At the beginning of each year, we take a retrospective look at the year behind us and think about our aspirations for the year that lies ahead. While Labforward faced unique challenges in 2022, we also achieved our goals, celebrated our growth, and cherished the new team members and partnerships we gained along the way.
From a technical perspective, a huge company-wide accomplishment of 2022 was the release of our improved Identity & Access Management (IAM) platform, which was a crucial step forward in unifying the access to our suite of software solutions. Our Laboperator Team also released the first version of the Workflow Editor, which allows users to create Laboperator protocols specific to their unique needs. From a personnel perspective, we grew our team by 47 new members and have kindled exciting new partnerships – for example, with Elementa, Clustermarket, and Julabo. To get an overall view of our accomplishments this year, we check-in with each team to recap what they are most proud of and also take a look at what we have planned for 2023!
Product & Engineering Updates
Implementing IAM was a company-wide effort, with the Labfolder team committing many hours towards optimizing our ELN to be compatible with the new access management platform. Enhancements include re-authentication processes triggered by IAM within the Labfolder application – for example: when using the Sign & Witness or Signature Workflows Features, during session timeouts, when altering user settings, and when displaying deactivated users.
Additionally, Labfolder’s PDF Export feature was also enhanced with cosmetic and speed improvements released to all users, and “Preserve Layout” and “Preview” features released for Cloud users.
The mobile view of the Labfolder application was also improved: Notebook headers are now more compact, text and data can now be edited with greater ease, pop-up windows (while editing, for example) now open full-screen, and Well Plate Templates and Table Elements are enabled for mobile usage.
Lastly, members of the Labfolder and Labregister team joined forces for “Code Together Week”. The teams had the opportunity to collaborate and experience new ways of coding and working. After Code Together Week, the Labfolder team finalized two features developed during the week:
- Favorite Entries: Users can mark individual notebook entries as favorites and filter their notebook for this field.
- Single Entry View: Users can open entries in an individual URL, allowing them to easily share single entries or work without distractions.
This year, the Labregister team has been focused on improving the usability of our Inventory Management System on tablets and mobile devices. For us, it was important to improve editing on mobile devices as it gives additional flexibility for those users wanting to quickly check their inventory item levels.
In particular we’ve:
- Disabled hovering icons
- Fixed multiple bugs (for example, no cut out pop-up windows)
- Made the viewing of files in Labregister much easier
Alongside this, our Labregister team has been busy implementing improvements to search capabilities. This year we implemented a feature that allows you to search for specific items (or even categories) using the search bar that is now located at the top of the page. You can search across all categories and even use special characters in your search e.g. Ω, β, ä, ö.
Also, to ensure that everyone can make the most of Labregister’s simple search feature, we’ve added a help button which explains how you can use wildcards to streamline your search!
Alongside all of the new features and updates, this year also saw a 12.9% growth rate in Labregister usage compared to 2021. In the new year, we will continue to develop new and exciting features that’ll help our users streamline their inventory management in their lab!
An exciting major development for the Laboperator team in 2022, was the first release of the Workflow Editor. The Workflow Editor is a companion application that enables Laboperator users to create customized Workflow Templates on a graphical user interface and will vastly expand Laboperator’s use case profile. The Laboperator application boosted its good practice (“GxP”) readiness, by revamping its authorization, exporting and reporting systems. QC customers also benefit from increased compliance capabilities with the new built-in review process, following the complete execution of a Laboperator Workflow. Laboratory Monitoring support has also been improved, allowing users to visualize monitoring parameters via a shareable Dashboard and TV Mode.
To support all of these novel features, the Laboperator Engineering Team has grown considerably in the past year: From 8 members in 2021 to 14 in 2022. To introduce and carry out the new features, the Laboperator Implementation Team has also greatly expanded: from 2 team members in 2021 to 7 in 2022. (With more to join both teams in 2023!)
This year, the platform team has been working hard to release new and exciting improvements and updates to our Labforward product suite.
One such successful release was File Object Storage (FOS), a methodology which makes file storage more efficient in the database. The “object storage” stores files in a way that takes up less space in the database, in turn allowing customers to upload more files without requiring purchase of additional database space. As a result, this saves our users money and also allows the users to upload bigger file sizes.
In addition to this, FOS will become a central storage system for our customers where all their files (be it in LF/LR/LO) will be stored. This way, it will be easier for Labforward to manage the database and help with troubleshooting.
As you’ve already read in our LF update, another notable project we accomplished this year was the release of IAM or Identity and Access Management. This was a big cross-team effort as it involved unifying the entry point to Labforward products, providing a single gateway to access all our Labforward products (Labfolder, Laboperator & Labregister).
