Checklist for writing a business case for digital preservation

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1: Research the context*

It is important to understand the organisational context to ensure the business case is aligned to the organisation’s strategic priorities and wider policies. The range of documents that you will need to read will depend on your organisation and your priorities for digital preservation but as a guide you should have a good understanding of the following strategies and policies:

    1. Organisational (and if appropriate the department’s) strategy / five year plan
    2. Research Strategy
    3. Teaching and Learning Strategy
    4. Risk Management Policy
    5. Information Security Policy
    6. Records Management and Data Protection Policy
  1. Complete an audit of your organisation’s current level of digital asset management using the Assessing Institutional Data Assets (AIDA) tool
2: What needs to be achieved*

It will be more difficult to gain senior management support for digital preservation as a general activity. Therefore the business case should be aimed at achieving a specific goal. Consider the following:

  1. Which groups of assets need to be preserved?
  2. What are the digital preservation requirements of each group of asset?
  3. What is the value of these groups of assets over time? Plot them on a graph with these two axis (value and time) considering: historical value, legal compliance, external reputation and internal decision making processes
  4. Who are your stakeholders? What are their priorities?
  5. Which group of assets is the greatest priority for digital preservation?
  6. What are the business options for digital preservation? What is achievable at this point in time?
3: Calculating costs

It is extremely difficult and expensive to calculate meaningful long-term costs for digital preservation. However once you have established what it is the business case seeks to achieve is it possible to develop appropriate short, medium and long-term financial costs. Costs will be dependent on the organisation and the digital preservation solution proposed. You should consider:

  1. Storage costs
  2. Software costs
  3. Staff costs for management and administration
4: Writing the business case

The length and content of the business case will depend on the requirements of your organisation. First, check to see if there is an organisational template. Generally the business case should include the following:

  1. Position statement on what needs to be achieved: linked to the organisational context with statements on how it will enable the organisation to achieve its strategic priorities. The value of the digital assets, and potential use and actual demand should be expressed clearly.
  2. Business options: ‘do nothing’, ‘do the minimum’, ‘postpone action’, ‘do what is proposed’.
  3. Expected benefits aligned to strategic priorities: best written as a list of bullet points with a statement on the current status of each so the status of each can be measured.
  4. Risks: aggregate and major risks, including potential dis-benefits of all stakeholder groups
  5. Timescale: including period of financial costs and key points at which benefits are expected to be achieved.
  6. Costs: including the assumption on which they are based, set up costs and ongoing costs.
  7. Roles and responsibilities of key individuals
5. Reviewing the business case

The business case should not be static but should be regularly reviewed and updated with current information on costs, risks and benefits.

* Steps 1 & 2 can be completed concurrently

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