When is the right time to write a business case?
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questions and answers
- Is this the right time to be writing a business case? Does it fulfil a need that the organisation has?
if yes: get on and do it! if no: then get a comms plan for priming the senior management and look into triage for collections. use this triage to help inform the business case. Consider getting digital preservation mandate onto the agenda of senior managers
- Have any digital preservation projects been undertaken successfully in the organization before now?
if yes: make sure you know the lessons learned. Why has it not been continued? what elements of infrastructure or staffing or expertise can be re-used if no: need to understand what has prevented them from developing, or why they failed.
- Has the senior management been primed to the issue of preservation?
if yes: the it's safe to proceed. You might want to get one of your champions to comment on a draft case if no: then identify a champion in senior management and talk to them informally. Use their feedback to help form the case and figure out how formal or informal the case needs to be.
- What evidence is there that senior management would be receptive to a business case?
if there is evidence then you need to build on their expectations if not, then examine the strategic plan, operational plan, mandates and regulatory and legal environment to find reasons why they would be more receptive.
- Thinking about the cycle of decision making and budgets in your organisation, there will be some points in this planning cycle in which is would be more useful to make a business case. Are you at that point yet?
if yes: get on and do it - make sure you know your deadlines and make sure that senior managers know that something is coming. make sure that its in the right format and also that any important stakeholders (ie IT department, records managers etc) are properly consulted and if possible put their commitment / endorsement along side the business case. if no: work out when is the right time. Use the interval to build momentum such as by priming senior managers, consulting relevant stakeholders, refining the empirical evidence that supports your case, talk to external agencies and colleagues about successes
- What can you do in the short term to triage your collection? Damage control?
A simple workflow for getting started in preservation would include the following steps: characterise your collection (ie know what it is you've got); document the collection (ie generate a report on what you've got); assess risks to identify practical actions for high risk content types or high value collections; plan your preservation actions (making sure that actions are SMART and make sure that your plans can be validated; execute as much of the plan as you can do with limited resources; communicate the results of these actions including success and challenges: the log-jams should will help inform the business case and staffing needs. If all this is too hard then just make sure you have good bit-level replication.
- Do you need to fill a skills gap before you really get going in digital preservation?
If yes: this skills gap should form part of the business case. can you get training, can you get released from duties, can you identify the people that need the training and get them involved? Are these the right people or just the people that are made available? Often times managers are unwilling to release highly competent staff but may be willing to release more junior or less experienced staff for new projects. There is a need for curiosity and flexibility Remember that it's easier to start with simple things and work to harder ones, so don't set yourself up to fail. If no: then get started. Make sure it's properly written into a job description and communicate to relevant stakeholders that this person (these people) are the designated leads for digital preservation. Make sure these people are integrated into professional networks (DPC / OPF / SRUCE are good places to start). The digital preservation community moves quickly and the 'problem' can change a lot in a short time.
- Do you already have access to the physical infrastructure you need within your organization?
if you have everything you need: then get started - you're very lucky! Make sure that the investment in this infrastructure is from core budgets and is not inadvertently deleted. if you have some of what you need: then identify where you will get the other bits? You can outsource a lot of preservation and you should look at how to collaborate on things like preservation planning. if no: then you can consider outsourcing as well establishing a local infrastructure. Outsourcing can allow you to develop a lot more quickly because you are drawing on other people's existing skills as well as services and infrastructure, focusing your development on core institutional challenges
- Do you already have a policy environment that is receptive to digital preservation?
if yes: the business case should be easy to make, and you should align the case closely to specific and relevant elements of the existing policy framework. if 'almost': what would make it more receptive? Can you influence the strategic plan of the organization to make it more receptive. You can infiltrate policy and practice at a day to day basis (ie ground up) or you can try to persuade senior policy makers and get their support (ie top down). if no: then the business case is going to be hard, but don't despair as this gives you much greater freedom to be creative. External drivers - regulation, legislation, funding mandates may be helpful, and a disaster story can grab attention. A useful approach is to make contact with external colleagues and copy from comparators. Agencies like DPC have a specific policy development focus.
- Is the technology mature enough to deliver preservation
- Will new solutions emerge that simplify the problem
- Is the organisation nimble enough to respond to a problem?
- What is the budget forecast - should we be looking to a short term project or a longer term commitment
further information link to maturity assessement tools and approaches (e.g. AIDA).