Skip to main content

Preserving data for centuries

When our Data Protection Officer, Susan Graham, offered to review the draft set of Data Architecture Principles, I was expecting her to comment on legal requirements to minimise access to personal data, or similar concerns.  I wasn't expecting a recommendation to preserve data for centuries, but one of her suggestions addresses exactly that.  In her words,
The University has an excellent collection of historic records, from the time of the University's foundation onwards.  This archive is a valuable resource for research, public relations and corporate memory.  Information previously recorded in written records is now being recorded in information systems.  For example, the archive contains a register of every matriculated student from 1627 to 1980.  It would be regrettable if the transition to digital meant that the modern equivalent of these records was not preserved for posterity.
So I have modified our principle that projects should understand the data life cycle from creation through update to deletion, so that it now allows the possibility of permanent preservation as an alternative to deletion.

By coincidence, this message was reinforced by a session I attended last week about the Digital Strong Room project, given our Digital Preservation Curator, Kirsty Lee.   This project aims to preserve records for up to a hundred years.  This is no mean task, as we don't know what data formats the future will bring, nor which systems people will use to read them.  (By the way, the history of data preservation is fascinating - if you get the chance, it's well worth reading about).

As Kirsty explains, digital preservation is not about storing a document on a disk and forgetting about it.  Digital preservation requires the active management of digital material to ensure ongoing access to the information it holds.  We are using Archivematica, a collection of open-source tools that handle aspects of preservation from ingest to access.  The project will first instantiate this for preserving records of the University Court, and will then extend this to other documents. 

This project doesn't impact the enterprise architecture directly, but the need to consider long-term preservation needs to be built into our project methodology, and people need to be aware of this possibility.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A new EA Repository

One of my goals since starting this job two years ago has always been to create a repository for architecture documents.  The idea is to have a central store where people can find information about the University's applications, data sources, business processes, and other architectural information.  This store will make it easier for us to explain our plans, to show the current state of the University's information systems, and to explain what Enterprise Architecture is all about.

It's taken a long time to reach this goal, mainly because we're often had more pressing and immediate work to be done.  The creation of a repository is one of those tasks that is very important but never quite urgent.  So I'm now very happy to say that we are in the process of deploying a repository and modelling tool.


This is the culmination of a careful process to select the most appropriate tool for our needs.  We began by organising several workshops to gather requirements from a rang…

A brief summary of our major initiatives

I notice that in 2016 I wrote 34 posts on this blog.  This is only my fifth post in 2017 and we're already three-quarters of the way through the year.  Either I've suddenly got lazier, or else I've had less time to spend writing here.  As I'm not inclined to think of myself as especially lazy, I'm plumping for the latter explanation.

There really is a lot going on.  The University has several major initiatives under way, many of which need input from the Enterprise Architecture section.

The Service Excellence programme is overhauling (the buzzword is "transforming") our administrative processes for HR, Finance, and Student Administration.  Linked to this is a programme to procure an integrated ERP system to replace the adminstrative IT systems. 

Enabling Digital Transformation is a programme to put the middleware and architecture in place so that we can make our processes "digital first".  We're implementing an API framework, a notification…

Business Model Canvas

A Business Model Canvas is a tool for mapping the core functions and capabilities of an organisation.  Compared to the Core Diagrams that I described in an earlier post, the business model canvas attempts to present more aspects of the business, starting with the value proposition – a statement of what the organisation offers to its users (in the business world, to its customers).  It shows the activities and resources, as Core Diagrams do, but also shows user relationships & channels, and also benefits and costs.  I’m not aware of any universities that have used this tool but you can find examples from elsewhere on the web.

We are considering business model canvases as a tool for mapping the strategic capabilities of units at the University of Edinburgh.  Phil Taylor, our EA contractor, sketched an outline of what a business model canvas might begin to look like for HR:
This is only intended to be suggestive: the real canvas would need to result from in-depth discussions about th…