With its implementation, users now only require 1 account to login to our suite of solutions. This eases the accessibility to our products and enhances the user experience by reducing the friction caused by multiple logins to different products. Users are also able to manage and modify their Labforward profile centrally, and these changes are applied to all our products.
For more details on everything related to IAM please visit this blog.
What have been the biggest successes for the compliance team in 2022?
- This year we passed the ISO9001 surveillance (annual) audit.
- We created the Information Security Management System (ISMS) framework with the addition of new policies and procedures defining Labforward’s information security related processes.
- We also successfully completed phase 1 of the ISO27001 audit.
- We continued validation of our products, as per our standard validation protocols, for major and bi-weekly releases both for cloud and on-premise installations.
- We validated the Identity Access Management (IAM) tool and created the audit ready validation package aligned with GAMP5 and standard validation guidelines.
What is the Compliance team looking forward to in 2023?
- We’re looking forward to completing the phase 2 of the ISO27001 audit and getting certified as an ISO27001 company.
- We will continue to enhance information security measures as mandated by the ISMS.
- We will enhance our validation processes and implement consistently across all of our products and tools.
- We’ll work towards becoming a 100% paperless company, with continued focus on automating the internal computer system validation processes as much as possible, while staying compliant with the GxP regulations.
Marketing & Communications
The Marketing and Communications team has been working hard to provide our customers with the information and guidance needed to enable their laboratory digitalization journeys. Whether through blogs, articles, events or webinars alongside our partners, we’ve been diligently communicating new product features, partnerships and our vision for the connected laboratories of the future. In particular, we have expanded our presence at events throughout the year, attending Achema, Analytica, Lab Innovations, SmartLab exchange among many others. After the pandemic restrictions prevented these events from taking place in person over the past couple of years, it was a thrilling experience to be able to converse directly with prospective customers, industry leaders and existing partners once more. In 2023, we are looking forward to participating in more events including SmartLab Exchange (Amsterdam, 22-23/02), SLAS (San Diego, 25-01/02), The Paperless Lab Academy (18-19/04), Pharma Automation & Robotics (20-21/04), Labvolution (9-11/05), & our first LADS forward Hackathon hosted in partnership with Spectaris in our Connectivity Space in Berlin.
More recently we also kicked-off our Partner Webinar Series with a segment on Change Management featuring partners from Clustermarket, Düperthal Connect, Fluics, bAhead, and Julabo and hosted 35 attendees. In 2023, we are especially looking forward to expanding our Partner Webinar Series, with our next segment already scheduled for January 23rd on Sustainability in the Lab.
Sales, Support & Customer Success
This year, our Business Development and Customer Success teams were busy supporting our client’s journeys, introducing our product suite to exciting prospective customers, and expanding our new and existing partnerships. After all, our overall intent is to make our customer’s laboratories more efficient and productive than ever and not only provide them with our solutions, but provide them with an entire network of like-minded partners to help them accomplish their goals.
Towards this, 90% of our customers reported that Labfolder helps them achieve their goals and 94% of our customers plan to use the ELN in the long-term. In addition to hosting demos, resolving support tickets and publishing Helpdesk articles, Customer Success and Business Development welcomed 118 new customers and created 8 new video tutorials. We also hosted 150 attendees across 6 Webinars on pertinent themes such as Cold Storage Monitoring, Data Organization, and Lab 4.0.
Clustermarket is a user-friendly platform for laboratory equipment bookings, maintenance, scheduling, and usage analysis. Together with Clustermarket, we are looking forward to evaluating how our products can be integrated and to enriching our products with their functionalities. In 2022, Clustermarket participated in our first Partner Webinar on Laboratory Change Management and will also participate in our upcoming 2023 Partner Webinar on Sustainability in the Lab.
Julabo is a leading device manufacturer in the field of temperature control. Devices such as heating and refrigerating circulators, dynamic temperature control systems, water baths, are part of their portfolio. In 2022, Julabo joined our first Partner Webinar on Laboratory Change Management. In 2023 we will work together on evaluating new, interesting use cases for our Connectivity Space.
Tetrascience offers a Scientific Data Cloud with the goal of gathering, harmonizing and providing actionable scientific data. Early this year, we’re officially joining the Tetrascience Partner Network. Together with Tetrascience’s R&D data platform, we are looking forward to identifying synergies between their platform and our product suite and building our strategic partnership.
bAhead develops AI-enabled software and hardware solutions to provide flexible lab automation with co-bots. We have already integrated one of their co-bots, “Buddy” and we are looking forward to deploying an extendable ELISA use case with “Buddy” in our Connectivity Space in 2023.
