If you’ve been dealing with FOIA requests processing for at least a year, you probably can relate with people who are overwhelmed and tired of the amount of work. FOIA requests processing is tedious and tiresome. Especially if you’ve been doing this for years.
From form submission to storage, correspondence, and workflow management… It’s repetitive, time-consuming work. You put so much effort and yet, there are still delays, unsatisfied citizens, and tons of FOIA backlogs.
What you need is something that will make this work much easier. Something tailor-made for your agency’s specific needs. A solution that will be reliable, easy to use, secure and yet, cost-effective.
Yes, new technologies emerge on the market every day. And cheap solutions can be found easily. As a matter of fact, even too easy.
The real challenge is finding an FOIA software solution with all the qualities you need without breaking your budget.
Let me put it this way: when buying a car, you need to be specific about your needs and expectations. You need to investigate the market for the best offer. And most importantly, you can’t allow any compromises on the quality, because you’ll be using that car for years.
It’s the same with buying an FOIA software solution. Only, the stakes are much higher. When you look for a new solution you need to be specific of your needs and expectations. You don’t make any compromises because, in the end, your team will pay the price for the software’s weaknesses.
Unfortunately, while trying to find the best offer on the market, very often, some end up buying cheap software solutions that will eventually prove to be extremely expensive.
To help you not make such a mistake, let’s take a look at the differences between cheap and cost-effective FOIA software solution.
FOIA Software Solutions: Cheap vs. Cost-Effective
Although new technologies emerge on the market every day, Cost remains a crucial factor that we simply can’t ignore.
But, being a part of an agency that deals with FOIA requests for years, this probably has shown you more than once that price is not always an indicator of affordability or quality.
This is especially true when it comes to choosing the right software solution. You can pay an enormous amount of money on an FOIA software solution that in no way will help you and your staff to improve your efficiency.
You may find a cheap FOIA software that may end up being extremely expensive to maintain and keep compliant with various laws that govern how agencies handle other people’s data, and how they handle sensitive government information.
Looking for a cost-effective FOIA software solution ends up being a balancing act between initial investment and ongoing maintenance of the software throughout its lifetime.
You don’t want a cheap pretender. But you also don’t want an FOIA solution that will be prohibitively expensive every time data management legislation changes. Or any time there’s a need for a workflow improvement.
There are vendors that will sell you a solution for peanuts money, but the features you’d get would be… as useful as peanuts. So, it’s vital to point out that cheap does not mean cost-effective.
The only way to make a difference between cheap and cost-effective FOIA software solution is to dig a bit deeper, beyond the company’s marketing pitch. This will require some research, and you will want to get on the phone early-on in your discovery process.
Talking to a real person from the vendor can help you cut your research time a lot. Most of the times, people ignore the fact that, while looking for a software solution, you, in fact, are trying to find a partnering company that will be able to support your FOIA processing needs without breaking the bank.
Let’s take a look at a few pointers of what to look for during your research and phone interviews:
- Transparency of the technology stack used for all key components:
- Data capture,
- User Management,
- Email Servers,
- Database Management,
- Document Management,
- Server Environment etc.
- Good partner relationship with technology stack providers like Alfresco, AWS, Ephesoft, Snowbound etc.
- Vast experience of the market,
- A long history of successful ECM integrations,
- A dedicated support team etc.
These are just a few things to consider when researching for cost-effective FOIA software solution. Of course, you will fill up the list with requirements you need and see what solution fits best for your needs and budget.
To point out why this research is of key importance, let’s see what could happen if you choose the wrong FOIA software solution.
What Could Happen If You Make a Wrong Choice
Purchasing an FOIA software solution is a long-term investment. You invest in a new software, and you also invest in a new relationship with the vendor. Naturally, you expect to use the software for a long time, and you expect to have an easy-going relationship with the vendor for all technical needs that may arise.
Data security is among the most important thing to consider when choosing an FOIA software solution.
You are a government agency, working with government and citizens’ data. This data needs the highest possible level of protection. Relying on a flimsy FOIA software solution could mean exposing all that data to risk.
Sometimes, data breaches are caused by cheap software. Sometimes, this is caused by proprietary technology that a software company built, without stress-testing it from more angles.
Making the wrong choice would mean that you made no improvements to your agency’ efficiency. Nothing will change for the better. The FOIA requests will continue to pile up, the response time of your employees will stay the same. That leads to FOIA backlogs and delays… and frustrated citizens.
