RAM on motherboard

Using the DPC-Rapid Assessment Model

Using the DPC-Rapid Assessment Model

from self-assessment to a planning framework

The Digital Preservation Coalition’s Rapid Assessment Model (RAM) was introduced in 2019 and builds upon the work of Adrian Brown in Practical Digital Preservation (published in 2013). The model, which is freely available online, is into two parts: Organizational capabilities and Service capabilities and considers a range of aspects including Policy and strategy, IT capability, Acquisition, transfer and ingest, Bitstream preservation, Content preservation, Metadata management and Discovery and access. Each aspect has a simple scale from 0 (minimal awareness) through to 4 (optimised). Services undertake a self-assessment of their current digital preservation capabilities and identify their future ambitions – which critically isn’t necessarily always 4.

I have long been a fan of the DPC-RAM model and the NDSA Levels of Digital Preservation as they both encourage individuals to undertake an assessment of their current situation.

Using DPC-RAM with clients

I am currently using DPC-RAM to support two clients. Both were aware of the need and importance of digital preservation but facing challenges in taking positive steps forward due to limited staff/resources. In both cases I encouraged colleagues to complete the free online training offered by the DPC (Novice to Know-How) and to write-down all questions that arose as this usefully forms the basis for a future discussion. A key attraction of the model is that coming from the DPC means it is trusted by clients as being applicable to a range of organisation types and sizes.

From self-assessment to a planning framework

Asking a client to complete the self-assessment exercise and share the results with me has proved to be a very effective way to get the client to articulate “where are you now” and “where do you want to be” than an open discussion might achieve. I have found that the assessment helps a client to identify the issues and barriers (whether real or perceptual). With the client having undertaken this work I am then able to take these pieces into a coherent action plan with the identification of intermediary steps between current and target level in each of the sections. 

For one client, it was approaching a year since they had completed their self-assessment, so it seemed appropriate to use the framework to review what had been achieved (and what remained to be done). Given the extraordinary circumstances of covid-19 and time away from the collections it was good to identify the real progress that had been made. Aspects that had not yet achieved were then drawn together into a todo list for the next year that was easier to review and discuss priorities.

Practical steps

Whilst individuals are able to describe the current situation, undertaking the self-assessment also highlights the wide array of aspects to consider and for some this can feel overwhelming and almost paralysing in uncertainty. In constructing a plan to progress their digital preservation journey the key is to take steps forward (however small and however slowly in the first instance) and to produce a workflow to show connections and dependencies between steps and processes.

In this way we have looked to identify scenarios to talk about digital preservation including depositors, ICT colleagues and senior managers. Working from home, creating simple screencasts and using zoom to share screens allows the interaction of a practical workshop where face to face working isn’t possible. Critical to this was my own learning of the importance of doing something practical, using any files to practice with, repeating the steps to ensure consistent results and then to document the process. 

Feedback to develop the model

An update of the model is planned for the spring – if you have used the model I am sure they would love to hear from you.

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