While looking for a replacement for an Alfresco Workdesk solution for our client at USDA, I heard from a co-worker that Alfresco had released their next generation UI Framework, aka Alfresco Development Framework (ADF), to replace their Share framework.
After reviewing the community documentation and list of components catalog, I determined that ADF could be a suitable replacement for our client. After doing a few prototypes and then refactoring ADF as the replacement UI solution for our customer, I learned the following, which may be useful for the Alfresco development community.
This blog describes how to get ADF running and then discuss the pros and cons of the product. Subsequent blogs will follow, which will further decompose and discuss other salient features of the framework and why it is a good alternative to Share.
To use Alfresco Development Framework, you must meet the following requirements.
- You need Alfresco 5.2 or above – since ADF is dependent on the Alfresco API specifications in Alfresco 5.2, the minimum requirement to use it is Alfresco 5.2.
- If you want to use Alfresco Development Framework with both ECM (Alfresco) and BPM (Activiti) – you will need Activiti 1.5.1 or higher as well. ADF is fully integrated with both with no dependencies on having one or the other.
- You also need to enable Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) on both Activiti BPM and Alfresco ECM
Why Alfresco Development Framework
The first question that everyone asks is why ADF? The most prominent answers are:
- It uses up-to-date UI technologies – Alfresco Development Framework is based on the Angular JS framework. It is always up to date with the latest version of Angular. This provides an improved, fast and flexible single-page experience. We can easily incorporate, extend and customize different Angular components and services into the application easily.
- It uses out-of-the-box components – The ADF team has already developed multiple components that can be used without any custom code. All the components are easily configurable and manageable. You can find a list of components
- It is easy to connect to Alfresco Content Service (ACS) – As ADF is fully dependent on Alfresco, its use and integration with Alfresco is easy to configure. ADF leverages Alfresco’s REST APIs to communicate with the Alfresco content repository. These REST APIs are utilized using Alfresco-js-api.
- It is easy to integrate with Alfresco Process Service (APS) – If you plan to use ADF only with Alfresco Process Service (APS, i.e., Activiti BPM) or with both ACS and APS, the configuration is still simple. Again, ADF uses Alfresco’s REST APIs to communicate with Activiti. For out-of-the-box ADF, the configuration can be done by simply changing one JSON file.
- It is easy for developers to get started – There is a lot of documentation, guides, demos, and tutorials to get anyone up and running with Alfresco Development Framework, including those with little Angular experience. You can also use the demo shell (Alfresco Content App – fully developed app) to get started.
- It is recommended over Share by Alfresco – Although Alfresco will continue to maintain Share, they recommend custom applications be developed using Alfresco Development Framework. In addition, customizing Share is cumbersome and complex compared to ADF. Unlike Share, ADF is the best solution for a simple and flexible application.
When I first heard about Alfresco Development Framework, I was not too familiar with Angular, so I spent some time educating myself with the Angular JS 2 framework. It is quite different than version 1 of the framework, so anyone wishing to migrate an application from version 1.x to version 2.x, plan for a multi-month effort.
After my initial education and training period, things got easier. The ADF documentation and catalog gives some insight on how to get started working with ADF. For our project, we only needed to use ADF with (ACS). However, based on this experience, using it with APS or both should be nearly the same experience.
Major Alfresco Development Framework Components
Listed below are the major Alfresco Development Framework components that were used in our project and would most likely be used in other AD projects. A brief description of these is provided, which will be followed by detailed examples in subsequent blogs.
Login Component – The main login page provides basic username-password authentication, using Alfresco REST APIs to authentic the user to the content repository. Alfresco ticket authentication is used across the application and the ticket is added to every request after the user’s initial login. The login page can be customized as-needed by adding or removing some of its properties.
Document List Component – The document list is used to access, view and manage folders and documents in the Alfresco content repository. The document list table view can also be easily customized to display custom and out-of-the-box properties in the table column.
Content Action Component – This is used to add actions to a Document List. Content Actions can be used to perform many out-of-the-box repository actions like copy, move delete, download, etc. I also added custom actions by creating Angular components and executing them from the Document List.
Data Column Component – As mentioned above, this can be used to display the metadata of a folder or a document in the Document List and can be used to sort the columns and display custom properties.
Pagination Component – This component can be used to add pagination to a component. I used this in the Document List component to paginate the listed documents, and in the custom, search component to display paginated search results.
Tool Bar Component – I used this component as a container for headers, action, and titles.
