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FOIA Records Request: 10 Practices to Improve Your FOIA Processes

by | Nov 10, 2017 | FOIA Software Solutions | 0 comments

With large-scale repetitive processes like FOIA requests management, it makes perfect sense to try and optimize the workflow as much as possible.

Even a minor process improvement can mean avoiding tons of unneeded repetitive work.

Here are some of the best practices to improve your FOIA records request processes. Even if you apply one improvement to your workflow, the amount of avoided repetitive work can be enormous.

1. Put More Information Online

employee putting FOIA information online

Enabling the public to self-serve with more information online is the best way to fight increases in information release requests. Many agencies, such as the EPA, have used this practice to make whole categories of requests unnecessary.

That saved them millions of dollars in workload related expenses.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “But the majority of our requests are for very particular documents that only one would want.”

Well, that may be true for most of the requests. But even if only 10% of your requests are for records you will release proactively, that’s still a considerable amount of time saved for your agency and for the public.

2. Track the Number of Requests You Get

tracking the number of FOIA requests

You would be startled to know just how many agencies are a bit behind on this or are not tracking agency-wide.

Ask yourself this:

Could I easily and quickly discover the number of FOIA records request my whole agency, including all the departments, received this past year?

If the answer is no, then you are putting yourself at serious legal risk. Also, you will not be able to determine how you can improve the FOIA records request processes for your staff and the public.

But that’s why Armedia is here to help you out. With Armedia FOIA request management solution, all requesters receive a tracking number by which they can very easily track the number of requests they get. The solution also notifies requesters of the track in which the request is placed. Moreover, notifications allow for an easily accessible option for you to view the assigned tasks and finish your work.

3. Examine the Type of Requests You Get

This is in relation to tracking the volume of the requests, but it provides additional context to your data. We suggest you start with including the type of the request, related documents, and the request text. Armedia’s FOIA module stores all the submissions using compliant technologies for control of access and data storage. 

4. Identify Most Common Requested Records

See what are your most often requested documents. Also, see if there are ways you can speed up the review and release of those records. If you are tracking the types and volumes of the requests you are getting, then you are already halfway there. So you should be able to identify most common record requests and responsive documents easily.

Using the open structure of ArkCase, Armedia FOIA module offers full compliance with a point-and-click interface allowing you to speed up the review and release of the records requests.

5. Appoint a Records Request “Owner”

appointing records request owner

If you have a centralized process, then your attorney, clerk, PIO or other staff is probably already overseeing FOIA records request. But if this is not the case, then you must bring this issue before your executive team immediately and help them nominate somebody in your organization to take on this role.

6. Designate Records Request Coordinators

Armedia’s FOIA module allows you to designate records request coordinators in each department. That will make coordinating complicated requests and compliance training a lot easier. It will also help your staff share FOIA best practices so that they can respond requests in an efficient and compliant manner.

7. Use Digital Redaction Tools

Redaction can be quite time-consuming, and digital tools can help out, particularly if you need to redact out keywords, phone numbers, SSNs, and other personal information from long documents. Make sure to keep documents in digital formats. Staying digital will save you a lot of time in the end.

Armedia has built-in digital redaction tools that provide the full technology stack which make sure that your department is functioning properly. Managing records and communicating with other departments becomes a lot easier with our FOIA module, which speeds up the response time required.

8. Automate and Digitize Your Workflow

automating your workflow

We live in a digital age, so there are affordable tools that will help you manage your records requests better.

Did you know that the governments in Washington state spend around $200 per request and those in New York City spend $400 per request on average? Imagine the annual costs savings when we’d scale this to the thousands and thousands of FOIA requests.

On top of that, the request volumes are going up each year across the United States, and the digital tools increase the efficiency by up to 65% or even more.

Optimized FOIA requests software solutions like the Armedia FOIA Module automate workflow for receiving, processing, updating, and closing of any FOIA records requests.

9. Carry Out Regular Training for Records Requests

training staff for FOIA records request

Nobody wants getting sued. So make sure it will never occur for easily preventable reasons. A lot of states require regular training for records requests. Make sure to attend the training. And even if they are not obligatory, you will often find useful training information from the state government or non-profit organizations.

10. Analyze Your Current Request Process

Do you have a centralized or a decentralized process? How do record requests flow through each of your departments? Who is (or will be) involved? Armedia has an automated FOIA software solution which manages the whole process of managing requests and dramatically speeds up the response time.

Our FOIA record request solution helps administrators to review, manage, and track and produce reports for the public promptly. When you combine all this with the type and volume of the requests you get you will have a powerful set of information to remain compliant and improve the public experience.

Conclusion

The whole idea of the Freedom of Information Act is to give the public a view of their government, so it’s important to put more information online.

Now with the Armedia FOIA module as an add-on to ArkCase, you can easily and quickly track the number and type of requests you get. To ensure that your department is functioning properly, Armedia helps you with its built-in redaction tools that provide the full technology stack.

Streamlining the workflow of handling FOIA records request has never been easier thanks to the Armedia’s FOIA module which provides a prompt way of processing the records request processes using a point-and-click user interface (no coding required).

If you are interested in further improving your FOIA records request processes, please contact us, and we will make sure your organization is entirely hands-off of maintaining this technology stack as we update and maintain both ArkCase and the FOIA module. Don’t forget to share this with your friends on the social networks.

 

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