Virtual Centre of Excellence



The DoW states:
A Virtual Centre of Excellence is a fairly new organizational concept. Its aim is to bring the capabilities, knowledge and expertise together from diverse teams across geographical and organization boundaries to create something exemplary and distinguishable within its domain

The key to a successful VCOE is the vision which is shared by all members, including the know-how and "know-why" of digital preservation. This know-how includes knowing who to ask about particular areas

The VCOE is therefore a membership organisation rather than a single centralised organisation. Its skills reside largely in its members; it acts as a clearing house for matters to do with digital preservation. In order to be self-sustaining it must provide some services to its members and other users in order to justify its existence. This document outlines those activities, skills and services.

See also APA Strategic Plan



The general pattern will be that the centre’s website and staff can provide the first level of information. The VCOE staff may be able to provide some in-depth advice but in most cases the expectation is that requests will be redirected to the appropriate member and other organisations which have registered available expertise with the VCoE. The work may be on a voluntary or paid basis. The virtual centre of excellence must be a reliable source of advice about many if not all aspects of digital preservation.

Audit and Certification

Audit and certification is a special type of consultancy. The VCOE staff may be certified auditors, who can perform the audits or provide consultation to help prepare for an audit. The centre will also have a register of auditors, including probably feedback from previous auditees. The audits will be part of the European framework for audit and certification, including the DSA, DIN and ISO 16363. The centre’s staff will provide advice and briefing documents on the various types of certification.

Preservation services

The preservation services and tools supported by members and other organisations will form a knowledge base of the centre, together with evidence about their effectiveness and areas of applicability.


During the APARSEN a significant amount of training material organized in a consistent and coherent way will have been identified and all created. This will form the basis of the training materials available from the centre, and we expect this material to grow over time. The organisation and quality of the material will be informed by the common vision of digital preservation research which APARSEN will produce, and this will be kept under continued review in the centre and its members. It is expected that the centre will organise training courses which will be self-funding and employee external as well as internal lecturers. There will be a variety of training mechanisms including face to face and virtual. The straining will be coordinated with the national training events which are provided by its members such as DPC and nestor.

Collaboration broker

In a broad sense of the centre can act as an incubator for collaboration between its members and partners in order to enable the best use of resources and had the best return on the investment in digital resources. The website and associated discussion fora will be key tools in enabling this, in addition to the more proactive involvement of staff in seminars and training events.

Research leader

As for the APA does now, the virtual centre of excellence will act as an incubator for research projects in digital preservation and has a clearing house for results of this research across its members.


The centre will provide through its internal resources or a commissioning, outside, briefing papers and responses to national and European consultations.


The APA, and a the membership organisations such as DPC, LIBER and nestor, provide the model for sustainability based on membership fees and charged services such as training courses.

Business plan

The details of the business plan for the VCOE will be collected here

Business plan for Virtual Centre of Excellence


Executive Summary

Company information

  • Name: initial: Alliance for Permanent Access
  • Legal Structure: currently: Dutch Foundation
  • Current members - see APA site

Amount of investment requested

No capital investment needed - annual membership fees

Expected terminal value


Description of market opportunity

Digital preservation is being increasingly recognised as important - this VCOE will provide much needed services and expertise

Objective reasons why the market opportunity can be exploited by this particular team

The current APA and its members form the core of the *APA*RSEN project which is tasked with setting up the VCOE

Organizational background

Number of Employees

Annual sales figures


Key product lines


Location of facilities

Small APA office plus distributed membership

Current stage of development

Corporate structure

  • Non-profit organization
  • Executive Board
    • Chair
    • Vice-chair
    • Treasurer

Names of the majority investor, if any


Founding date

Deed of Formation: 2008

Major successes

Strategically valuable learning experiences

Management team

Director plus Executive Board

Board members

Elected by the membership of the APA



Senior managers

Managing partners

Head scientists and researchers

Marketing plan

NOTE Note The marketing plan has five objectives: If the product is a new product with no existing market, one must identify all substitute products. For each significant substitute product one must explain:

Name, features, why substitute, why proposed product better

Switching costs and why new product justifies switching

Expected adoption dynamics

Expected role once market begins to develop (see above for existing products)


Chosen Price points

Proposed Pricing strategy

Demand management

NOTE Note In economics, demand management is the art or science of controlling economic demand to avoid a recession. The term is also used to refer to management of the distribution of, and access to goods and services on the basic of needs. An example is social security and welfare services. Rather than increasing budgets for these things, governments may develop policies that allocate existing resources according to a hierarchy of need. Distribution/Positioning

Distribution strategy

List of major distributors

Current status of negotiations

Promotion and brand development

Promotion strategy

Operational plan

NOTE Note The plan outlines how one would service their clients cost effectively.

