So you find yourself in charge of a calibration department, and you have a stack of work to start on and sort out so you can get things running nice and smoothly. Maybe your company currently uses a paper scheduling system or excel spreadsheets, or maybe they have some existing software package that is coming due for renewal. You have the chance to make things work better in the department, so you start looking around and see that there are MANY options for calibration management software out there. Which is the “best”?
The answer of course, is “It depends”. There is no “best” software out there for all situations, so it is great that there are many options, except for the fact that it makes it difficult to choose! Really, it comes down to how well the software meets the needs of your situation, and I don’t just mean functional needs. Each software package comes with its own benefits and drawbacks, so to get the best software match for your situation requires an analysis of your needs.
Broadly speaking, your needs can be grouped into a few categories: technical, project related, company structure related, projected use, resources, and financial.
To briefly break these down:
- Technical – Obviously, there are certain minimum technical requirements that are required for the software that will support your needs. It is very important to define these early in the selection process and clearly separate the Requirements from the Desired Features so that you can properly consider each near the end of the decision making process. These might include:
- Compliance with regulatory requirements (e.g. FDA, 21CFR11, GMP’s, etc)
- Types of data to be tracked
- Types of reporting required
- Security and access requirements
- User management
- Interactions with other systems
- Ease of use
- Project Related – Consider the effect of your selection on whatever your current projects are.
- Do you have an infrastructure on which to install software?
- Can you afford to wait through a long purchase and qualification process?
- Do you have time for extensive installation/qualification of the software?
- Are the users going to be able to access the system?
- Is there an extensive learning curve?
- Is there a significant investment in software configuration required?
- Company Structure – This relates to specifics about how the software will interact with different departments. If the software is modular, for example, and you are the Calibration Manager, it may help reduce the number of approvals required if the software is narrowly focused. If the software ties into other departments, it is typical for more meetings to be required. Modular software allows the scope of the software to be narrowly defined and may hasten approval.
- Projected Use – Each situation is different. What are the projected needs into the future. It is reasonable to focus on what you need immediately, but don’t lose sight of the future.
- Can data be imported and exported into other systems?
- Can you add other functionality in the future (e.g. Maintenance Management, Validation Management, etc)
- How are updates to be handled?
- Financial – The cost of the software over the short and the long term. Are you in a position to purchase and install software locally or is it easier and faster to approve the funds for a less expensive/burdensome installation.
- Resources – Of course, your resources can also dictate your options.
- Do you have IT resources to support on-site installation?
- How will change control be managed, if applicable?
- Do you have resources to enter the data required? Different software packages required vastly different amounts of data to be entered.
- Financial – In some cases, financial constraints limit your options. Don’t forget to consider the following:
- Will there be a large up-front investment?
- Is any qualification included?
- How is the licensing managed?
- Are there per user/per site charges?
- If you don’t need to meet regulatory requirements, is there a less expensive option (maybe from the same company).
Using the above list may help narrow down the solutions available for your use. Then, you can get into narrowing down the prospects further by testing out your best choices looking at reviews, demos, free trials, etc.