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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.


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)
  • 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


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.


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

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 (slide 10)

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

Scenarios/Case studies

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? {{#section:A business case for Jpylyzer|jpylyzerbenefits}} 209

Analysing a disk

The executive summary should provide a snapshop of the key features of the business case, but most importantly it should present a short and compelling argument for the business case, addressing briefly the What?, Why?, and How? of the business case.

SCAPE Project business case examples

Use this to see how the key aspects of a business case 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 executive summary

An example executive summary.

Mass digitisation projects generate millions of master images that must be stored in multiple locations to ensure their longevity. At this scale, storage costs (even in the short term) are considerable. JPEG2000 technology offers the potential to significantly reduce the size of digitised masters for a negligible loss of quality. Using the JP2 file format to store digitised masters therefore provides an attractive alternative to the conventional choice of TIFF. There are however considerable digital preservation concerns about JP2, which could put the longevity of digitised collections at risk. This business activity will put in place a quality assurance process that will validate JP2 masters, mitigate preservation risks associated with their usage, and as a result enable considerable storage cost savings. By reducing initial storage costs by around 60%, resources will be freed up for the digitisation of one million additional pages.


Discussion notes explaining the approach in developing the Executive Summary example, above.

The summary above explains the context and current situation before describing the change to business processes that will be implemented. It focuses on the key elements for a business case of this kind: benefits, costs and risks. The text uses some technical language (mention of JP2 and TIFF) and this may be deemed too technical for the audience, in which case it may be better to refer to the technologies in general terms without specifically naming them.

See the full business case example for more information: Jpylyzer business case template

SCAPE Platform executive summary

An example Executive Summary.

Digital collections at this organisation have grown at such a rapid pace that our existing infrastructure is struggling to cope. Long term digital preservation of our collections and ensuring access for our users remain key strategic priorities. But as the capacity of our repository goes beyond 50TB we are unable to maintain the standards of digital preservation assessment defined in our organisational policy. This business activity will leverage and expand existing infrastructure in order to provide an efficient and cutting edge digital preservation capability.


Discussion notes explaining the approach in developing the Executive Summary example, above.

This summary focusses on the changing circumstances that leave the organisation unable to meet it's policy requirements and at risk of not living up to key strategic priorities. The efficiency of utilising an existing Hadoop cluster (rather than building something completely new) is hinted at. The detail of the solution, including any mention of the complex technologies of which it is composed, is not mentioned here.

See the full business case example for more information: SCAPE Platform business case template

Planning and Watch executive summary

An example Executive Summary.

Ensuring the longevity and accessibility of this institution's digital collections remains a top priority. However, for a small organisation with limited resources for digital preservation, knowing exactly when and where action is required is a critical issue. Unnecessary preservation action will deplete limited resources. Insufficient action where it is needed, and our digital legacy is placed at risk.

This business case requests a small capital investment to establish a cutting edge Preservation Planning and Watch function. It will target our resources in the most essential areas, ensuring the survival of our digital collections whilst keeping preservation activity efficient. The Watch mechanism operates using a community model. This will allow us both to share and showcase our unique video preservation expertise and take advantage of skills from elsewhere in areas where we have less experience.


Discussion notes explaining the approach in developing the Executive Summary example, above.

This summary assumes that the target audience of this case is well aware of digital preservation issues, and furthermore that those issues are of keen significance to organisational priorities. This might well not be the case in many organisations. In these cases, it may be more effective to pitch preservation benefits in the context and language of more indirect benefits such as future access (enabled by preservation).

See the full business case example for more information: Planning and Watch business case template