Manufacturing/deployment plan

Supply chain requirements

Production inputs

Facility requirements - size, layout, capacity, location

Equipment requirements

Warehousing needs for raw materials, finished goods

  • Space requirements

Information and communications technology plan

Systems needed

  • Operations: Billing, HR, SCM, CRM, Knowledge bases, etc.
  • Websites: internal, public

Security and privacy requirements

Hardware requirements

Off-the-shelf software needed

Custom development requirements

Staffing needs

List of roles

Management structure

Head count approval

For each role

  • Job descriptions
  • Number of employees
  • Proposed compensation
  • Availability

Training plan

Training requirements

NOTE Note Training requirements should look to address two issues - a benefit to motivate staff and developing the capability of the organisation to deliver the business objectives. Ideally all training requirements should be based on as an assessment of the business plan objectives, the required competence and capability to deliver these objectives and understanding of the current capacity and capability of the organisation. Simple question to ask to assess the appropriateness of the training - as a result of the training how much better will the organization be at delivering its objectives. Remember that training covers a wide range of activities from project work and on the job training to professional qualifications. Most learning takes place outside of formal training activities.

Intellectual property plan

Intellectual property inventory

Portfolio development plan

Acquisition plan

NOTE Note Some business plans gain competitive advantage by buying companies up and down the value chain. Some gain competitive advantage by buying up companies and consolidating them. Sometimes a business plan will seek to earn a superior return by adding superior management talent to an existing weak company. For more information see Mergers and Acquisitions. When acquisitions form a major part of the business strategy, the acquisition plan needs to be included in the business plan.

Acquisition strategy

Proposed acquisition targets

Effect on market structure (if consolidation plan is being proposed)

Organizational learning plan

NOTE Note The organizational learning plan discusses what lessons will be learned from the marketing, operational, and finance plans and how those lessons will be consolidated to gain strategic advantage.

Market sensing - organization's method for collecting information about customers (George Day)

Strategic Staircase - the accumulation of future competencies by building on existing competencies. (Michael Hays, Costas Markides)

Cost allocation model

NOTE Note If variable costs play an important role in the business plan, it may be helpful to include a cost allocation model. This is particularly true if one has a unique business model that creates competitive advantage by transforming traditionally fixed costs into variable costs[citation needed].

Fixed cost

Variable costs Operational plan

NOTE Note The plan outlines how one would service their clients cost effectively.

Financial plan

Current financing

  • Key investors or owners
  • Angels, friends, and family
  • Existing loans and liabilities
  • * Terms, obligations

Funding plan

  • IMF
  • World Bank

Financial forecasts

  • Sometimes called pro formas
    • Balance sheet
    • Income statement
    • Cash flow statement
  • 1-3-5-7 year projections (depends on length of project)
    • For loans, repayment period determines length of projections, i.e. a six month loan doesn't need seven year forecasts
    • For investments point at which returns stabilize (terminal value) determines length of forecast
  • Annual, quarterly, and monthly versions should be provided
  • Graphs of key values often helpful: gross revenue, EBITDA, NPV, etc.
  • Financial portions of the marketing, asset development, and operations are often placed in this section rather than in the section discussing the plan. They are viewed as elaboration on the various line items in the pro-formas.

Common Vision for Digital Preservation

Outline of how the various aspects of the common vision come together

APARSEN’s work programme is structured to allow us to focus on small, specific, aspects of digital preservation so that we can break the work into work packages of fixed length, each with deliverables. The alternative would be to have a small number of work packages, each lasting essentially the whole of the project, with one big deliverable at the end - however had we proposed this we would not have been funded.

Nevertheless it is clear that these various areas are related and so we group them into “topics” – trust, sustainability, usability and access. This is done to allow us to bring together what we believe are closely related pieces of work under a common topic, however each topic is also related and so we overlap the topics in stages so that we can digest them in manageable pieces.