Viewer Component – This is one of the major components that Alfresco ADF includes out-of-the-box. The viewer converts files to PDF for preview. This component can easily have added to the Document List.
I faced some challenges on my first Alfresco Development Framework project.
- ADF upgrade is frequent – This is a positive most of the time, but sometimes it caused instability in UI. During the upgrade, some of the CSS customization were overwritten and messed up. For instance, I started using ADF version 2.2 and then upgraded to version 2.3. When I upgraded to version 2.4, the UI customizations were messed up. Therefore, I stayed with version 2.3.
- Proxy settings and deployment – If you deploy the application in the same webserver container as Alfresco, there are no problems. But in my case, I deployed the ADF application to a separate webserver. To resolve this, I included the ADF application in a springboot project and used zuul proxy-to-proxy the requests to access Alfresco
- SSO – Single sign on using external configuration was not easy to integrate. According to the ADF Team, this was implemented in Alfresco 6.0. After version 6, Alfresco added the ability for an external application to connect to Alfresco through single sign on. This was implemented using Keycloak and JWT tokens. If you are using Alfresco 5 with Kerberos, the default ADF configuration should work fine, but if you use any other external SSO with Alfresco 5, you will need to develop your own implementation from the Alfresco side and design a new login component on the ADF side.
When looking for a UI framework to integrate with and manipulate Alfresco or Activiti, ADF is the best choice. It provides a modern UI framework with many pre-built, out-of-the-box components. The steps to get started and integrate the framework are easy, which is another plus.
The Alfresco Content Application (ACA), the sample application shipped with ADF, can be used to get started. This sample application touches on most of the out-of-the-box features of ADF. I recommend starting with this application when developing with or customizing your ADF application.
I recommend ADF for anyone looking for a new user interface to work with Alfresco or Activiti. The challenges I face were resolved with some custom coding and twist. The ADF community is always available to help if there are any challenges during development and customization.
As we learn and implement this evolving technology into our internal and customer solutions, we will provide our lesson learned for the entire Alfresco ADF community.
* Alfresco DevCon 2018: Play with ADF 2.0
* Tech Talk Live #100: Application Development Framework
* Get Started with Alfresco’s Application Development Framework (ADF)
The UC Berkeley School of Information Management and Systems addressed the growing need for more efficient Records Management in 2003, reporting:
“The world’s total yearly production of print, film, optical, and magnetic content would require roughly 1.5 billion gigabytes of storage. This is the equivalent of 250 megabytes per person for each man, woman, and child on earth… Over 96% of business information is in digital format, 1% is on paper and that 70% is never printed.”
In 2013, 15 years later, Seeking Alpha published a blog post in which they claim that since 2015, 90% of the world’s data has been generated:
“That year , the digital universe, i.e., the reservoir of data created and copied, totaled less than 10 zettabytes – that would be 10, followed by 21 zeros. By 2020, it is expected to grow more than four times to 44 zettabytes. Just five years after that, it could reach 180 zettabytes”.
I don’t know about you, but I found this information startling.
And as the numbers show, year after year, effective records management becomes even more critical.
Government agencies are one of the largest contributors to the growth of records in the US. In addition, most of the data that government agencies create are governed by at least one data-handling legislation. This kind of complexity brings agencies to a point of having to rely on records management software.
Furthermore, things get even more complex because some of the government records should be released in the public as per the Freedom of Information Act. Then the records management system should enable the FOIA agencies to quickly, easily and legally release certain documents that can be released, while being able to do a needed redaction of that document before it is released to the requestor.
So, if you are the one in charge of choosing a records management solution for your FOIA agency, DoD 5015 compliant software is a good starting point.
Let’s shed some light on what DoD 5015 really is and why FOIA agencies need a DoD 5015 compliant software.
What Is DoD 5015 Standard?
DoD 5015 or the Design Criteria Standard for Electronic Records Management Software Solutions is a Records Management standard that resulted from the need for better management of records. The Department of Defense discovered that its record-keeping standards were lacking during the Gulf War.
As a result, DoD created a set of standards for records management which as it has evolved, has become the benchmark for private and public entities. DoD 5015 compliant software emphasizes data security, protection from data loss and data destruction.
This standard was developed in 1993 by the Department of Defense and their goal was to re-engineer internal Records Management processes. Soon after, in 1995, they published a report in which they outlined the requirements and data elements for Electronic Records Management Applications (RMA).
In 1997, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), developed the report into a testable and measurable design criteria standard known as DoD 5015.2.
