situation.