Benefits

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Unlocking the benefits of your digital data

The benefits of the activity that your business case describes will form the most important part of your business case. To be accepted, your case needs to realistically make the argument for the investment that your case requires. Selling the benefits to the target stakeholders of the case is a top priority.

Context matters when you are setting out to articulate the benefits. Some agencies - especially 'memory institutions' - have an implicit mandate for preservation and don't take much persuading that preservation is a good thing: in such circumstances you will likely be trying to make the case for why digital preservation is a priority over other actions, and convincing funders of the level of preservation that's required. But in other organizations - such as in industry - preserving data can be seen as an actual business risk. This is especially true where there is an over-developed or misplaced concern about data protection or freedom of information. In these circumstances you will face two challenges: (1) developing the case for digital preservation, and (2) prioritising it over other activities.

Whether you work in a memory institution or in industry, the benefits need to be articulated in a simple way. They should be as specific as possible, with a clear indication of who will benefit and when the benefit will be delivered. Try to back this up with empirical evidence, or evidence from users, and match them closely to the mission/strategy of the organization.

Process

Use this to identify the benefits of your business case and articulate them in an appropriate and effective manner.

1) Scenario fit

  • You should already understand who this is for, ie who benefits, and their requirements. For more information see Who is going to be affected? and Stakeholder analysis.
  • This will help to determine the kinds of benefits that will be relevant, and how you should communicate them

2) Gather relevant institutional documents, and understand the context to your benefits

  • These should include:
    • Institutional strategic plan - mission statements, strategic objectives (e.g. research/teaching)
    • Departmental service plan and performance indicators
    • Other departmental policies (e.g. records management policy, procurement policy)
  • Check how old they are and see if they are relevant - this about the principles they embody, not just the specifics.
    • Aim: linking low-level objectives with high-level returns (eg preserve this CD, vs make someone's life better).
    • Your aim over time may be to influence the revision of those documents to include digital preservation.
  • Ask whether you think DP is timely?

3) Understand your audiences

  • Different benefits will appeal to different decision makers
  • Different people will talk different languages
  • Different departments will have different objectives that you need to align with
  • What are the operational priorities?
  • How do your objectives align with current areas of activity? (for example research data, lecture capture)
  • Be aware of common obstacles to progress and typical perceptions of long term preservation. Ed Pinsent in describing a workshop entitled "Making Progress in Digital Preservation" noted:
    • "'When asked about 'barriers to success', over a dozen hands in the room went up. Common themes: getting the momentum to get preservation going in the first place; extracting a long-term commitment from Executives who lose interest when they see it’s not going to be finished in 12 months. There’s a need to do advocacy regularly, not just once; and a need to convince depositors to co-operate. IT departments, especially in the commercial sector, are slow to see the point of digital preservation if its 'business purpose' – a euphemism for 'income stream', I would say – is not immediately apparent."
  • For more information see Stakeholder analysis.

4) Carry out an environment scan

  • This might assessing the following for helpful information:
    • Case studies of success and failure
    • Benchmark against comparators
    • Identify significant legislation / regulation

5) Identify the high level outcomes/outputs of your proposal

  • Consider your objectives and what you intend to deliver/what the results will be.
  • This should be outlined in your Business activity section.

6) Generate a list of benefits for your business case

  • This can be achieved via a number of different processes:
    1. Brainstorm (on your own or with colleagues). It may be helpful to brainstorm against a list of activities or outcomes identified in your Business activity section.
    2. Work from a list of example benefits from other practitioners/organisations, such as those collated by SPRUCE.
    3. Work with an existing framework such as
  • Doing your own brainstorm first may make the most of your thoughts before being swamped by the detail provided by existing work.
  • Remember that any positive impact can count as a benefit, and think about the long and short term.
  • Consider a full range of benefit types - economic, social, legal, reputational etc, hard (direct) and soft (indirect) benefits, over both short and long term (when will they be realised and what type of benefits measurement process is needed?).

7) Prioritise and communicate your benefits list

  • Prioritise your benefit list and refine the language used to communicate it by relating or mapping your benefits to your organisational and contextual information. This might include:
    • Mapping benefits to your organisational strategy or other high level organisational objectives. Make the alignment of your benefits to organisational objectives explicit in your business case.
    • Re-considering the target audience for your business case.
    • Assessing the impact of each benefit
    • Review granularity. What level of detail is appropriate (e.g. in somes cases you might want to talk about broad areas of interest rather than list benefits exhaustively)
    • Use an approach such as the Grindley Benefits Funnel approach (see slide 10) to prioritise benefits that will be of most interest to your target audience

Content

Use this to check that the process above has helped you generate the right content for your business case.

Following the process above should have helped you generate a list of benefits associated with your business case. These benefits should have been prioritised and refined to better target the business case audience.

If you are using a business case template, you may have to present your benefits in a certain manner. For example, as an "Options appraisal". For more information see the parent section on Option appraisal/value for money analysis/return on investment.

Scenarios

Use this to understand the implications for particular scenarios (involving specific kinds of organisations or data).

  • Developing in house and/or providing services to others

Return on Investment or value for money is becoming increasingly important for organisations that are intent on developing their own in-house solutions or wish to roll out their digital preservation service to others. As the number of organisations who identify digital preservation as a growing priority increases, there should be more potential for shared services as a sustainable approach to digital preservation. Therefore, especially if you are making the case for the development of an in-house solutions, you should consider both the value for money and whether rolling out this services to others is a viable option in the longer term?

