Monday, March 07, 2005

Two vendor problems that have yet to be solved

The lecture I'm preparing this week for my graduate students has to do with outsourcing, which has gotten me thinking about the digitization vendors we deal with. I have realized that there are two problems that have yet to be solved.
  1. There is no comprehensive list of vendors. We need a list (directory) that not only lists vendors, but also states their capabilities so that you can decide easily which vendors to contact about a possible project. Right now we rely on word of mouth, referrals, online searches, etc., to find vendors.
  2. Vendors are not qualified or certified based on any standards. We rely on what others tell us about working with a vendor, samples, information gathered via RFIs and RFPs, vendor visits, etc. This also means we have no way of comparing vendors in a way that stands up over time.

Who should create the comprehensive list? The one group that I think could do this is AIIM. Currently AIIM captures information on a limited list of solution providers. Although they are focused on "the tools and technologies that capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content in support of business processes", I don't think it would be a huge leap for them to capture information on vendors who work with historic items, etc.

Who else could create the list? Perhaps a publisher or the government...whomever, it would need to be a group that would see it has part of its mission (which is why I think AIIM could be a logical choice).

And who should set the standards used to certify vendors? A group of people who have had lots of experience with digitization vendors. Perhaps representatives from those projects what we all marvel at (American Memory, etc.)? I would want key people from the National Archives and Library of Congress at the table, and perhaps someone who could bring the vendor's viewpoint. Definitely someone who understands that all projects are not alike.

And who should actually do the certification? Should vendors self-certify? With the importance of digitization on our future, I would think some independent group (government funded?) should certify vendors, using information provided to them. It would be a lot of work, but very much worth it. And vendors would go through the process when they understood the benefit (like those companies that go through the ISO 9000 certification).

It's all do-able. Perhaps we should call on AIIM to help get the first ball rolling?

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