Wasted time, money and resources… The exact contrary of what you expected when you bought that cheap FOIA software solution.
You don’t have to make the mistake to understand what I am talking about. And most certainly you don’t want to make that mistake once again.
Fortunately, there are vendors that provide secure, cost-effective FOIA software solutions that can meet all of your requirements. And most importantly, protect your agency from data leakage.
Tell-Tale Signs Of Reliable, Secure & Cost-Effective FOIA Software Solution Providers
We’ve already talked that the first step when buying an FOIA software solution is doing a good research. And we gave you some pointers to help you start with it.
Now that we’ve narrowed the selection, let’s go through some question you should ask about the features of the FOIA software.
- Flexibility. How easy is it to change a form or a workflow? How simple is it to tweak the software to fit your needs vs you having to adjust to the software’s limitations?
- Integration. Is it a closed-box approach where the company has developed tons of proprietary technology for form filling, workflows, data storage, email sending, etc.? If it’s cheap and proprietary, something is fishy. FOIA software solutions are way too complex systems for companies to be able to develop them from scratch and offer an affordable solution. In fact, if it’s all proprietary, it’s a red flag. One company can’t be an expert in everything needed for a reliable, cost-effective FOIA solution.
- Security. Is it hacker-proof? Does it meet government regulations for data management? Alfresco is one provider that solves this easily as it’s open-source and DoD Compliant.
- Scalability. If it’s using a local server setup, how easy is it to add extra storage, extra bandwidth, and extra employees? If it’s SaaS, where is it hosted? Your best bet will be AWS as Amazon offers practically unlimited scaling potential.
- Reliability. The best way to gauge this is to see who built the software. What’s their experience in the Document Management and Case Management industry. Cheap solutions may be your most expensive experiment ever. And you may want to pass on that experience.
- Integrity. When you buy anything, you start a relationship with the vendor company. So make sure you poke around and see what kind of people you’re getting tied to. The reliability of the software will depend on the team’s reliability. See the authors, and you’ve seen the code.
These are the key features one cost-effective FOIA software solution should be able to provide. Make sure to check all of these features before investing in an FOIA software solution.
But while you’re here, why not check what Armedia FOIA software solution offers.
What Makes Armedia FOIA A Cost-Effective Solution
As a federal contractor with a lot of commercial experience, our primary goal when building new software is responding to customers’ specific needs.
Having in mind what FOIA agencies need, we’ve created the Armedia FOIA Software solution as a Module for ArkCase.
A cost-effective FOIA software solution will almost always use as many open source technologies as possible. This is why we decided to use ArkCase as the foundation for our FOIA module.
With ArkCase, we’re getting a reliable, open-source case management system that uses tried and tested technologies like Alfresco, Ephesoft, AWS, Amazon Transcribe, MS Exchange etc.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, we’ve leveraged this off-the-shelf integrated solution. Using ArkCase, we’ve solved most of the technical challenges: easy form building, workflows building, secure data storage, strong OCR, reliable multimedia transcription and a cloud-based server setup for practically unlimited growth.
With the Armedia FOIA Module, we’ve created flexibility and out-of-the-box functionality with most of the forms, workflows, and settings in place. Editing forms and workflows is very simple and it’s fully configurable with a drag and drop technology. No coding required. This way, FOIA agencies can get from purchase to fully operational software solution very quickly.
Let’s Wrap Things Up
As you can see, cheap is not an affordable solution. Especially not when it comes to data security.
What you need is a flexible, open-source, secure, scalable, reliable, and cost-effective FOIA Software solution that will help your staff process more requests, with less effort, without compromising work integrity.
Armedia FOIA software solution can help you achieve all of this, from one place, at an affordable price.
By working with Armedia, you get:
- An open-source FOIA software solution that partners with industry leaders such as Alfresco, AWS, Snowbound, Ephesoft, etc.
- Secure storage of your data, compliant with the DoD 5015 and NARA standards.
- Tailor-made FOIA requests environment that is easy to tweak, and easy to use. No coding required.
- Reliable data migration from any previous system onto ArkCase.
- Limitless room for growth, because the SaaS and your data are hosted on the Amazon Cloud.
- Ongoing technical support from Armedia, who has been in the ECM and CMS business for over 15 years.
To make sure our FOIA software solution meets all of your requirements, please check out our webinar.
If you have any comments, feel free to share them in the comments section below. And don’t forget to share this blog post with your colleagues on social media so they can also learn a thing or two about choosing the right FOIA software solution.