Improving your digital preservation approach with maturity models - Arkivum

Best practice approaches / 14 Sep, 2023

Improving your digital preservation approach with maturity models

What are maturity models?

A maturity model is a self-assessment tool/framework used by organisations to evaluate the effectiveness of their current approach to a particular part of business – i.e. for the purpose of this blog post, digital preservation – and formulate a plan for improvement.

In this context, these models consist of various practices covered within different functional areas and have several levels that scores the “maturity” of the organisation in question for each area. The higher the score for each area, the more “mature” an organisation can be considered in their digital preservation approach.

Each model assists an organisation in producing a plan for capability expansion/improvement by suggesting what needs to be in place or what needs to be done in order to reach the right level of maturity for that area.

It’s important to note that these models should be used to help create an appropriate plan for the requirements of each organisation or use case.

While there is a tendency to look at maturity tool and immediately seek the highest level, the main objective is to assess where your organisation wants to be, where it currently is, and what you need to do to bridge that gap. It’s not about achieving the outright highest score, it’s about using the tools to achieve the right level of maturity for your organisation.

Risk-based approach

The use of maturity models works well with a risk-based approach. An organisation can evaluate the risk profile of content being preserved in determining the type of content, why it’s being preserved and who will be using it/needing access to it in future.

Once the risk profile is determined, the organisation can identify their target level of digital preservation for each functional area (as defined in each maturity model) based on the proportionate risk of preserved content. This can then be compared with the identified levels of their current approach to determine the areas of improvement and the roadmap towards their target level.

For the purpose of this blog, we are going to be exploring two widely used maturity models (NDSA Levels of Preservation and DPC Rapid Assessment Model) and a valuable self-assessment framework (CoreTrustSeal).

Let’s take a look at each in a little more detail…

The National Digital Stewardship Alliance (NDSA) Levels of Preservation

The NDSA Levels of Preservation is a useful self-assessment tool for organisations looking to evaluate or build upon their current approach to digital preservation. This tool covers five functional areas (Storage, Integrity, Control, Metadata and Content) and each area is divided into four levels.

Within each functional area, each level outlines specific practices and capabilities required to attain that level of maturity. The organisation can then input their current ‘statuses’ for each level (0 = not started, 1 = work in progress, 2 = achieved). If all practices in a particular level have been ‘achieved’, then the organisation’s maturity is at least at that level.

You can access the NDSA level here

Digital Preservation Coalition Rapid Assessment Model (DPC RAM)

The DPC RAM is a broader but notably easy to use self-assessment tool for organisations looking to quickly benchmark their digital preservation capabilities. DPC RAM is based on a maturity model created by Adrian Brown and available within his award winning book ‘Practical Digital Preservation: a how-to guide for organizations of any size’, from 2013. The DPC RAM work was supported by the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. More info about how DPC RAM was developed can be found here.

This model is split into two areas: organisational capabilities and service capabilities. Within each of these areas, there are subareas (six for organisational capabilities and five for service). Each of the capabilities are scored by 5 different levels of maturity (0 = minimal awareness, 1 = awareness, 2 = basic, 3 = managed, 4 = optimised). The tool allows for an input of the current level and the target level for easy evaluation.

You can access DPC RAM here

CoreTrustSeal (CTS)

While this framework isn’t a maturity model, it is useful for defining the requirements of characteristics of an effective repository. It also includes in-depth guidance for achieving each requirement and therefore is useful for self-assessment and developing the roadmap to effective digital preservation.

You can find out more about CoreTrustSeal here

In summary…

Maturity models are effective for equipping organisations with the ability to:

  • Determine organisations’ current digital preservation capabilities.
  • Define the objectives/targets for where an organisation wants to be.
  • Help understand the digital content and its requirements that is being preserved.
  • Create an improvement plan/roadmap to building a strong and effective digital preservation strategy.


We’ve written an eBook that includes more about maturity models in action, specifically how there can be utilised alongside the ALCOA++ principles to enable you to:

– Assess your current capabilities for digital preservation

– Identify where there are gaps

– Develop appropriate improvement plans

And thus, provide you with a roadmap on how to achieve 100% long-term data integrity.

Get started here: eBook: Achieving long-term data integrity

Caitlin Morris

Caitlin is the Content Marketing Manager at Arkivum. She joined the company in 2022 and is responsible for internal and external content creation and management. Caitlin has over 4 years of business and marketing experience.

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