The DoD standard specifies hundreds of detailed requirements that Records Management Systems must meet and assists agencies in complying with NARA initiatives.
Let’s take a look at some of the most important requirements:
- Management of emails and attachments in electronic formats
- Records destruction in a manner that prevents recovery
- Management of records stored in electronic formats
- Tools to aid the search and retrieval of records
- Linking of records to supporting materials
- Organization disposition instructions
- Security classification markings
- Organization records series
- Organizational file plans
- Retention calculation
- Access controls
In 2007, the 3rd version of the standard was published with an addition of the following requirements:
- Interface and behavioral requirements for integration with electronic Records Management Systems.
- Additional metadata for e-mail, pdf, digital photographs, images, and web records.
- Capability to create alerts and notifications regarding changes in metadata fields.
- Capability to restrict metadata access based on the contents of fields.
- Tools to support RMA-to-RMA interoperability.
- FOIA/Privacy Act workflow requirements.
- More automatic linking requirements.
- Greater data security and integrity.
- Additional transfer requirements.
- Data discovery requirements.
- Vital records review cycles.
A part of the 3rd version of DoD 5015 focuses on requirements that specifically support net-centric information sharing principles. The aim behind these requirements was to make records:
- Visible – By developing and registering standardized metadata.
- Accessible – Through Web services with useable, standardized interfaces.
- Understandable – Through the availability and use of rich metadata describing the records and their context.
Why Care About DoD 5015 Compliant Software?
Records management is no longer only a technical issue. Chief officers need to spend time thinking about this because there are significant liabilities if information leakage were to happen.
Chief officers need to be proactive in how their organizations handle corporate data because the bottom line is their corporate reputation is on the line.
Perhaps the most painful non-compliance case was Hillary Clinton and how her staff handled their data. Their non-compliance probably cost Hillary her presidential race just a few years ago.
DoD 5015 compliant software helps vendors to make sure they use the best processes and technologies for handling sensitive data. Non-compliant software, that fails to keep up with DoD recommendations, will simply be pushed off the market by competitors that do make sure their solutions are compliant.
As CMSwire says: “By being certified, Records Management Solutions can assist corporations to achieve compliance and reduce risk by enabling them to control how and for how long enterprise content is retained. It also ensures destruction of that content when this time has elapsed.”
Knowing that a system has been tested against the DoD’s strict standards and achieved full compliance with DoD 5015, gives your organization the assurance that the solution you chose supports Records Management in a standardized way.
This means that the Records Management Solution, through organized record structures and plans, manages the lifecycle of all of your records. From initial capture to long-term archiving, paying special attention to:
- Workflows and Business Process Management,
- Federated and advanced search,
- Security and access controls,
- Records retention,
- Version control,
- FOIA, etc.
DoD 5015 compliant software will be certified to properly do the following:
- Break down information silos in a standardized way which makes the team more productive, while ensuring that information is accessed in a prudent and compliant way.
- Set mandatory metadata standards for all records, including different formats such as email, photos, and office documents.
- Find the best methodology for the destruction of electronic records at the end of their lifecycle.
- Provide a standard approach for the transfer of records from one agency to another, and for transfer from an agency to NARA.
- Define metadata requirements for classified records.
- Define requirements for FOIA and Privacy Act solutions.
Because of this, DoD 5015 has become a de facto Records Management standard in North America. And as the Government continues to implement these new changes and requirements, the level of consistency across the government alleviates the chaos.
How DoD 5015 Standard Affects FOIA Request Processing
Version 3 of this standard requires the Records Management vendor community to migrate towards providing “standards-compliant services to larger service-oriented architectures.” This is for achieving broader information sharing.
Version 3 DoD 5015 pays special attention to requirements supporting management of classified records, as well as requirements that support FOIA.
Records Management Applications (RMA) that support the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) have specific requirements to achieve open and improved information sharing under DoD 5015 standard:
- Organization Access Rules. RMAs must provide functionality that supports authorized personnel in preparing and posting access rules for the public to gain access to FOIA Information.
- Access Rule Metadata. RMAs must provide the capability for an authorized individual to create an access rules record.
- FOIA Access Requests. RMAs must provide functionality that supports authorized personnel in recording, tracking and managing FOIA request.
- FOIA Request Time Limits. RMAs must provide the capability for an authorized individual to set time limits that shall apply to acknowledge requests for access and for providing access.
- Tracking FOIA Requests. RMAs must provide authorized individuals the capability to track FOIA Requests.
