The purpose of this section is to outline considerations that should be taken into account when deciding whether to conduct your back-capture digitisation project in-house or outsource it to a service provider.
Note: The type or amount of records being digitised, the digitisation requirements of your organisation and its geographic location may all affect the suitability of outsourcing and the availability of service providers to carry out the work. However, some common pros and cons are listed below.
- records are continuously available to the organisation
- the organisation retains control over the entire digitisation process
- the security of records is tightly controlled as access is restricted to known employees
- the experience in project management, digitisation equipment and techniques may be transferable to other projects
- the organisation retains the flexibility to alter project requirements and digitisation parameters as the project develops (rather than being locked into a contract).
- there is a large investment of financial, IT and human resources, both initially and throughout the project (which may be hard to justify for one-off projects)
- time is needed to implement and manage a digitisation process and technical infrastructure, with initial production levels and efficiency typically limited
- staffing and expertise are not always available, and any training investment will be lost if staff leave
- responsibility for network downtime, equipment failure and obsolescence, training of staff, keeping up-to-date with changing digitisation standards etc. rests with the organisation. 
- costs are more predictable as the digitisation of an original paper record is what is paid for, usually as a cost per page (equipment or staffing costs are not additional)
- there are high production levels and fast completion as equipment and staff are tested and already in place
- the expertise and experience of specialists can be drawn upon
- the costs of technology obsolescence, failure, downtime, staff changes, etc., are borne by the service provider
- economies of scale can be realised as specialist service providers will usually be carrying out digitisation on behalf of a number of clients.
- records may be unavailable to the organisation while being digitised
- the organisation has less control over how the digitisation and quality assurance is carried out
- institutional knowledge and experience in digitisation (beyond project management) is not built up for transfer to other projects
- the organisation must manage a complex contractual process of determining the specifications for the digital images, researching, negotiating and communicating with the service provider and monitoring the outcomes. This will require resources (so outsourcing is not entirely ‘hands-off’)
- the knowledge gap between the service provider and your organisation may cause delays and confusion. The service provider will have experience and skills in scanning technology and related practices, but will not know the business of your organisation
- there is a risk that the service provider will go out of business or alter their practices and benchmarks will not be met
- the need to transport and handle the original paper records introduces the risk of possible loss or damage to the records
- there may be security and privacy issues if the service provider’s staff have access to records which are private or confidential
- the service provider may introduce proprietary wraps on digitised data which may make future migration (or change of provider) costly or impossible 
- the service provider may send records out of NSW without the knowledge or consent of either your organisation or State Records.
Your organisation will need to assess the pros and cons to determine the best course of action in your particular circumstances.
For more information on outsourcing, see Accountable outsourcing: Recordkeeping considerations of outsourcing NSW Government business.
Is it all or nothing?
It is possible that you may want to only outsource part of the digital capture process, optical character recognition or metadata collection. Consider when this is viable.
See Frequently asked questions for answers to the following questions:
- What are the responsibilities for the organisation if digitisation is outsourced?
- What specifically should I address in my contracts with outsourced providers?
|Has the decision as to whether conduct your back-capture digitisation project in-house or outsource it to a service provider been considered and documented?|
|If outsourcing digitisation, have the following been clearly articulated in service agreements:
 National Archives of Australia, Digitising accumulated physical records: A guide to initiating and planning digitisation projects, 2011, p. 17. Digitisation Disposal Policy Toolkit, Planning for digitisation, May 2010, p. 3-4.
 National Archives of Australia, ibid., p. 17; Queensland State Archives, ibid., p. 3-4.