This purpose of this document is to remind ourselves of the strategy which guided the structure of the project, and then to map out in more details the steps of the integration in terms of:

  • how the topics can fit together (where appropriate)
  • how the work feeds into the VCoE, and
  • where the gaps are for future research.

Before beginning this we remind ourselves that, although APARSEN is large it cannot address everything. Therefore the specific work packages were constructed based on the members’ interests, which are in turn, we believe, guided by a natural prioritisation in terms of the maturity of the research in each area. In other words the areas we do not address are either sufficiently well understood or alternatively are so little understood that they must be the subject of further research in the next several years before they can be dealt with.

Our aims are therefore to carry out these focused pieces of research, identifying or very often putting in place, the common ground, while showing how these fit into the well accepted pieces of work and pointing the way to the required new areas of research.

The next subsections summarise the way in which the topics fit together. After that there are more detailed descriptions of how the topics are integrated in stages. At this point the Trust topic is complete and Sustainability is almost complete and so quite a lot can be said about these stages of the integration. The other topics and stages of integration are left as placeholders but we should try to put in our best guesses.


If one is to preserve the digitally encoded information then one must be certain that this is going to be done successfully. There are various aspects to that one must be able to deal adequately with the authenticity of the object, supported by the provenance which may come from many sources (WP24). In addition one must be able to choose the appropriate tools, ones for which there is adequate evidence of their effectiveness for the type of objects which one is trying to preserve (WP14 and WP16). Additionally one may seek third party views both for the quality of the information (WP26) and the quality of one’s ability to successfully preserve the information (WP33).


Preserving digitally encoded information requires resources – supplied continuously (although probably unevenly) over a lengthy period. This requires that we have some estimates of the costs (WP32) and also the balancing business cases and related benefits (WP36) which justify those costs. We can seek to reduce costs by looking at storage options (WP23) and, because it may be possible to reduce costs to any one repository by sharing the costs through the use of shared preservation services (WP21).


Just as one can try to reduce costs, one can also try to increase benefits through increasing the usability of the preserved digitally encoded information (WP25). Related to this is the ability to use large amounts of information – where the issue of scalability comes to the fore (WP27). There are two key related aspects which must accompany the above considerations, access by those who wish to use the information and trust in those who look after it.


One must be able to get to the digital object, which requires identifying the object according to various criteria – this is an area we do not address since there are so many transitory methods and this is a subject of much research. Then having selected the object of interest – which normally means obtaining a pointer – one must then resolve this pointer to find the location, for example via an internet address. Thus we must rely on mechanisms for resolving such identifiers which persist over time (WP22). Those who look after the digitally encode information must also take care that the access rights associated with the object are respected; otherwise the repository itself may be under some legal and financial threat. This requires that the governance and data policies of the repository and the digital rights associated with the data are understood and respected over time (WP 31 and WP35).


As indicated above there is, we believe, a consistent narrative connecting the various work packages providing a rationale for the structure of the project. However the mechanism for integration must be made explicit. By integration we mean that we should make the interconnections between the various concepts explicit so that we can identify gaps and the future research areas. Clearly not everything has a direct overlap.


Using Audit and Certification as the central aspects, aspects of Authenticity and Provenance integrate to provide key evidence. Similarly evidence about the effectiveness of tools, while not directly applicable to audits, nevertheless should contribute to evidence that preservation plans are credible. Reputation and data quality are somewhat separate from digital preservation but are important for trust and its effect on the demand for use of the information, and hence for sustainability.

See here for further information about TRUST common vision

Use in the VCoE:

  1. Advice and training on improving trustworthiness with respect to the European Framework
  2. Advice on what evidence to seek when presented with claims about digital preservation
  3. Advice and training on the fundamentals of preservation including potential risks and available solutions
  4. Recommendations on tools to use first when wishing to preserve various types of digitally encoded information, including working with and maintaining evidence about authenticity


There are obvious gaps, requiring further research, in terms of
  1. application of provenance mapping and rules to tracing of authenticity evidence with large numbers of generations of large number of objects
  2. secure logging, which is important in terms of confidence in the evidence which is presented needs to be converted into a practical method
  3. data quality, which is very far from being generally solved


Analysing sustainability must include costs and benefits. In addition costs will depend on the use of external services and storage costs.