- Workflow Suspense Dates. RMAs must provide the capability for an authorized individual to assign the FOIA request to a workflow or to create and assign alert logic to user-defined interim suspense dates and extensions to suspense dates.
- Disclosures. RMAs must provide authorized individuals the capability to record disclosure requests and track, manage, and account for disclosures.
- Managing Disclosure Request Metadata. RMAs must provide the capability for an authorized individual to create a record of an FOIA disclosure request.
- Disclosure Exemptions. RMAs must provide an authorized individual with the capability to create and manage exemption records
- Linking Exemptions to Records. RMAs must provide an authorized individual with the capability to link an exemption record to a record or a group of records.
- Appeal Time Limits. RMAs must provide the capability for an authorized individual to set time limits that shall apply to process appeals.
- FOIA Reports. RMAs must provide authorized individuals the capability to create, file, and manage FOIA Reports.
- IA controls for availability, integrity, confidentiality, authentication, non-repudiation. The software must be National Telecommunications and Information Systems Security Policy-compliant.
As you can see, having a DoD 5015 compliant software is of great importance for FOIA agencies. Dealing with large amounts of data every day, Records Management and data safety is an unavoidable part of FOIA processing.
Chapter 3 of Version 3, DoD 5015 pays special attention to FOIA processing. With all the requirements listed above and much more (which you can see here), DoD 5015 takes good care of Records Management in FOIA processing.
Benefits of Adhering to the DoD 5015 Standard in FOIA Requests Management
Now, let’s take a look at some of the benefits DoD standard will bring to your FOIA agency in addition to the benefits we listed above:
- DoD 5015 Compliant Software will protect every FOIA request and all records related to that request. Including correspondences, case-related records like notes, multimedia files, etc.
- DoD 5015 Compliant Software will standardize the metadata for all request-related records.
- DoD 5015 Compliant Software will make sure to standardize the approach for the transfer of records from one agency to another, and for the transfer from an agency to NARA.
The DoD certification process is one of the toughest standards worldwide. And when choosing an RMA, you want to make sure it takes care of the entire lifecycle of your content. You want to make sure it provides standardized metadata, security, and access controls, version control, workflow aligned to organization processes/procedures/controls, retention, archival, federated and advanced search.
Alfresco Records Management
Alfresco is one of only 14 RMAs to have their Records Management product certified by the Department of Defense. And it was the first one to achieve this distinction. Also, it’s open-source, making it the go-to standard for cost-effective records management solutions.
Tara Combs, Alfresco’s Information Governance Specialist explains:
“We’re excited to announce this certification, which demonstrates our commitment to security and compliance. The features required for certification must include very sophisticated access control to content and records that ensure that only those who need access to content and records have access…Meeting the DoD 5015.02 CH3 standard means that customers in the U.S. government can now manage all their content – classified and unclassified – in a single, unified digital business platform that offers content, process and governance developed by a single vendor on a modern OpenStack.”
Alfresco is an open-source software company focused on advancing the flow of digital businesses. It provides an improved, effortless way for FOIA agencies to manage records of any type at the highest level of DoD 5015.02 security certification, including:
- Electronic documents,
- Videos, etc.
The key component of Alfresco’s infrastructure is providing a basis for records retention, legal holds, disposition and intelligent storage management of both digital and physical records.
With it’s refined and straightforward automated controls and interface, Alfresco allows authorized users to set permissions, disposition, and retention policies across a single scalable repository.
Alfresco also provides a flexible and scalable BPM engine that enables users to create and engage in workflows based on organizational processes.
As such, Alfresco helps more than 1,300 industry-leaders to digitalize processes, manage content, and govern information successfully.
Some of the biggest names Alfresco helps are:
- US Department of Navy,
- The Joint Chiefs of Staff,
- Bank of NY Mellon,
- Capital One,
- Cisco, etc.
With today’s DoD certification, Alfresco can alleviate the need for government agencies to integrate and maintain separate records management solutions on the backend and provide a more effective holistic solution that is scalable and easy-to-use.
“This certification allows Alfresco to compete for business across the entire federal government, regardless of security requirements,” said Tony Franzonello, Alfresco’s regional vice president, Federal Sales.
“It removes a hurdle that could prevent some customers from swapping out their entire legacy ECM solutions for Alfresco. It also demonstrates a commitment from Alfresco to be a top-tier provider of content, process and governance services.”
“These security features allow us to meet standards in other verticals such as Financial and Insurance as well as global standards such as ISO 15489 and 16175,” said Combs.
