Nicola Steele, Grosvenor Estates



The Grosvenor Estate is an international, diverse, privately owned company. The Grosvenor Estate encompasses all the activities of the Grosvenor family and each of its parts has a distinct focus but share the same values and a common purpose of delivering lasting commercial and social benefit.

The Family Office portion of the estate manages the Grosvenor family’s rural estates in the United Kingdom and Spain, their philanthropic activities through the Westminster Foundation, Realty Insurances, and other specialist functions largely focused on heritage and conservation.

The collection, dating as far back as the 12th century, documents the history of the Grosvenor Family as well as that of the Eaton Estate and other rural estates and businesses owned by trusts of the Grosvenor Estate on behalf of the Grosvenor Family. The archives collection is held primarily for the benefit of the Grosvenor Family, internal departments and the Trustees of the Grosvenor Estate.

The EDRMS Preservation Task Force

Back in early 2020, I volunteered to join a new taskforce initiative from the DPC on Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS) preservation. Although I was not part of the implementation of the current EDRMS (SharePoint) in use in our organization, I was keen to learn, and be part of the learning process, about how safe data and records are in an EDRMS environment. As the Assistant Archivist in our organisation, working largely on digital preservation, I was especially interested as to the possibility of records remaining in an EDRMS long term. Huge amounts of data are held within EDRM systems, and some will be identified as having long term value and therefore be flagged for preservation. This raised many questions about safe transfer of records from an EDRMS to a digital archive, how and to what extent processes can be automated and what metadata can and should be captured. More specifically for this case study, a subgroup addressed the issue of how safe it is to leave data within an EDRMS long term and what features and functionality (or policies) should be in place to provide assurance that the records are safe in the EDRMS for a period of time. It was determined that, rather than re-inventing the wheel, use could be made of existing risk assessment models to aid us in gauging how safe EDRMS environments are.

Testing the tools

I offered to trial the National Archives UK's DiAGRAM tool against the digital collections held in SharePoint, our organization’s EDRMS. To do this, certain questions from the National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) Levels of Preservation and the Digital Preservation Coalition Rapid Assessment Model (DPC RAM) tools needed to be answered and used to populate some answers in the DiAGRAM tool. I very quickly decided to complete both former tools in their entirety, as opposed to just a few questions from each, because I felt they could offer more of a rounded understanding and assessment of the EDRMS environment. That decision was helped by the fact that both tools are not terribly time consuming to complete and are easy to use.

Once I had completed the NDSA and DPC RAM tools, I then started with the DiAGRAM tool. A set of questions need to be answered before the tool could be used in earnest, so I created a word document to provide the questions and answers required. I did attempt to be as accurate in my answers as possible, but some were a little out of my knowledge range and so I had to accept that the results may be slightly inaccurate, but by no means far from correct!

Firstly, I created a model as a baseline for the assessment. This in itself proved very useful. The input into the tool was straightforward and the end result, specifically the visualisation of the results, is excellent. I have often commented that this sort of visualisation is what senior managers in our organisation will find the most informative and useful, even as a way of showing our current capabilities, without even thinking of what we could do to improve.

The next step was to create a scenario in the model, where answers to some questions are changed, to try and improve the results and to illustrate how actions taken can have a big impact. This is a great way to ask permission from senior management for activities to take place, or to justify why you have decided to take certain actions on your digital collections, and the results they have. Since I wanted this to be as close to a real-world activity as possible, I chose to alter my answers in the Information Management section, to show what position we would like to be at and what I hope we would be able to achieve with some work and collaboration. These altered answers achieved an astonishing increase in our results (from 3% to 30% for renderability). This would allow me to create an action plan and roadmap to present to the appropriate management to show current downfalls, what we would ultimately like to achieve (and why) and how we could achieve that. In terms of risk assessment, it seemed clear that actions taken around preservation metadata would improve our confidence in the intellectual control we have over, and safety of, our digital assets as a first step. Future risks and steps could be articulated, but for this exercise, I chose to concentrate on one area I believe we can tackle and make progress in effectively.

It is perhaps worth noting that I found the NDSA and DPC RAM tools more applicable to digital preservation environments, whereas the DiAGRAM tool can be easily applied to any environment holding digital assets. In this instance, the environment was our EDRMS, SharePoint. Therefore, when using the former tools mentioned, it is worth remembering that the EDRMS is not necessarily functioning at this point with preservation activities in mind. It is functioning to fulfil a current business requirement and so some of the questions should be approached with this in mind. 


In conclusion, I found all three models useful for gaining an understanding of the capabilities and functions of our EDRMS environment, but the DiAGRAM model stood out the most for me. When I presented my findings to our subgroup, I was asked if I would choose to keep records long term in an EDRMS, or transfer them over to a digital preservation environment, having completed this exercise and had time to digest the results of all of the models used. My answer depends on current circumstances. If we did not have a digital preservation system in place (which we do), then I would push fairly quickly for some changes around metadata, specifically preservation metadata, to be made within the EDRMS environment. But, since we do have a digital preservation system in place, my answer for our situation was that I would have records moved to this environment once they had served their business and/or legal functions. Some organisations will not have the luxury of having use of any type of digital preservation environment, so we cannot dismiss the idea that their EDRMS covers all of their digital assets and potentially their preservation actions.

Having completed this exercise, I believe using a tool such as DiAGRAM, or a compilation of tools as I did, is a very useful (and probably could be considered essential) project for any organisation dealing with digital material deemed worthy of long-term preservation. Whether as part of a business case to enhance the current EDRMS setup, to procure or develop a digital preservation system, or to form part of a risk or disaster register for example. The potential uses are numerous and could be hugely beneficial to any organisation.

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