A couple of weeks ago I attended a Digital Archives Learning Exchange event at The National Archives and was really pleased to have the opportunity to talk about DPC’s Rapid Assessment Model - a maturity model for digital preservation that we released at the iPRES conference last month.

Although produced in part as a new DPC Member benefit, DPC RAM is freely available to everyone, so it was a pleasure to be able to share it with a wider audience.

First I gave a half hour introduction to DPC RAM - this is well summarised in the following tweet thread: https://twitter.com/melindahaunton/status/1182272405860995073 (and yes, of course I did see it as an opportunity to squeeze in several ram related images!)

The presentation was followed by a smaller workshop session on DPC RAM.

I had talked through DPC RAM with individual DPC Members before but not rolled it out to a group in a workshop setting. This was a new and interesting experience for me and I was keen to see how it would work.

The primary aim of the workshop was to get people started on assessing digital preservation maturity in their own organisations using DPC RAM. Being realistic I knew that it was not possible to complete the whole of DPC RAM in 30 minutes, but I wanted to ensure that participants had the resources to hand and had made a start on it. I had prepared to dive into just a few sections of the model and then have a bit of time for feedback.

DPC RAM can be used as a stand alone exercise by any institution, but it perhaps becomes even more useful when used for benchmarking against other organisations. This is where the DPC Member benefit really comes in. By collecting DPC RAM assessments from our members we will be able to provide them in return with an indication of where they are in comparison to others across the coalition and also the levels that others are attempting to reach.

I wanted to experiment with anonymous benchmarking in the DALE workshop and decided Mentimeter would be a helpful tool for enabling this.

This seemed to work pretty well. Not everyone joined in with Mentimeter but that didn’t matter - I also encouraged reading and reflection, chatting in groups and completing the DPC RAM template that had been printed out and provided. Hopefully everyone got something out of the exercise.

Here is an example of the Mentimeter results for the first section of DPC RAM. Organisational Viability is defined in DPC RAM as the “governance, organizational structure, staffing and resourcing of digital preservation activities”.

The majority of those who participated considered their organisations to be at a basic level.


...and thought they would like to be at Managed level.

This really is how we want people to use DPC RAM. It should not be assumed that all organisations should be aiming for the highest level. Better to use the model to decide what is most appropriate or realistic for the context in which you work.

It was also interesting to see how big the gap is between where people are now and where they would like to be. See for example the graphic below for Policy and Strategy (defined as “policies, strategies, and procedures which govern the operation and management of the digital archive”). It illustrates where people would like to be and the results are segmented against where they said they were now. Most people seemed to want to move up the model by one or two levels. 

Doing this in a workshop setting also enabled participants to ask questions about DPC RAM. One of our goals in creating the RAM was to ensure that it was easy to understand. I hope that the lack of questions about what individual parts of the model mean was an indication that we have been relatively successful in this!

Sadly, we only had a chance to look at two sections of the RAM in this short session, but I wanted to get some feedback on how useful people were finding the model and whether they would continue it from the comfort of their own offices.

The results were really encouraging, with the majority of people finding it a useful exercise and keen to continue the self-assessment after the workshop. 

Obviously completing the RAM is just the first step so it was encouraging to see enthusiasm in the room for taking other follow up actions. We are keen to see RAM being used as an advocacy tool for talking to colleagues (particularly those in senior management or IT) so it was good to see that most attendees thought they would use it in this way. Also where RAM highlights gaps in digital preservation maturity, creating a plan to start to address some of those gaps is really positive step to take.

I got some great feedback about DPC RAM at the end of the workshop, some of which is illustrated below. The participants really embraced the sheep puns too (“Baaarilliant”, “Ramtastic”)!

It turns out that DPC RAM works pretty well in a workshop setting. Next time I think we just need more time!

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