Jenny Mitcham

Jenny Mitcham

Last updated on 20 June 2019

We’d like to tell you a little bit about a digital preservation maturity model we have been developing for DPC members.

“What? Another maturity model?” you might say.

Indeed there are many maturity models already available, so why create another?

To answer that, I’ll give you a bit of background as to how this particular piece of work came about and how we have approached it.


The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority digital preservation project

As you may know (I blogged about it last week), the DPC are currently working on an exciting two year project with the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). The aim of the project is to work with the NDA to help them preserve the vital information they need to maintain in order to fulfil their mission.

The NDA are keen to benefit not just from the time and expertise of DPC staff, but more importantly the knowledge of the whole DPC community. They also want the wider DPC membership to benefit from the project where possible by sharing the outputs we create.

One of the things the project team was keen to do early on in the project was to measure the NDA’s digital preservation maturity now. This is helpful to do at the start of any digital preservation journey, both to see where you are now, and to consider where you would like to be. The benchmarking tool could then be applied at the end of the project and at regular intervals further down the line to measure progress and review goals.

We know that there is no ‘magic bullet’ for digital preservation and it is usually something that is implemented incrementally, so having a way to map progress (even when progress seems slow) is incredibly valuable.

So, we started looking at existing certification standards and maturity models to see what we could use to measure and track the digital preservation implementation journey of the NDA.

Yes, there were lots of good options out there, but after lots of head scratching we struggled to find one that was just right for this context.

  • We didn’t want to use a model or standard that would take a long time to apply, we wanted something that was going to be relatively quick and simple to measure against so wouldn’t become too onerous a task when repeated over time.
  • We didn’t want to use a model or standard that was too focused on traditional memory institutions or the GLAM sector specifically. The NDA is quite a different sort of organisation (though their digital preservation challenges are similar).
  • We didn’t want to use a model or standard that was too heavily focussed on one particular preservation approach. Digital preservation is an evolving field so whatever model we used should be solution agnostic (and open to new approaches that may emerge over time).

Recognising all the existing work that has gone on in this field, we also wanted to avoid re-inventing the wheel.

We needed to find a good starting point.


The starting point

As we assessed the range of models and standards that were out there, we found one in particular that seemed to most closely meet our criteria. This was the maturity model that was created by Adrian Brown of the UK Parliamentary Archives and published in his excellent 2013 book ‘Practical Digital Preservation: a how-to guide for organizations of any size’.

The model that Adrian created was based on the UK Office of Government Commerce's Prince 2 Maturity Model, which was designed to assess project management capabilities more generically. Adrian first publicised his model at the 2011 PASIG conference in London, and later fleshed it out further in his book.

One thing we particularly liked about this model was the fact that it allows an institution to select where they are on a scale for each of the different areas and gives some examples as to how that organisation may be meeting each of the levels...but these really are only provided as examples. We think this gives the model greater flexibility and resilience as the field of digital preservation evolves in the future.

We are indebted to Adrian for allowing us to take his model and develop it further and have appreciated his helpful comment and feedback as we have done so.


The new model

We decided to make some substantial changes to Adrian’s original model. For instance, we removed the Roadmap level and included the mention of roadmaps in a new section entitled 'Continuous Improvement' (which is all about setting goals, developing roadmaps and continuing to benchmark). Digital preservation is not a one-off activity and in an evolving field like this it is important to keep one eye on the horizon to see what is coming up and consider how to react.

At the DPC we also felt strongly that the community element of working in this field was important enough to warrant its own section. It is hard to do digital preservation well if you are working in isolation cut off from the rest of the community. We wanted some way of recognising the work that an institution may be doing to share their successes and failures or actively collaborate with the wider community so we felt that a section devoted to 'Community' would be a useful addition to the model. 

We removed the original ‘Stakeholders’ section, and ensured that stakeholders (including donors, depositors and end users of the content) were adequately covered in other sections of the model as appropriate.

We also spent some time editing and fine tuning the individual examples within each of the sections whilst sticking with the guiding principles we had set out for this piece of work.

We wanted the model to be:

  • Applicable for all organizations
  • Applicable for all content of long-term value
  • Preservation strategy and solution agnostic
  • Based on existing good practice
  • Simple to understand and quick to apply


What to call it?

We have given the model a new name.

We wanted the name to reflect one of our key principles - the fact that it should be simple and quick to apply, so we have called it the DPC Rapid Assessment Model - DPC RAM* for short.


An actual ram

An actual ram that I met on holiday last month (he wanted my lunch)


How to use it

We are currently exploring how we can use the model, not just for the NDA, but as a benefit for all DPC members. We have lots of ideas about how we could use it as part of our new member induction process, and on a regular schedule after that. This would help members to see how they are progressing over time, and where they would like to focus their future efforts.

The DPC will provide a template or tool to help members record the results of their benchmarking exercise. We would like to collate this information so that we can visualise where members are in their digital preservation journey and show progress over time. We would also like to enable members to benchmark their own digital preservation maturity against their peers, by seeing how their results compare with those of similar organisations. This information could be used for internal advocacy or as evidence to include within a business case. Members would be able to choose how their information can be used by the DPC and other members.

For DPC staff, this would be a great way of helping us understand our members better. If we can see where the pain points are for an organisation it will enable us to more effectively plan our support and future activities.

The model would also be available as a stand alone resource for non-DPC members to use.


Review and feedback

The model has already benefited from a thorough review by the DPC’s Research and Practice sub-committee and from Adrian Brown, and is much improved as a result.

We have also tested the model with both established and new DPC members and feedback so far has been very positive.

We would now like to make it available for wider DPC Member and Supporter feedback. If you have a couple of hours available to cast your eye over it and test it out for us we would love to hear from you - contact me at

...and we are planning to roll this out as a member benefit in September so do watch this space.



* All credit to Sean Rippington for the name/acronym. We are now considering the development of a whole suite of farm animal related resources....

Scroll to top