Monday, February 06, 2006

Outsourcing project work overseas

Each week I am contacted by one or more digitization vendors outside of the U.S. who would like to work on a project that is being outsourced. Their hope is that the project can be outsourced to them, no matter where they are located. Unfortunately, when an institutions is going to outsource the digitizing of its materials -- and those materials are historic, one-of-kind items -- it can be impossible to get the institution to consider outsourcing the work to a company that they cannot easily visit. It is an act of faith to send materials across country and more so to send those materials elsewhere in the world so they can be digitized.

When seeking digitization vendors, we tend to look at the companies in our own region to see what services are available. Institutions will look at the services themselves and the quality of those services. It is also important that the vendor is familiar with the type of materials that are to be digitized. For example, if you're digitizing fragile handwritten letters, you would want to work with a vendor who has worked with those types of material previously and can provide a reference for that work.

If there is not a vendor in the region for the type of work needed, then the institution will begin to look elsewhere and might then consider a vendor that is not nearby. Still there will be questions about quality, etc., and a need to be sure that the work will be done correctly AND the materials handled appropriately. There is always the fear of losing control of the materials, if they are sent a long distance away. And sometimes nothing can overcome that fear.

As vendors look to obtain projects from other geographic regions, they might consider the following:
  1. Create a web site (or web pages) that describe the work the company does and how it works with institutions that are not in the same geographic region. In other words, how does the company assure the institution that it can handle the materials appropriately, keep the materials safe and secure, and produce results based on known standards/guidelines?
  2. Post a descriptive list of work completed with information on the materials digitized and the type of institutions the work was done for. The company should be willing to provide the actually names of the institutions, and contact information, on demand when discussing project work with a new client.
  3. Post digitized content for people to review, so they can see the quality of your completed work.
  4. Consider using streaming video to show prospective clients what your facility looks like and a bit of your process. It's not expected that you should give away trade secrets, but as the saying goes "a picture is worth a thousand words."
  5. Write articles (or blog postings) about your work. Even better -- get a client institution to write an article about its project and how you helped with it.
  6. Recognize that being the lowest cost vendor may not be what institutions want. Talk about what makes your services special, besides your cost structure.
For vendors -- in the U.S. or elsewhere -- who are interested in participating in a digitization trade show, there will be one in Buffalo on May 24, 2006. You can read more about it here.

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