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Quality management within digitization projects: an insight into the Memoriav training day 2018

On March 8, 2018 Memoriav, the association in charge of fostering audiovisual archives preservation projects in Switzerland, held a training dedicated to quality management within digitization projects. Recently we had the pleasure of talking with Axel Roche-Dioré, project leader at Ina – Institut national de l’audiovisuel. He will catch us up on the activities that took place during the intensive Memoriav training day. Interestingly, he also shares the most important outcomes of the interactive workshop he co-hosted on specifications for digitization projects.

The morning presentations were dedicated to concept definition and to feedback from German and French-speaking organizations dealing with specific aspects of quality management. All speakers shared their experiences regarding quality management at their institutions. An insightful morning programme where all  participants got the chance to learn from each other. An overview of the various topics covered by the concept of quality management based on ISO 9000 standard analysis was given by Felix Rauh from Memoriav. Camille Martin from Ina talked about the different ways her organization implemented quality control of its digitization projects. Denise Barcella and Antoine Mercier from RTS explained how they implemented automated anomaly detection on files resulting from a poorly controlled Beta SP collection’s digitization. Julia Wallmüller from the Deutsche Kinemathek presented how fruitful it was to work tightly with a trusted contractor for film digitization so that quality control is not only a step of the process but inherent to it. And lastly Johannes Gfeller from the Staatliche Akademie der bildenden Künste Stuttgart closed the morning session by talking about quality control considerations and how to find a reference for your control when digitizing “not always standard” audio carriers.

The afternoon session was composed of 2 workshops (each done with either French speaking or German speaking participants). The first workshop was about using open-source quality control tools in professional environments, and the second about addressing quality issues in specifications for digitization projects. Camille Martin and Axel Roche-Dioré conducted the French speaking workshop on specifications writing for digitization projects. Following are the key findings of the comprehensive workshop.  

Thinking quality: from specifications writing to the last steps of your digitization project

Together with the 12 participants of the workshop, composed of collection holders as well as representatives of digitization contractors, we first reviewed the advantages of working with a contractor for audiovisual collections’ digitization:

  • they have specialized knowledge on specific carriers and know how to play them again;
  • they have a dedicated organization/workflow that be more efficient;
  • they aren’t emotionally attached to the elements they are dealing with;
  • they provide flexibility depending on the requester’s budgetary and timing constraints;
  • they are bound by a contract and technical specifications agreed with the requester.

Among others…  All these advantages have one major counterpart: requesters (audiovisual archives owners) need to foresee the project proceedings carefully (with or without the help of the contractor) so that the results of the digitization meet the expectations. That is why quality management starts with specifications writing.

Based on the participants’ experience from both sides, we agreed that the specifications should define the parties’ responsibilities at each major step of the project and should focus more on the results than on the means. They shouldn’t define what is expected from the contractor in terms of technical process to implement but in terms of results of this process, which doesn’t mean that the requester shouldn’t be aware of the process its archives are going through! Otherwise the requesters lose energy and deprive themselves from the contractors’ expertise by forcing them to adopt means they might not be familiar with.

The group then reflected on the criteria to evaluate the quality and matching of an offer in relation to the specifications:

  • the price;
  • the technical aspects (workflows, technical equipment, quality check plan, production capacity);
  • the results of a test sample submitted to the contractor;
  • experience of the contractor on similar projects;
  • experience of the working team of the contractor;
  • administrative conditions (schedule and planning, size of the company).

After defining a list of criteria to evaluate the quality of an offer and its matching with established specifications, we raised the attention of the group on the necessity to think of concrete means of evaluation, e.g. what is an experienced team? How do you compare financial offers if they don’t include the same services? What do you evaluate from the test results? 

We concluded that these questions must be asked from the specifications writing so that evaluation modes are determined in advance. It is also a good method to clarify your expectations and the way you express them in your specifications.

We finished the workshop by evoking the steps following specifications writing that must be anticipated and carried out to ensure the quality of the result. It is summarized in the following schema:

For more documents and details (in German and French) visit the website of Memoriav