Alfresco Content Services 6.0
On July 11th, Christian Finzel, the Senior Advisor of Market Intelligence at Alfresco, announced the release of Alfresco Content Services 6.0.
As Finzel explains, the major focus of the new Alfresco Content Services 6.0 is on significant architecture improvements such as:
- New containerized deployment option, based on Docker and Kubernetes.
- Anonymous usage metrics via Heartbeat. Alfresco Content Services send anonymous usage metrics to Alfresco through the Heartbeat service. Alfresco uses this anonymous information to meet users needs of the organization and help them understand the usage of Alfresco products.
- Significant library upgrades in both the repository and Share.
- Containerized deployment. This includes Alfresco Repository, Alfresco Search Services, and Alfresco Share.
- Upgraded integrations. Alfresco Content Services 6.0 introduces some changes that require new releases of all modules. To upgrade to Alfresco Content Services 6.0, users need to update any of the module artifacts to which they are entitled.
- Expanded REST APIs. An updated version of the REST API Explorer is provided to navigate the new REST APIs.
- Code organization. Enterprise customers are able to build the artifacts from scratch provided they have an access to the Alfresco Nexus repository (enterprise-releases).
Finzel adds: “As customers embrace DevOps, infrastructure as code, the cloud, and Alfresco, the capabilities introduced in Alfresco Content Services 6.0 deliver a step change in time-to-value.”
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of the new Alfresco Content Services 6.0:
- Reduces operational cost – Customers are now able to scale the infrastructure up and down quickly depending on the current workload.
- Uses trusted Open Source industry technologies – Based on Docker & Kubernetes, customers can deliver fast and standardized deployments across environments.
- Accelerates development and deployment – Containers reduce environment inconsistencies and support DevOps to accelerate development and deployment from the test environment through a staging system to production.
All of this makes Alfresco the only proven ECM, open-source platform to be DoD 5015.2 certified, uniquely positioned as a cost-effective and full-featured alternative to proprietary solutions.
Alfresco, with all of its features, can be used even by customers outside of the U.S. Government. They can easily take advantage of the granular security features developed for certification and, as such, be sure that their systems are built on a platform that is the gold standard for records security.
Let’s Wrap Things Up
When choosing a Records Management Solution, FOIA and government agencies, in general, must pay special attention to security and data protection. And, when it comes to a Records Management certification, one particular standard stands out: the DoD 5015 standard.
Every government agency should start with DoD 5015 standard and look for a DoD 5015 compliant software. This standard is widely adopted as a de facto standard for all Federal agencies as endorsed by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
The reason for the endorsement is because DoD 5015 compliant software makes sure to provide Information Governance throughout the lifecycle of all content providing:
- Workflow aligned to organization processes/procedures/controls,
- Federated and advanced search,
- Security and access controls,
- Standardized metadata,
- Version control,
This is why not all RMAs can be 5015 compliant. They must be tested against the requirements specified by the standard.
The testing must be conducted by the Joint Interoperability Test Command, part of the Defense Information Systems Agency, that tests information technology and national security systems.
The reason for the DoD 5015 compliant software is to protect your content from data loss and data destruction. The standard is designed to help users implement best-practices records declaration, classification, and records administration while improving productivity.
Armedia provides DoD compliant solutions relying on Alfresco, the only open-source data management platform that is DoD 5015 compliant.
Alfresco as the best open-source platform to be DoD 5015.2 certified, will make sure to meet your organization’ operational, legislative, and legal needs. This combination of easy-to-use yet powerful Records Management Solution helps government agencies to save time and resources while protecting and organizing all their records.
This is the reason why our team at Armedia decided to rely on Alfresco to ensure a DoD 5015 compliant software. This way, we make sure our software responds to all of your operational, legislative, and legal needs while making sure your security is in the first place.
If you want to learn more about Armedia FOIA Software Solution, you can check out our other FOIA blog articles.
If you have any questions about DoD 5015 compliant software or about Armedia FOIA Software Solution, feel free to ask or leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Do you want to learn how a modern correspondence management solution can improve workflows in your organization? How organizations manage correspondence can reflect their professionalism, capabilities, and internal organization. And, if you want to take a serious step toward improving your organization workflows, it’s time to think about modern correspondence management solution.
Correspondence Management is a business’ workflow of receiving, recording, responding, and sending data about projects, clients, etc. Correspondence could be something simple like communication between contacts, or something formal like the relationship between customers and providers.