Elementa has developed a specialized laboratory voice assistant to automate data collection, protocol narration, and sample location. This year, we interviewed and featured Elementa CTO and co-founder, Lirry Pinter, in our Partner Spotlight Series In 2023, we are looking forward to integrating Elementa’s voice assistant with our products to expand productivity in the lab.
We continually strive to cultivate a happy and healthy working environment. Not only are we proud of Labforward being a great place to work, but our collaborative and connected working environment reflects and embodies our company’s goal of fostering connected and efficient laboratories.
Towards our people-oriented goals, we grew our team by 47 new hires and continued to support the career development of our employees. In particular, 33% of employees received a raise and/or promotion in 2022 and 6% were enabled for a role change within the company. We continue to prioritize diversity within the company, with 32 nationalities represented at Labforward, and a 77% increase in female engineers from 2021 to 2022. While we love building an international team, immigrating to Germany is, unfortunately, not straightforward. Therefore, to facilitate the relocation of our international employees to Berlin, we partnered with Expath and successfully relocated 17 new employees.
We promote a flexible and trustful working environment by continuing to support hybrid (16% of employees) and remote-first working (51% of employees), while also supporting our office-first employees (33% of employees) in our Berlin headquarters. Since we welcomed so many new employees, we have now outgrown our Berlin office space. To support our continued growth, we began expanding the office to the floor below, and will continue working on this expansion in 2023.
To connect all members of our team (regardless of geographical location), we also held lively team events throughout the year such as our summer retreat in Dresden, Thanksgiving Potluck, and End of Year Event. We also continued our weekly TGIF events, with engaging topics such as the importance of diversity, LGBTQ friendliness, and debate club. Overall, we were thrilled to surpass our eNPS (a measure of employee engagement and satisfaction) target of 35, instead scoring 56 and will continue to prioritize our team’s involvement and happiness in the year to come.
Our ongoing commitment to laboratory sustainability
Scientific discovery has advanced human health, knowledge, and society in a multitude of ways and at Labforward, we are proud to support and enable these breakthroughs. However, scientific research unfortunately also often has a large negative impact on the environment via resource consumption and waste production. Therefore, in 2023 Labforward wishes to further commit itself to our own sustainability practices as well as helping our customer’s labs become more environmentally friendly. In 2022, we established exciting new sustainability pilot projects together with the expertise of Essentim and NIUB Nachhaltigkeitsberatung and are looking forward to further developing and expanding these projects in 2023. Our other sustainability initiatives include our upcoming Partner Webinar on Lab Sustainability (23/01 – more information and registration link here), publishing a content series to spread awareness about laboratory sustainability, and making our business practices and office more sustainable. We’re looking forward to becoming greener together!
Outlook for 2023
Without further ado, let’s go over some of the exciting new features and updates you can look forward to in the new year.
- > Starting off the year the Labfolder team has implemented a UI side navigation bar to expedite the findability of your projects and entries. Further to this, we plan to release another feature that’ll allow you to reference an entry using Entry ID. You’ll then be able to search for entries by the Entry ID.
- > Meanwhile, our Labregister team is focused on delivering further updates and improvements to the recently implemented advanced search feature. Similar to the Labfolder advanced search, this feature will allow users to quickly recover specific items and materials.
- > Our Laboperator team will continue to work on giving additional control to our users over workflow runs. We plan to implement improvements that’ll allow reviewers to leave comments on workflow steps, which can then be either approved or rejected by the reviewer.
- For more insight into what we have in the pipeline you can navigate to our most recent product roadmap page, which details more specific improvements we are making to our solutions in the upcoming months.
It is an inspiring time to be developing connecting solutions for the laboratory. In part brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a substantial push towards digitalization and a renewed enthusiasm to embrace new technologies. We are realizing together that technology is the key to ensuring that research is conducted in the most efficient and effective manner possible. As the company continues to grow and our software continues to mature, we’re also looking forward to the discoveries of our customers and the development of our partners.
As with other years, we remain committed to delivering the features and updates most sought-after by our users. Maintaining close collaboration with our customers, facilitated by our Customer Success department, ensures that we continue to give our users well-rounded support in all of the questions and potential challenges they may encounter on their digital journey. We recognize that connecting an environment as complex as the laboratory is not a straightforward task, as each has its own unique set of approaches and range of equipment. It requires not only technical expertise and assistance, but also requires change management to ensure that laboratory staff can transition over to a new, smarter method of working. In the new year, we strive to offer additional support and insights on the entire topic of digital transformation, to give our customers the knowledge they need to ensure the long-term success of their digital journeys.