Creating systems for effectively managing analytical chemistry data requires a blend of scientific understanding, technological prowess, and coordinating between teams. That’s why ACD/Labs’ project management team has a critical role to play when deploying analytical chemistry solutions.

In this episode, hosts Sarah and Jesse discuss project management with Hans de Bie, who has helped many global research companies deploy enterprise analytical data management solutions. The conversation covers both what it takes to effectively manage your data, and how to manage projects successfully.

Read the full transcript

Hans de Bie  00:00

In essence, I think all the companies are doing the same thing. But they’re all doing it slightly different. And I think it’s our role and our experience in implementing projects at one customer, and then taking that knowledge that you’ve gathered in order to help other customers to optimize their processes, or suggest that they could do things better.

Jesse Harris  00:32

Our listeners know that we often talk about the unique challenges of managing analytical data.

Sarah Srokosz  00:38

This includes dealing with instrument diversity, assembling data from multiple analytical techniques, and ensuring important data and insights are accessible now and in the future.

Jesse Harris  00:49

But today, we’re diving a little deeper getting into managing digital transformation and automation projects.

Sarah Srokosz  00:56

So we’re talking about managing analytical data management.

Jesse Harris  01:00

I guess you could put it that way.

Sarah Srokosz  01:02

Hi, I’m Sarah.

Jesse Harris  01:03

And I’m Jesse. And we’re your host for today’s episode of the analytical wavelength a podcast about chemistry and analytical data brought to you by ACD/Labs.

Sarah Srokosz  01:14

For this episode, we’re joined by our senior director of solution delivery Hans de Bie.

Jesse Harris  01:19

Hans and his professional services team combined experience in science, informatics, application development and implementation to help ACD/Labs customers, assess and implement their digitalization and automation goals.

Sarah Srokosz  01:34

Today, he’s giving us an inside look at what goes into a successful analytical data management project.

Jesse Harris  01:40

Hello, Hans, how are you doing today?

Hans de Bie  01:43

I’m fine. How are you?

Jesse Harris  01:44

Doing very well, doing very well, very excited to talk to you today about project management in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. But to start off, of course, who wanted to ask you what is your favorite chemical?

Hans de Bie  01:55

I’ve been thinking about this question. And basically, I have no favorite chemical, I have favorite chemistry, been doing high pressure chemistry at 12 kilo bar at university during my PhD. And we could do reactions there, which were not possible with normal pressure and normal temperature. So you could put your compounds together at normal pressure and normal temperature, and nothing would happen. And then if you put him under high pressure gave a product which was not possible under normal circumstances.

Jesse Harris  02:31

Well, kilo bar is really high, I did some high pressure chemistry, and it was like a couple 100 bar, the 12 kilo bar is really high.

Hans de Bie  02:39

Yeah, it was just a big machine. And you could use small volume in your reaction vessel. And it was from Teflon. And you saw that the volume after your reaction just decreased tremendously. So it was impressive. And that, you know, that gave me the feeling, you know, I’m putting things together and I’m putting a lot of pressure on it. And I’m forcing them to react together.

Sarah Srokosz  03:04

I come from synthetic background. And so we’re used to, you know, playing around with temperature and like, you know, Jesse said kind of you some of my colleagues would play around with pressure, you know, maybe up to a couple 100 bar, but it sounds like you were doing something like differently entirely.

Hans de Bie  03:21

Yeah, the machine was room filling. And you know, sometimes it went wrong and things exploded. And

Sarah Srokosz  03:29

Yeah, I’m sure I’m sure you’re not a stranger to explosion.

Hans de Bie  03:33

So this was really neat, neat chemistry. And you know, we had to do those reactions, because if we heated up the temperature, then it reacted. But it decomposed after that. So it was just…

Sarah Srokosz  03:48


Hans de Bie  03:49

It was yeah, it was very, very interesting chemistry. And that’s why I thought, well, it’s not my favorite chemical, but it’s certainly my favorite chemistry.

Sarah Srokosz  03:58

Yeah, well, getting into our topic for today, project management, we kind of hear that term very broadly across industries. But when it comes to handling chemical data and analytical data, what is project management?

Hans de Bie  04:14

Yeah, I would make a distinction there is we’re not running projects at our customers. So we’re not helping them to do their work. I think we’re supporting them with you know, the software from ACD/Labs in order to deploy that in a good way for customers, in a good way for the customer sponsors, the people working with the analytical data and the chemical structures, but also the IT departments and you know, also also internally inside ACD/Labs company. So we try to project management in such a way that the software gets installed, it gets configured and customized in such a way that it works in an optimal way for our customer base. And I think what we need is not only the customer, the person collecting the analytical data, the person doing the experiments, but also, you know, internally in ACD/Labs, you know, our sales department, our technical support, people doing the training, people doing the programming, and also the product managers, in order to get them all aligned together, in order to get this project done in the best possible and the most economical and best way for customers and ACD/Labs. So I hope it’s clear that I’m not meaning project management in order to, you know, synthesize compounds or project management to do the analytical chemistry, it’s deploying our products at the customer site.

