Paul Wheatley

Paul Wheatley

Last updated on 30 January 2020

It's been all action at the DPC in recent weeks, what with new members of staff and even a new office in Australia, but we've also been beavering away on some new member offerings in the background. In this blog post I'm going to talk about a suite of new (and revised) resources for our members which will be appearing over the next few months.

The starting point for any significant allocation of effort from the DPC team is always a steer from our members. And with some focused work on new resources, this was very much the case. Our annual Members unconference - Connecting the Bits – provides valuable guidance, and we also look at where our efforts go on current Member support. Alongside a host of other events and activities this has led us to the creation of a suite of both old and new DPC guides. The suite covers four areas: advocacy, securing funding, policy and procurement. Assuming "technology" is the "easy" leg of the digipres stool, we're really trying to nail the organisational and resourcing legs - topics which still don't get enough attention from the community but seem to represent the biggest challenges. This is hopefully a really attractive set of tools for potential new DPC Members to get their mitts on, as this stuff is really hard to do when you're taking your first steps in digipres. But it’s also a big deal for our more established members, particularly those who were at the forefront of digipres over a decade ago and are now coming round to refreshing or replacing much of their original infrastructure.

For me, the most exciting member of this four piece suite is our brand new Procurement Toolkit. The idea behind it is to capture the vast array of experience from our Members and Supporters and communicate it in the form of practical guidance for those embarking on an outsourcing activity. Since joining the DPC (almost 5 years ago now - 5 years... it's flown by!) I've spent an increasing amount of time advising members on procurement activities. As a community we now out-source a lot of our preservation work, whether that means simply purchasing a commercial product or paying a third party to capture or keep data for us. The benefits of this approach are pretty clear, but given the nature of preservation work, it's not an easy thing to manage well. In fact, for many, the word "procurement" immediately brings forth feelings of utter dread! It's very easy to become lost in an institutional IT procurement process that drags on and on and completely lose sight of the obvious target - to select the best product. The Toolkit aims to provide members with techniques to focus back on this simple aim. What are the big themes? Planning, communication and clarity.

This work has also been an opportunity to further develop the conversations between Members and our growing ranks of DPC Supporters. Two years ago it hadn't even crossed my mind that third party digipres suppliers would also be a little unhappy with the process of procurement. The nature of the activity requires a lot of inefficient and virtually redundant work at their end, as they seek to respond to a near constant barrage of RFIs. Each new response tends to have a big overlap with the last, but uses a different structure and different wording. Making the process of procurement more transparent, more efficient and frankly, less painful, is going to pay big dividends for all. So that's what we're trying to chip away at here. With the guidance part of this resource now shaping up nicely, my attention is now turning to the development of a set of core digital repository requirements that will hopefully remove some of the redundancy in this procurement process - for Members and Supporters alike. Keep an eye out for some workshops in this area over the next few months as I'd like to get you guys directly involved. And as always, if you have any procurement hints and tips, pitfalls, classic gotchas, or simply need a virtual shoulder to cry on - please get in touch.

The Procurement Toolkit will be launched as a member only resource at a face to face event on the 24th June.

Next on the list is Policy. I'll keep this one brief, as Jen has already blogged about its inception. As Jen described, we ran a book sprint with colleagues from the University of Bristol and a scattering of DPC celebrities, to produce a new guide for writing a digipres policy. Over the last couple of months we've been working away to shape up the book sprint draft into a finished product. It's actually taken far longer than expected. Editing is always required after a book sprint to bring together the raw materials of text, written by different authors, into a processed and polished result. But I was staggered by the volume and depth of material that was generated inside 3 days, so it's taken a while to get it all into shape. The biggest challenge has been to make it digestible and practical as a toolkit or working guide, but it's now come together nicely. This second draft is out for an external copy edit and it's been incredibly satisfying to get it ready for release. The Policy Toolkit should be available for DPC Members only, very soon.

The suite is completed by two existing resources that we're going to spruce up. And "spruce" is an appropriate word as the first of these, the Digital Preservation Business Case Toolkit, was created in another book sprint as part of the Jisc funded Spruce Project. It's stood the test of time pretty well, but needs a little bit of attention to maintain it. We've planned a small DPC team sprint in the spring to freshen it up. So again, we'd appreciate any corrections, constructive feedback or new resources we can link to. And then finally, we have the Executive Guide. It certainly doesn't need any review of the content as it's barely a year old, but it makes sense to look over this suite of resources from the presentation point of view and in the context of the other resources I've mentioned.

Presentation and communication are pretty important when there's such a volume of information for our members to digest, and this is something we want to take a look at. Another way of making things more usable is by integrating them. DPC RAM is gradually beginning to play a part in a range of DPC activities, and it shows up in a number of places in the suite of resources. This is something we're keen to develop with members. It feels like there's a lot of potential for a maturity model to provide an underlying structure or framework to much of what we do, and I'm excited to see this coming along at such a speedy pace.

Whilst we always look to provide something back to the wider community, it's also great to see us strengthening our member-only offerings. This is the bottom line in the DPC's member retention and recruitment strategy: provide a strong offering that keeps on growing.

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