Results Should Not Vary: Pursuing Quality in Digitization Services

In Digitization Services, we’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about quality. What does it mean? How do we measure it? And why should we care about it?

After the establishment of the Products and Services (P&S) web portal resource in 2010 (see the blog post), Digitization Services knew we still had more work to do in 2011 to achieve our goals. Now that we standardized what we make and why, we want to make our products with more precision and consistency. In short, we need to focus on building an infrastructure and culture that values and supports quality. To start realizing this goal, we have initiated a year-long Quality Assurance and Quality Control project which seeks to accomplish three things:

  1. Document our quality “As Is” state including detailing our current knowledge base and system capability.
  2. Determine our quality “To Be” state including specific thresholds and measurement mechanisms.
  3. Develop a plan to transform the” As Is” state into “To Be” state.

To keep our focus, we have time boxed our project scope from March through December 2011. For those items which we cannot complete during this time frame, we expect to have a well-defined approached to continue our work in the future.

Some of the things we want to accomplish through this project are to

  • Establish division-wide quality baselines utilizing specific quality control thresholds for all current products outlined in the Products and Services (P&S) web portal:
  • Document the quality thresholds for individual products within the P&S structure.
  • Establish appropriate technical metadata (embedded and/or external) for each product including process metadata and audit trails to record and track quality events.
  • Author and implement standard operating procedures (SOPs) for relevant tasks and equipment.
  • Develop a system to optimize equipment and systems including calibration, monitoring and preventative maintenance.
  • Map equipment capabilities to specific products listed in P&S.
  • Identify system infrastructure requirements needed to support the QA/QC effort (metrics gathering, metrics reporting, system alerts, audit trail, business records).
  • Identify areas of ongoing focus in quality assurance and quality control work and build support for these beyond the life of the project.

It’s a big job! And we can’t do it alone. We want to hear your thoughts on pursuing quality in a digitization and reformatting environment. We have established an invitation only External Review Committee (ERC) comprised of primarily non-NARA stakeholders with subject matter expertise in specific areas (digital still images/text, digital moving images, audio, and motion picture film) to be a sounding board for the QA/QC project as well as an information exchange venue to discuss various approaches to and implementations of quality actions. We’ve strived to include participants from a variety of disciplines including the cultural heritage, entertainment and broadcast communities as well as from a range of countries including the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark. NARA is interested in the individual opinions and experiences of ERC members so NARA can determine if/how they can work within our business environment. The ERC as a group will not issue a final report, make recommendations or endorse products/processes. While ERC discussion may include references to commercial products, the ERC is not a venue to advertise products. We’ve limited the participants on the ERC for logistical reasons but we want to engage other interested parties as well. Through this blog, we’ll announce occasional project updates as well milestones and results. We welcome your comments and questions.

Quality isn’t something that is achieved once and it’s done forever. It’s a continual and communal process and your participation is an important component to help us reach our goals.

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