Monday, September 12, 2005

Can you outsource an entire digitization project?

Outsourcing is seen as a way of getting a project done without impacting the institution's staff. Often the creating of the digital files is outsourced, but creating the metadata, setting up the digital asset management software and creating the web site can also be outsourced.

However, there are three things that cannot be outsourced.
  1. Someone internal to the organization will need to manage the project. This means talking to the vendors, ensuring that all is on schedule, looking over shoulders to see that things are done appropriately, and giving feedback. The vendors will assume that this person is available to answer questions and help them keep things on track.
  2. Staff will be needed to select the materials to be digitized and to pull them from the collection. Could you hire someone to do this for you? Yes. Would you be happy with the results? Likely not.
  3. "Designing" the content on the site (or system). Let's think in terms of a web site that contains digitized materials and text. What should it look like? How it is going to be used? What will it contain? Again, this could be outsourced to some extent, but would you want to trust this to someone who isn't associated with your institution?
In order to allocate someone (or a team) to do these tasks, an institution needs to look at look at its staff's workload. An institution might find that it can shift the workload in order to create time for people to do these tasks. If that is not the case, then the institution will need to hire staff so that someone can be freed up to do these tasks. If the project is being grant funded, request money for a project manager who then becomes responsible for the three tasks above.

If you find that the only way to do the project is to outsource everything and leave all decisions in the hands of contractors, ask yourself one question -- will you be happy with the result?

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