Jesse Harris  05:50

Yes, that makes sense. I do understand, though, that you do work closely with the scientists at these other organizations and help to translate their workflows into technology and software, so that you understand what it is that they’re doing, and find ways to then interpret that into technology that will help them How do you do this? And how do you set up projects like that for success?

Hans de Bie  06:17

In essence, I think all the companies are doing the same thing. But they’re all doing it slightly different. And I think it’s, it’s our role and our experience in implementing projects at one customer, and then, you know, also taking that knowledge that you’ve gathered in order to help other customers to optimize their processes, or you know suggest that they could do things better. So in this way, we usually start with, you know, talking to the customers and see what their workflow is. And then, you know, also suggest to them that, you know, if they do things slightly different, that their process could be, you know, faster or better, or, you know, with less human interactions, and maybe in an automated fashion. We are going into the customer, and we’re also bringing in our knowledge in order to advise them to maybe slightly do things differently in order to, you know, to optimize their processes.

Sarah Srokosz  07:17

Certainly, yeah. But kind of going one level deeper. Like not only do these organizations do things differently, like the reason behind that tends to be that organizations can have many different priorities or competing needs. And that kind of differs from organization to organization. So how do you navigate these kinds of challenges?

Hans de Bie  07:41

Well, I think it’s good to listen to the customer and to see what they’re doing and try to understand what they’re trying to achieve. And it’s not that we copy from one organization to the other organization. But I think with the experience of seeing how customers handled their business, and just see what our software can do, I think we can advise them in order to optimize their processes in such a way that the software that we are delivering is supporting that in the best possible way.

Hans de Bie  08:15

A lot of projects we’re doing is, for instance, automate the things that can be automated. So if they’re doing routine tasks, and we can help them and I think, for instance, automated structure verification is one way where people do NMR, but the interpretation could be done in an automatic way. And that doesn’t mean that it’s always 100% perfect, there will always be the experts that are checking the data. But what we’re trying to do is just to take away as much as possible the routine work from the scientists and from the analyst that does the experiment, and help them in order to let them focus on things which are more difficult and take more time. And by taking away the routine tasks, they have more time available in order to look at the difficult cases.

Sarah Srokosz  09:07

So when you are first kind of sitting down with an organization, what does that look like when you’re getting to know their workflow? Are you just asking them to kind of take you through things very, kind of pragmatically of like what do you do? Or do you try to ask questions to I guess kind of deduce what is actually important to them? Or do you just ask them you know, what are the most important things that you want to change or anything like that, like what does that actually look like?

Hans de Bie  09:40

You know, it starts already earlier stage where the sales and the application scientist is in contact with the customer. And they see that in the space of analytical chemistry and in this space where ACD/Labs can help them that there could be something that helps the customer talk to optimize the processes or to help them collect data or to, you know, not making data available, which should be available for future use. So that already happened as moment is identified. And then usually, with the application scientists we look at what the workflow is, and then in a discussion with the customer. And my preference usually is to do that in a sort of workshop phase where I think it’s important for me to learn exactly what the customer is doing. So we ask questions, what are you doing, how you’re doing that? Who is involved? And who’s helping you out? What kind of things are you using? Are you using instruments software? Are you using other software in order to look at your data? Is there data you’re getting from other systems that you need at the same time as you do the interpretation of your actual analytical data? But I think the second part, which is important in order to convince ourselves that the customer is aware of what ACD/Labs software is able to do, because we need to match the capabilities of the ACD/Labs software with the needs of the customer. And I think that in a sort of workshop fashion, my experience is that that works pretty well in order to exchange that information. But I, for instance, have done this two day sessions. And at the end of the first day, sit down with the application scientists make some mock ups of pain forms, or database records, or information that makes it more clear to the customer what the ACD/Labs software can offer. And often then the second day, the ideas come up, oh, if I can do this, then this would be easier, or this would be better. And I think that’s usually the process will go into first, you know, sometimes it’s just a session where a customer is telling exactly what is needed. But I’ve seen certainly for the larger projects, that sort of kickoff session or a session where we exchange the information is a good way to get level with the customer and get the customer level with our software and the possibilities.

Jesse Harris  12:07

Great now, one story that I heard about was that Luminato, one of our pieces of software kind of came out of some of this project management work, because you know that we are working closely with these teams, and that leads to insights into what our customers want. And that can be turned into these products eventually, too. Can you tell me a little bit about that story?

