Which is best for sample management software: A group of standalone apps or a single platform?

An ebb and flow in thought has always surrounded scientific informatics. Should you take the “best-in-breed” approach and combine multiple standalone applications to handle data? Or do you use a single platform to manage research data? Like we said in our previous blog and the blog before that – it depends on what your lab needs from sample management software.

sample management software data stream

Instead of car analogies like the first two blogs, though – we’re comparing standalone applications and the platform approach to waterways…and the way they move and flow.

Standalone applications for sample management software

Standalone applications deliver the gold standard for functionality. But multiple disparate applications can create a lot of IT overhead. This means the research data continuum is not a flowing stream. Instead, it’s more like a series of locks in a canal that data must go through during its journey in the lab.

Thankfully, as technology has evolved, disparate data sources (multiple informatics applications) have begun to flow more like the stream. Virtually eliminating the locks. Again, the continued layering of more applications to handle the flow of data means greater IT overhead. And we all know IT doesn’t want or need more applications to manage!

One silver lining for IT in this best-in-breed approach is that if one application goes down, it typically means all is not lost. Work in the lab can continue as normal. Or at least as normal as it can without one application running.

Platform approach for sample management software

Few platform providers exist in the market for sample management software. Probably because platforms are like solitary units. They act alone. Think geyser, fountain, or spring. Unattached bodies functional unto themselves.

LIMS providers claim to have a platform. But what they have is a compilation of applications that dump all data into a single database.

Having a single database is useful for searching, aggregating, and reporting on data. But what about the research data commonly found in Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELN)? How does the platform connect to this data? This is key, since research data often drives development in R&D.

A true platform should provide seamless connectivity of research data in the ELN to development and data found in software. The reality is integration between standalone applications (ELN, LIMS, and sample management software) is poor at best.

What you find is that one or the other is the stronger application. To make the platform claim, you need to demonstrate connectivity via the platform but what you really have with a platform is two commonly deployed standalone applications connected with some piping or underlying code.

Although the platform approach does minimize IT overhead to a degree, it does not always provide the level of ability or functionality in applications that the laboratory community needs or wants.

What makes sense for sample management software in today’s IT landscape?

Researchers are always looking for a competitive edge. So, it would make sense to leverage a best-in-breed approach to applications instead of a platform approach. 

A best-in-breed application also helps the IT landscape. Specifically, cloud-hosted software can dramatically cut IT overhead in many ways. For one – it decreases the need for physical IT hardware such as servers, racks, and rooms.

So whether you go with multiple applications or choose a single platform for sample management software – BiobankPro® can go with the “workflows” in your lab! Define better ones, even.