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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.


1. Scenario fit - some of this comes from the "WHO" or "DESCRIBE WHAT YOU WANT TO DO"

  • You should already understand who this is for, ie who benefits, and their requirements
  • This will determine the kinds of benefits that will be relevant

2. Gather relevant institutional documents, such as:

  • 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, etc.)

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 update of those documents to include digital preservation

Ask whether you think DP is timely?

  • This is about need (which should come from the WHO) and readiness (which should be institutional readiness)

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)

  • find an opportunity to present them in terms your organization will understand.

4. Carry out an environment scan such as:

  • Case studies of success and failure
  • Benchmark against comparators
  • Identify significant legislation / regulation

Check whether these are helpful.

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

  • Consider your objectives and what you intend to deliver/what the results will be.

6. Identify the benefits associated with each outcome/output

  • Any positive impact can count as a benefit
  • Relate back to organsiational strategy/priorities/mission/values if possible
  • 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 measuremement process is needed?)
  • Work from a list of example benefits
  • WARNING: do not treat these as comprehensive, you might want to brainstorm independently first

6. A

  • framework (things you might want to think about, or ways you might want to approach analysing benefits)
    • brief intro to alternatives: KRDS or Tanner's Balanced Value Impact Model or NG's Benefit Funnel
    • also extract common themes which appear in the different frameworks:
      • who benefits (individual or organisation)
      • timescales (short-term / long-term)
      • etc.

6. B

  • example benefits
    • by scenario to allow people the benefits which could be expressed in different contexts and shared areas of concern
      • e.g.1 Research data: KRDS
      • e.g.2 Institutional or personal archives: examples from SPRUCE Mashup events
    • by type to allow people to identify common themes from the different frameworks and approaches
      • e.g.1 organisational concerns - green issues, efficiency, compliance, reputation, etc.
      • e.g.2 users - access, reuse, funding opportunities, outreach, etc.
      • e.g.3 financial - generating income, making savings, ROI

7. Prioritisation

  • understanding the context will determine the importance of each benefit
  • 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)
  • benefits funnel


  • List of example benefits
  • Defining a tailored list of 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)

Scenarios/Case studies

list of links to case studies which show which benefits have been used for different kinds of content/business case

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?