Hans de Bie  12:28

Yeah, we were working with a customer and the application scientist, and we looked at the possibilities of Spectrus DB, and you know, how we store chemical reactions, how we store analytical data. And at that point of time, we saw that, you know, linking the analytical data with the reaction was kind of cool. And I must say that, in the beginning, the capabilities were limited. And we worked together with the main developer of Spectrus, and with the application scientist, and then we store the reaction, and we stored the analytical data under the reaction, and we made the forms and the views available in order to display that in a way. And then you think, well, yeah, next step is impurities. And I think at that moment of time, we just made a sort of prototype for showing those reactions and analytical data. And the customer was very interested in that. And I think from there, our product development team picked that up. And I think that was the predecessor of what we would call Luminata. It’s called impurity resolution management, IRM. And I think that was the first, let’s say, prototype or pilot from our software in order to cover this space, impurity management software.

Sarah Srokosz  13:49

Neat. Yeah, I actually hadn’t heard that story really interesting. But take a step back, now, again, we kind of mentioned at the beginning that managing projects, to some degree is a part of everyone’s job in both industry and academia. What advice do you have as someone who does project management kind of day in and day out in these spaces? What advice would you give to these scientists who want to get better at managing their projects?

Hans de Bie  14:18

Yeah, it depends also, what what kind of project it is, but I think it’s just forming a team, getting a clear picture of what needs to be done, then putting the steps that you need to follow in a good order. We’re using JIRA in order to support that. And then, you know, have a kickoff meeting, an internal kickoff meeting for us where our internal resources are aware of what needs to happen. And then an external kickoff meeting where you do also with the client, trying to get the requirements as clear as possible on paper. So agree with the customer what you’re going to do, and clearly state what’s included in what you’re going to deliver but also clearly state you know what is not included and make a clear picture of what you’re going to deliver. And then it’s a matter of bringing all the right resources together in order to implement the steps necessary.

Hans de Bie  15:11

Furthermore, I think it’s important to have regular meetings with the team, with the internal team and with the external team in where you are, what the progress is, if there are delays, communicate that early. If you need resources from the customer site for testing, or for, you know, some additional information, and I think you have to bring it in an early stage, you have to warn the people and involve IT in an early stage, I think that’s certainly important for deployment of software. It usually involves a step for IT to be involved and to make the resources available, and also resources in people, but also resources in servers and computers and databases and systems that need to be integrated to make that available for a swift handling of projects, and just making them finish in time and in budget. I think there are three major pieces: one is budget, resource, and the effort that is needed in order to finish the project.

Jesse Harris  16:15

Good. Okay. So with that, then we can wrap up with asking you if there’s anything else about project management or your team’s work that you would like to share with our audience.

Hans de Bie  16:25

I think we covered quite a lot. But I think that, you know, involving people in a project is key, you know, to make them aware of what’s happening, to keep them informed and get them informed. Certainly also for if we look at the customer projects we’re doing, one important thing is integrations with other systems. Although we think at ACD/Labs that our product is center of the universe, that’s not always the case. And there are other applications which contain useful information like the structure repository, or a LIMS system, or an electronic lab notebook. And we always have to keep our eyes and ears open in order to work on those integrations and make that possible. So that’s one thing. The other thing is, you know, work together with our core development team seems to be key in making projects successful. There are hardly any projects where we won’t need the core team in order to make this, we’re always on the edge of the possibilities of our software are, and sometimes we’re crossing that edge. And then we need our core team in order to make some functionality available that’s not available. So certainly for project managers inside ACD/Labs, I think it’s good to be on level with our support team, with the application scientist, with the product managers and also with our core development team. Recently, we’ve had some new products, and I think also their close cooperation, like Luminata and Katalyst. That’s the newest list of products that we are implementing and project managing. And also there I think it’s key that working together with all the resources that are available inside your organization.

Jesse Harris  18:07

Okay. Oh, yeah. Well, thank you so much for your time on this. That was very interesting and giving us a view into what it’s like to do some project management work. Thank you so much.

Sarah Srokosz  18:17

Thanks Hans.

Hans de Bie  18:19

Okay. You’re welcome. Thanks a lot.

Sarah Srokosz  18:22

Wow, it’s helpful to have some insight into what goes into helping organizations achieve their analytical data management goals from someone with a lot of experience. Thank you for sharing, Hans.

Jesse Harris  18:32

That wraps up today’s episode. If you enjoyed it, we’d love you to recommend the show to a colleague or share it on social media.

Sarah Srokosz  18:39

And make sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss the next one.

Jesse Harris  18:44

See you then.

Sarah Srokosz  18:47

The Analytical Wavelength is brought to you by ACD/Labs, we create software to help scientists make the most of their analytical data by predicting molecular properties, and by organizing and analyzing their experimental results. To learn more, please visit us at

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