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The Quality of Information Products and Services

Information Industry Round Table, Luxembourg, 5th September 1995


The European Commission DGXIII/E held a Round Table discussion for producers and distributors on the topic of the quality of information products and services. The aims of the forum were:

The Round Table was a follow-up action from the more general discussion held on 8 June 1994 (Specifying and Measuring the Quality of Information Products and Services, Luxembourg, 8 June 1994). The intention of this event was to concentrate on the industry side in order to obtain first-hand information of their attitudes and requirements in this field.

Mr. Gerhard Heine welcomed the participants on behalf of the Commission. Dr. N. Swindells (Ferroday Ltd, UK) summarised the practice of quality assurance as the managment of customer satisfaction. The essential feature of this approach is the use of specifications for the product and for the internal production processes.

Mr Josef Herget (University of Konstanz, Germany) reported on the results of studies of the real costs of not having a quality management procedure in operation and showed that these costs can approach 40% of turnover. Mr Eric Sutter (Bureau van Dijk, Paris, France) provided a summary of recent actions in France, particularly actions by ADBS, GESTE and GFII. Mr Sutter concluded that, while there is growing awareness of these issues among information professionals in France, the spread of practice will be gradual, particularly in the public sector.

Isobel Gordon of the British Library, London, UK, reported on the many projects on quality which have been supported by the British Library. These studies have included: measurements of customer perceptions, the quality of information services in the industrial and service sectors in Northern Ireland, the recording of faults and defects in on-line services reported by users. This last action is being extended into a study of the feasability of database labelling.

Dr. Riener Schwarz-Kaske (Institut für Chemie-Information, München, Germany) reported on the development, by a group of information brokers in Bavaria, of a method of supplying customers with the details of the origins of the information they have purchased. Dr. Schwarz-Kaske reported that this development was in response to customer's needs and is part of ensuring their satisfaction with the service they receive.

Mr Alan Gilchrist (GAVEL, Brighton, UK) showed how quality control procedures and the requirements of the ISO 9000 standards are linked to the concept of Total Quality Management. He paid particular attention to the need to measure the gaps in both the users perceptions of the product and also the perceptions of the management.

Mr Heine concluded with a presentation of the main themes of the new programme INFO 2000 proposed by the Commission to encourage the use of multi-media in the information market.

The main aims of the Round Table were achieved in that several major companies provided representatives for the first time to a discussion on this topic. Strong interest was expressed in the future actions of the Commission in this field but there was also evidence of a lack of awareness of quality procedures and general confusion over the issue. The full report of the Round Table is being prepared for general distribution.

For further information contact Mr. G. Heine (Gerhard.Heine@lux.dg13.cec.be).

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