Getting stakeholder Buy-in for your digitisation project

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Archive digitisation projects can require a lot of resources – staff/volunteers, equipment, time, and of course financial resources. This is particularly true if you choose to carry out your project entirely in-house, but also to a lesser extent even if you partner with an external digitisation provider.

So whichever way you choose to approach your digitisation project, you will likely need the support of a number of internal stakeholders to obtain the resources you need and get your project off the ground - from your immediate service or department manager through to marketing/communications staff or I.T.

Each of these stakeholders will have their own goals and they may not perceive these as aligned with those of your digitisation project, they may even have their own concerns about your project.

So how do you gain the support of these stakeholders and move your digitisation project forward?

Look at each stakeholder’s specific concerns, and consider how your digitisation project could help them achieve their own goals. Ask yourself “What is in it for them?” To help, below we’ve shared some typical concerns that our clients have encountered from different stakeholders – together with strategies for winning them over and getting them to buy into your project.

Finance – “Digitisation is too expensive, where is the return?”

Whilst you may be able to source funding for your digitisation project from external foundations and charities (HLF, Andrew W Mellon, TWA Digitisation Grant etc), often these will not completely cover project costs. In addition, you may not always be eligible to apply for these funding streams, particularly if you work for a business or private archive.

So in this case you may need to directly, or indirectly through your management, persuade finance that your scanning project deserves the budget required.

Your colleagues in Finance may struggle to see the cost effectiveness of digitisation and view it as a high cost investment with little return. Here explaining and showing the potential long term savings and possibilities for revenue generation will aid your case…

Having digitised records available can mean faster lookups (due to quick access and keyword searching), resulting in staff spending less time researching to answer user queries and allowing them more time to focus on other responsibilities.

Plus online archive revenue generation options like pay-per-record downloads, selling physical print reproductions, or digital subscription services – can offset the initial costs of digitisation over time. To support your case, share examples of other similar revenue generating digitisation projects to show that digitisation is a viable option.

However some may still need convincing - especially with higher value projects. In these cases, suggesting a pilot project may be the way forward. Generally working out as smaller financial commitments, pilot projects can also help estimate costs for a future, larger project.

I.T. – “You need how many extra machines?! Where are we going to store 2TB of images?”

The support of your IT colleagues is vital, particularly if you plan to digitise your collection in-house and if you plan on making the collection accessible online. They might have reservations about your digitisation project. Some of these will be around the digitising itself, whilst others will relate more to storing the digital images and publishing them online (if that is part of your project aims).

If you plan on digitising in-house, IT will normally need to provide the computer equipment you require to carry out the scanning (or obtain it using their budget) – but they may well have preferable plans for those machines/funds.

The only option here is to explain the value of the digitisation to your heritage service/business and be flexible about the number/type of equipment required as much as possible. An alternative solution, of course, would be to have an external provider digitise the materials – removing/minimising the need for internal IT equipment. However this may increase the project costs.

Another IT concern may be about safely storing and accessing your digitised files, and the large amount of space your collection would occupy on your organisation’s servers and any possible implications to your existing website.

One option to circumvent the need for this digital storage would be to utilise a cloud storage service or even a full cloud hosted DAM solution for digital archives.

And what about if planning to put your digitised archive online? You will need to persuade IT that digitisation won’t involve a lot more work with little benefit to them. Remember, a digitised archive doesn’t necessarily mean a new website - in most cases your digitised collection could integrate into your organisation’s current website with minimal hassle and without additional security risk.

Marketing/Communications - “It’s not really our area”

Getting your Marketing or Communications colleagues to support your digitisation project is key, as they will likely be essential in your outreach activities to promote the digital resource your project creates.

Whether you are working as part of a local authority archive/museum, or a corporate business, your marketing colleagues will almost certainly have a shared objective of generating media attention and engaging potential service users/customers.

Depending on the content of the collection(s) to be digitised you might be able to share some of the digital content via a dedicated project blog, your organisation’s social media accounts, or other channels - increasing awareness of/engagement with your collections and the wider organisation.

Explaining how your project can assist the marketing/communications team in achieving their objectives in this way should immediately have them getting behind your project. You may even be able to persuade the marketing department to contribute some of their budget towards your scanning project to increase its scope.

A note to corporate and brand archivists: marketing departments are increasingly seeing the importance of brand heritage. As such it might be beneficial to point out the opportunity to use the digitised archive in advertising and promotional campaigns.

Human Resources - “I don’t see that it affects us”

Your colleague(s) in Human Resources (HR) may initially be indifferent to the idea of your digitisation project. But if, as in many cases, it will be their responsibility to recruit and induct any new staff (or volunteers) required for the project they may simply view it as creating additional work for them.

As with the other stakeholders above, the key to getting HR on board with your project is showing that it can help them achieve their own goals.
Even though digitisation isn’t necessarily seen as new or cutting edge any more - creating online digital collections, making them accessible via intuitive web portals, and digitally preserving the images, are becoming increasingly innovative and important areas.

Engaging in innovative digital projects like these could help foster a positive perception of your organisation as a modern, forward-thinking one. This, in turn, could help draw candidates to your organisation; making recruitment easier and likely improving employee retention.

Also on the reverse side of this, with the current trend for heritage organisations to have their collections available digitally online (and indeed the public perception that they should be online), not engaging in digitisation projects may cultivate the opposite perception of the organisation. Potentially negatively impacting recruitment and retention…

Management - “What impact will this digitisation project have?”

The focus and scope of management’s role (and indeed their job title – heritage manager, head of archives, etc) will vary depending on where in the heritage sphere your organisation falls: whether you are a local archive, part of a special collections library, or based within a large scale national museum.

Generally though in order to get buy in from management, you will want to share detailed information of how your proposed digitisation project will impact on and benefit all other stakeholders - in the short term (i.e. throughout the project) and longer term.

On one level this will likely mean using the strategies above, to demonstrate how your project will be beneficial for the departmental stakeholders.
On another this will be shown thorough project planning - including potential sources of funding, timescales and, if digitising in-house - the equipment needed (or justification for using an external digitisation service), and more.

Are you struggling with a barrier we haven’t covered?

If you’re facing a barrier to getting buy in for your heritage digitisation project and we haven’t addressed it here, let us know by email or tweet us, and we’ll be happy to help you find a solution and get your project started.