Here are some examples of correspondence that your business should closely manage:
- Project manager notes or instructions,
- Letters, faxes, or memorandums,
- Records of phone conversations,
- Requests for information,
- Project design reviews,
- Meeting agendas,
- Important files,
A somewhat short list that is responsible for big headaches for organizations.
Now, let’s look at the 5 ways that a modern correspondence solution can improve your organization’ workflows.
1. Monitor and Manage in an Organized Way
Most of the communication that happens in most businesses is on paper, except records of phone conversations and emails. If organizations don’t find an effective way to organize those communications, critical data could be lost from a certain project, and that in turn, could hurt the company.
That’s why it is important for organizations to adopt a modern correspondence management solution that will allow them to monitor and manage their correspondence workflows in an organized and timely fashion.
Formal letters, hard copies of data, requests for information etc. are very difficult to manage in real time. Shifting your current correspondence management system to a digital platform that provides a modern solution can improve the workflows and professionalism of your business. It can also eliminate wasted hours of manually organizing paper-based files.
2. Track Important Contacts
Miscommunication often leads to mismanaged documents. That’s why it’s essential to set up a correct and neat structure to communicate with stakeholders involved in a specific issue or project.
A modern correspondence management solution will effectively organize all structured and unstructured data. It will make it easier for users to associate correspondence items with their corresponding contacts. The quicker and more efficiently you track and manage the communication with your customers, the faster an issue gets addressed.
Tracking and managing proper correspondence within your organization will streamline the whole correspondence management process. It will also reduce errors and save your organization valuable time.
3. No More Time Spent Generating Correspondence Templates
Different projects or clients require different correspondence. So, it is very likely that you’ll spend a lot of time making letter templates that will best fit the specific messages. This is another factor that contributes to wasting time which can set the business behind schedule. On the other hand, a modern correspondence management solution will have a set-and-forget feature to build the templates you need for any client, and for any type of correspondence.
4. Safe and Secure Storage of Information
Some communications may carry more sensitive data than others so it is vital that confidential and official documentation stays safe and secure. That’s why one of the greatest priorities of your organization should be safe and secure archival of information and correspondence between clients.
It is likely that your organization will have a hard time managing this with paper copy correspondences. But then again, adopting modern correspondence management solution for all correspondence workflows is a safer and more secure approach. You can keep track of what letter was sent to whom and where. Your company will better protect sensitive data and communication with clients if you handle them digitally.
5. Store All Correspondence in One Place
Keeping all the data in one place is a smart way of protecting your organization. If your organization involves many parties connected to a single matter, then all of them have to be on the same page. Cloud solutions like AWS are a great platform to store all digitized documents, neatly organized and searchable.
All your scanned and OCRed paperwork, all your internal communication, and any client-generated responses can be stored online, accessible from anywhere in the world, yet secured.
How Armedia Can Help Your Correspondence Management Needs
Armedia can help you efficiently organize your correspondence while helping you manage the creation, revision, and approval of documents. Armedia builds Modern Correspondence solutions and support so you can promptly and easily manage your correspondence templates within your organization.
Armedia can provide support to your organization through:
- Search, design and building process
- Custom user interface design
- Project management
- Business analysis
- Template design
Armedia has partnered with ArkCase and Alfresco to offer you a modern correspondence management solution that will provide you the following capabilities:
- Document annotation and redaction
- Records management integration
- Correspondence templates
- Document management
- Personalized dashboard
- Search and reporting
- Queue management
Armedia, using ArkCase and Alfresco offers workflow-driven, modern case management solutions that can enhance efficiencies and productivity in your organization, lower costs, and meet program needs in key areas. These include Case Management, Task Management, Correspondence Management, Digital Asset Management, and FOIA Management.
If you need help with managing your organization’ correspondence or you have some questions, don’t hesitate to contact us! And, don’t forget to share this article with your colleagues on social media networks.
In March 2018, 50 years after the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, the US Department of Justice released their Fiscal Year 2017 Annual FOIA Reports. According to these reports, the number of FOIA requests continues to increase. And in 2017, for the first time in 50 years, the number of FOIA requests exceeded 800.000.
The US Department of Justice announced that only 35 out of 135 FOIA agencies reported they have no backlog at all. The other 100 FOIA agencies reported they had a backlog of approximately 100 FOIA requests. This would not pose a big problem if it wasn’t for the fact that the backlog is, in fact, increasing year after year. But more about the stats later in the text.
For years, FOIA agencies have been relying on various FOIA Software Solutions. But, as you can see from the reports of the US Department of Justice, a large number of FOIA agencies still struggle with a backlog.