SCAPE Project Business case examples

Use this to see how the benefits of a specific business activity can be articulated within a particular organisational context.

This section provides example text from SCAPE Project business case templates along with explanatory discussion notes.

Jpylyzer benefits

An example of business benefits.

Implementation of a quality assurance process for digitised masters, based on the application of Jpylyzer, will facilitate a move from TIFF to JP2 for the storage of digitised masters from mass digitisation (1million+ pages) projects. It will generate the following benefits:

  • A reduction in storage costs of 80%, enabling a further 1 million pages to be digitised
    • Supporting key organisational objective 3: "Significantly increase access to the collections by implementing digitisation of at least 5 million pages of our collection"
  • Mitigation of key long term digital preservation risks
    • Supporting key organisational objective 2: "Preserve and provide access to our collections for future generations of researchers"
  • Improved quality of digitisation results and improved efficiency of their generation via the use of cutting edge quality assurance technology
    • Supporting key organisational objective 5: "Deliver organisational change, through the use of new techniques and technology, enhancing our reputation by doing more with less"

Discussion

Discussion notes explaining the approach in developing the Business Benefits example, above.

This example benefits section distils a range of possible benefits down to three really important issues for this organisation, as shown by close alignment with the organisational objectives. Reduce costs/do more, ensure preservation, and improve quality/efficiency. The benefits in this case are pitched in the context of the wider operation of moving from the generation of TIFF to JP2 masters, rather than just the specifics of the preservation issues. Benefits tied primarily to long term preservation will often also be linked to quality and cost. Improved quality tends to result from better managed and validated processes that follow a sensible policy. Depending on the stakeholder(s) in question this might be viewed as more significant and immediate than preservation benefits, as hence be considered more favourably.

A reduction in costs could simply save money from the storage and preservation budget, or it could expressly be used to enable more digitisation (more realistic in practice if digitisation, preservation and initial storage are all initially covered by the same capital investment). This could be crucial in making a strong case to the most important stakeholders. In this example, freeing up resources to enable extra digitisation aligns well with a crucial organisational objective.

See the full business case example for more information: Jpylyzer business case template, including a list of generic business benefits for Jpylyzer.

SCAPE Platform benefits

An example of business benefits.

Using the SCAPE Platform will reduce execution time of preservation processes from months to days. This will enable us to meet the requirements of our organisational preservation policy to assess all content in our repository at least twice a year. This is not currently the case, putting our digital collections at significant risk, and endangering our strategic commitments to collection longevity and access. By applying the latest technology offered by the SCAPE Platform, we will have sufficient capability to not only execute our existing preservation processes efficiently, but to increase their coverage and depth. In doing so we will follow current best practice guidance ensure the survival and use of our digital collections now and in the future.

Discussion

Discussion notes explaining the approach in developing the Business Benefits example, above.

The broader list of detailed SCAPE Platform benefits is distilled to the issues critical to this organisation: meeting the policy requirements and ensuring strategic commitments are met.

See the full business case example for more information: SCAPE Platform business case template, including a list of generic business benefits for the SCAPE Platform.

Planning and Watch benefits

An example of business benefits.

Implementing the Planning and Watch Suite of software from the SCAPE Project will realise the following benefits:

  • Business as usual preservation activities will be made more effective and more efficient
  • Limited resources will be targeted at critical preservation risks
  • Longevity of our digital collections will be ensured
  • Our reputation for digital preservation will be enhanced via participation in the collaborative Preservation Watch mechanism

Discussion

Discussion notes explaining the approach in developing the Business Benefits example, above.

Cost versus benefit lies at the heart of any business case, but the cost aspect can often be attractive to management. However, these benefits sell the business case not on saving money but on a small capital investment enabling limited day to day resources to expended more effectively. "Do more with less" and "Working smarter" are somewhat trite buzz phrases representing a management mentality that can sometimes be helpful to play on in this kind of situation. This business case is literally applying new technology to do a more effective job with the same resources.

See the full business case example for more information: Planning and Watch business case template, including a list of generic business benefits for the Planning and Watch Suite.

Resources

Use this to find additional help on business case benefits.

Beagrie's Keeping Research Data Safe Benefits Framework

Neil Beagrie's Keeping Research Data Safe benefits toolkit - introduction

Blue Ribbon Task Force

APARSEN survey of Digital Preservation thinking in European Research Libraries see chapter 3

ESpida Framework - balanced scorecard on digital preservation

Measuring the Impact of Digital Resources, Tanner

What's in it for me? Taking a benefits realisation approach to developing a government digital archive in New Zealand

McKinsey Article on the value of data: 'The need for growth and competitiveness will force companies to build strong digital capabilities. Viewing them as assets rather than additional areas of spending requires a new set of management and financial lenses. Embracing them is a major shift—but one worth making for companies striving to master a still-evolving landscape.' [1]

Benefits Funnel, Grindley http://www.slideshare.net/neilgrindley/digital-preservation-costs-versus-benepasig-dublin-oct-2012-dp-costs-final2 (slide 10)

JISC study on the Economic Impact of the British Atmospheric Data Centre (BADC)