A Step-by-Step Guide to Selecting a Digital Research Environment

Andrey Badalyan December 2nd 2020

There are many good reasons for driving the digitalisation of your research. Having a digitalised research environment makes it easier to store and find your data, as well as to move, share and analyse it. Digitising your data management is the first step to creating a connected research environment, unifying your research and facilitating collaboration and sharing within your team. In this article, we will explain how to make the transition to a digital research environment or new software suite easy for you and the rest of your company by giving you a step-by-step guide.

1. Find out what your company needs

Before diving into the search for the best way to digitise your research environment, it is important to understand what your lab is looking for. Start questioning why this transition will benefit your lab and what is the best way to approach this transition. Will you be looking to start with one team, specific departments or transition your entire organisation at once? To answer this question, you need to ensure that this initiative is driven by the people who will be potentially impacted by this change. One great way of achieving this is to create a series of company-wide surveys to develop a better understanding of what improvement your researchers look for in their daily workflows.

When making this evaluation, it is also important to not only consider the preferences put forward by your team members, but also take into account the requirements of wider stakeholders. Funding of your transition to a digital research environment is also an important factor, so budget management and how this will affect the stakeholders in your organisation is crucial.

2. Shortlist potential solutions

After you have scoped out the financial details of adopting a new solution and established the feature requirements outlined by your users, it is now time to plan your digitisation strategy. This is unique for any organisation and dependent on how extensive you wish to digitise / automate your workflow.

For example, transitioning your data management and record keeping from paper to an electronic lab notebook (ELN) may be a great way of facilitating process tracking, however, it may not facilitate productive team collaboration necessarily. Finding an optimal tool that will allow you to tick all the boxes you have set when embarking on this transition is critical. Rather than just transitioning to ELNs, consider a full shift towards digitising your lab environment by looking at connected research environments. With an end-to-end R&D solution, you will not only have an easy-to-use tool for data, inventory and instrument management, but will also be able to track your own workflow end-to-end, whether that is R&D, biologics manufacturing or CRO processes. A good end-to-end solution should be versatile and multi-disciplinary, allowing you to unify your entire company into a single digital environment.

When selecting a digital solution for your lab, look beyond the out-of-the-box functionality of your shortlisted options. For instance, account for the ease of use and accessibility of the platform. Training your staff to use the platform may be time consuming and cost inefficient, so it is always best to trial products that can be set up quickly and friendly to less tech-savvy users. Take into account their customer and engineering support. Should you come across issues or have specific feature requests, you will want rapid and effective support from the software provider.

3. Schedule a trial

After you made your shortlist of software solutions you would like to test, start scheduling trials with them. Many platforms offer demos, tutorials and trial periods for their product. Get in contact directly with potential vendors and book a free trial or consultation call, and aim to test the platform with at least one team in your organisation. We recommend you select 3-4 software solutions which you think fit best with the interests of your organisation.

Whilst in contact with the vendor or trialling the product, it is advisable to conduct software security audits by requesting access to vendor security policies and data safety and integrity features implemented by the vendor. A strong benefit of using a single connected research environment like Labstep is that it simplifies data governance across your company and makes it easy to track and audit data security.

4. Evaluate, onboard and enjoy your digitalised future

Having completed your trial, collect feedback from all users and teams involved. Evaluate according to your unique priorities and make a decision that you believe will benefit the company most in the long-term. Keep in mind that your organisation might scale in team size or expand on the products / services that you offer, and your software solution will need to flexible accommodate, if not facilitate this. To reiterate, do not only evaluate the features and functionality of your shortlisted options, but also consider the client support and help you have received from the vendor team. Finally, once you are happy with your choice, onboard and enjoy your digitised future!


Labstep is a provider of scientific data management software for R&D organisations across industries (Biotech, Pharma, Biology, Chemicals, Agriculture etc) who need to manage, capture, share and use data effectively.

The Labstep platform is an end to end flexible research environment that connects your notebook, inventory, applications and data in one collaborative workspace.

To learn more about Labstep’s lab inventory management module, get in touch. Contact us or book a demo today.