Use in the VCoE:

  1. Advice and training how to make business cases
  2. Advice on which cost model should be applicable to a specific repository and explanations on cost parameters
  3. Recommendations on services to use when wishing to preserve various types of digitally encoded information
  4. Recommendations on storage solutions


There are obvious gaps, requiring further research, in terms of
  1. More specific cost models for more specific types of repositories
  2. Better quantification of benefits and their evolution over time, and ways to enhance the benefits.
  3. Updates on developments in storage technology


  1. The continued funding of a repository should be closely linked to the trust in the ability of a repository to preserve its holdings, and hence to the European Framework for audit and certification if the importance of certification is widely accepted by funders.
  2. The costs which affect sustainability will be affected by the choice of tools and an understanding of associated risks.
  3. Benefits derived from data holdings will have some dependence on the trust which potential users have in the authenticity and quality of those holdings.
  4. The Preservation Services used by a repository will affect the trustworthiness of that repository in that those services are likely to be under different management. In so far as services are likely to rely on their own holdings of information, which needs to be preserved, hence those services may also be subject to certification with respect to preservation.

Use in the VCoE:

  1. Enhance the advice/training about enhancing benefits which may be derived from digital holdings, factoring in the advantages of additional trust balanced against the costs e.g. of audit and subsequent implementation of improvement plans, which might include improved provenance tracking and other authenticity evidence, and capturing evidence of the quality of the holdings.


There are obvious gaps, requiring further research, in terms of
  1. Quantification of costs of factoring in trust issues.


Use in the VCoE:


There are obvious gaps, requiring further research, in terms of
  1. ….


Use in the VCoE:

  1. .


There are obvious gaps, requiring further research, in terms of
  1. .


Persistent Identifiers are an essential building block for enabling effective and efficient technical solutions and for supporting the creation of value-added services like:

1) Data and information Access, Search and Navigation

2) Fast, large-scale and decentralized Data Sharing & Reuse

3) Effective Linkage of data and information across repositories

4) Fine-grained Access Control

5) Data and information Quality assessment

6) Reputation assessment & Citation indexes

7) Impact and ROI assessment (reliable research outputs beyond the scope of published literature)

8) Ownership management for data and scholarly content (citability)

Use in the VCoE:

  1. Defining a common agenda among the key stakeholders to  ensure  that a  coordinated  ecosystem  of  identifiers  can  be  built and the implementation of an infrastructure for the interoperability between existing solutions can be realized.
  2. Favoring the raising of synergies between research communities and private commercial sector.
  3. Planning   interventions   to   promote   awareness,   dissemination   and   education   activities   aiming   at   expanding  and  reinforcing  PIs  knowledge  and  skills


There are obvious gaps, requiring further research, in terms of
  1. The Persistent Identifiers ladscape is a very fragmented environment where solutions are orchestrated by very few parties. This has led to a lack of consensus and coordination between parties in finding common interoperable solutions. -> need of coordination and agreement on common needs and objectives
  2. . Financial   sustainability   is   only  recently  becoming  an  issue  in  the  digital  identifier  ecosystem  and  traditional  funding  schemes   appear   to   be   inadequate   to   address   sustainable   solutions. -> need of business model to guarantee the long term sustainability of PIs solutions
  3. There   is   a   scarce   level   of   awareness   within   many   stakeholder   communities   about   the   benefits   of  Persistent Identifiers   for   the   creation   of   value-added   services   on   top   of   scientific   data   and   content. ->need of awareness and skills among relevant stakeholders


Use in the VCoE:


There are obvious gaps, requiring further research, in terms of

Mechanisms for reaching Common Vision for Digital Preservation research

  • Glossary - based on OAIS with extensions, additions etc
    • Position various projects with OAIS terminology
  • Pick up various topics from organisations' research info and place in common terminology- add new ideas to general list
    • Reflect this back to organisations and see if there is agreement
  • Collect gaps identified from tools and services lists and evidence gathering
  • Define a common agenda which should include - prioritized objectives and measures - policies and responsibilities - disseminations aspects and strategies - interoperability challenges at different levels (not only technical but also political, social, economical...) - temporal priorities

Additional Info

  • APARSEN_WP11_integration.jpg:
Topic revision: r1 - 2012-02-06 - DavidGiaretta
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