What could be the reason for this situation?
What could be the reason for the inability of FOIA agencies to respond to every FOIA request within the estimated time?
To answer this questions, we must first answer what FOIA agencies need in order to increase their productivity and efficiency so they can timely respond to all requests addressed to their agency.
How FOIA Agencies Can Effectively Respond to the Growing Backlog Problem?
Every FOIA agency deals with a different matter. But all 135 FOIA agencies have one thing in common: the everyday struggle to respond to the ever-growing number of FOIA requests.
If we’re to ask a citizen about FOIA processing, they may think it’s a very simple and straightforward work. But as someone who has been doing this job for so long, you know the truth is quite different.
The FOIA process is not a simple flow of the Submit-Search-Provide process. It is time-consuming and it requires much effort because every piece of information is somehow governed by at least one law.
For that reason, FOIA agencies need something new. Something much easier to use. Something revolutionary.
Something that will help every employee in the FOIA process: A cost-effective FOIA Software Solution that will respond to all of your needs and help you quickly and easily respond to every FOIA request.
Such a software would be:
- An open source FOIA Software Solution which allows easy integration.
- Easily configurable, with automated and pre-configured workflows for most repetitive tasks.
- Simple to use, with one interface for communication with other departments, agencies, and requesters.
- A centralized database which will provide an easy access to case-related data at any time and form any device.
- Equipped with a tracking and automatic status update system.
FOIA agencies need a solution that will help them respond to FOIA requests quickly and easily.
They need a reliable, flexible, scalable solution.
They need a Modern FOIA Software Solution.
FOIA Software Solutions by Established Vendors
In the last decade, many startups have tried to focus their attention on developing a good FOIA Software Solution. And truth to be told, some of them did somewhat of a good job.
But, FOIA agencies relying on such software solutions very often pay their fair share. Most of them, trying to cut the costs, end up paying double. Partly because startups quickly go through the boom and bust phase. Partly, because startups just don’t have the field exposure so they’d produce a well-rounded solution.
Experienced vendors, on the other hand, focus their attention on developing a flawless FOIA Software Solution. A solution that will respond to every specific need of every FOIA agency. After all, all those years in the industry are not for nothing.
But, not all FOIA Software Solutions developed by established vendors in the industry are equally good. Some are good, some are great, some… not so good. This is because different vendors use different philosophies of building up the needed technology stack of their FOIA solutions.
To see the difference between FOIA Software Solutions developed by established vendors, I’ve decided to make a little comparison.
The main reason for this comparison and this entire blog post is to raise awareness among FOIA agencies about what the industry offers. I encourage you to make your own comparison between your current FOIA Software Solution and the ones I will be talking about.
I hope this will help you understand why some FOIA agencies have no backlogs at all, while others still struggle and can’t effectively respond to FOIA requests.
Armedia FOIA vs. AINS FOIAXpress
Being part of an established vendor that offers a FOIA Software Solution, it would be false humility to compare FOIA Software Solutions and not to include the one I stand behind.
For the sake of approximate value between the two software solutions, I’ve decided to include an established vendor in the industry, AINS, and to talk about their FOIA Solution – FOIAXpress.
Capabilities of FOIAXpress
FOIAXpress is basically a FOIA Software Solution which operates as a single, unified platform that offers management of the entire process, from submission to final response and delivery, including in the process:
- Document review and redaction,
- Correspondence management,
- Payment management,
- Request management,
- Data management.
To be able to do all of this, i.e., to work as one unified platform that will take care of the entire FOIA process, requires years of work and a dedicated team.
Obviously, AINS have that. Throughout the years they managed to develop a FOIA Software Solution that relies on the following features:
- Workflow-driven Case Management
- Document storage and management
- Flexible reporting
- Audit trail of user actions
- In-document search
- Cost tracking
These are some of the most important things you need to know about AINS FOIA Software Solution. There is so much more to be said, but my point here was to bring you up to speed with the key features.
Main Characteristics of FOIAXpress
It’s obvious that the team behind FOIAXpress knew what they were doing. They’ve developed a FOIA Software Solution characterized as:
- Connectible (I think I just made up a new word). Their FOIA Software Solution is an open-source platform which allows integration with a variety of document management systems, such as SharePoint, Hummingbird, Livelink, etc.
- Functional. FOIAXpress can easily be characterized as a functional FOIA Software Solution. The software solution manages requests form the moment of submission, all the way through delivering the requested information. Including storing requests and all case related records, implementing a correspondence interface, measuring time and costs, etc.
- Established. AINS FOIA Software Solution is an established software solution with a lot of history and it’s being used by many agencies. More importantly, it’s built and maintained by companies with very strong technical staff.
But, FOIAXpress seems to not have kept up with modern technology stack. At its core, we are talking about an old VB application.
Let me bring in the game the Armedia FOIA Software Solution now. But let me share a strong disclaimer here. Even though this is my baby so to speak, I am very rigorous in my comparison. We’ve done tons and tons of analyses and features lists in the early days of Armedia FOIA Module. Our goal was not to be “just another solution” out there. Our goal was to map out the FOIA Agency needs, and the FOIA Deliverables from existing software solutions. And then to produce the best possible FOIA Solution that’s predominantly focused on team effectiveness and FedRAMP compliance.
Armedia FOIA Software Solution
Armedia is an industry leader which helps organizations improve their operations and deliver IT as a Service. One main focus of Armedia is ECM Migration, specifically, migrating Case Management systems from old and proprietary setups into a new, modern, flexible environment that is user-friendly and Web-based.
Our focus and partnership with ArkCase also lean toward Case Management Solutions, including Armedia FOIA Software Solution I will be talking about today.
Capabilities of Armedia FOIA Software Solution
Like FOIAXpress, Armedia FOIA Software Solution is a unified platform that manages FOIA operations, from request submission to the delivery of the requested information. Encompassing the same areas of action I mentioned when I talked about FOIAXpress:
- Document review and redaction,
- Correspondence management,
- Payment management,
- Request management,
- Data management.
To do this, our team relies on ArkCase, a disruptor in the Case Management industry. With the help of ArkCase, we’ve developed a modern FOIA Software Solution that responds to the specific needs of every FOIA agency.
Now, let’s take a look at a short list of the key features of Armedia FOIA Software Solution.
Key Features of Armedia FOIA Software Solution
I’ve talked about the key features of our FOIA Solution and the benefits it brings to FOIA agencies so many times now in my blog posts. For the sake of not repeating myself, here I’ll focus the attention only on the key features which include:
- Centralized processing from various request channels: fax, web, paper.
- Simplified uploads of documents, photos, and videos.
- Compliance with security and records retention.
- Mobile friendly and cloud-ready module.
- Automated Business Intelligence.
- Reduced risk of information lost.
- Faster information assembling.
- Automatic records declaration.
- Improved workflow capacity.
- Faster access to information.
- Higher user productivity.
- Faster response rate.
To learn more about the FOIA Module, take a look at this blog post: The 5 Key Elements of a Solid FOIA Software Solution.
Main Characteristics of the Armedia FOIA Software Solution
The Armedia FOIA Software Solution is revolutionary, secure, flexible, scalable, fast, cost-effective. Let me expand on all these a bit.
- Revolutionary. With an experience of more than 15 years in the industry and strong partnerships with established vendors like AWS, Alfresco, and Snowbound, we have created one of the strongest industry disruptors in the FOIA Software Solutions market.
- Secure. At Armedia we take data security seriously, especially when it comes to large organizations that deal with enormous amounts of sensitive data. That is the reason why we decided to rely on Alfresco because their system is DoD 5015 Compliant. I have written another blog post on Alfresco.com on this topic if you’d like to read about this issue.
- Flexible. When we worked on creating Armedia FOIA Software Solution, we were aware of the complexity of the FOIA request processing challenges. This is why we’ve created a flexible FOIA Solution which enables every FOIA agency to create their own customized workflows and their own customized forms.
- Scalable. In 2016 the Government received 700.000 FOIA requests. In 2017, the number jumped to 800.000. That’s 3% annual increase in submitted FOIA requests in 2016 vs. 2017. Because of this substantial increase, the Armedia FOIA Software Solution relies on AWS because of its practically unlimited scaling potential.
- Fast. If you remember me mentioning the issue of a growing backlog, this is the spot where I expand on the problem.
FOIA Government agencies in 2016 processed 770.000 FOIA requests. In 2017, this number jumped to 820.000 FOIA requests. So, the Government increased productivity by only 6.5%. While as we’ve mentioned, the FOIA requests jumped by 14.3%. This means that actually, the Government is struggling to keep up with the pace of submitted forms vs. processed forms. The Armedia FOIA Software Solution is addressing the speed issue with automation and a very user-friendly interface.
- Cost-effective. Armedia Modern FOIA Solution will cost you only $39/mo per employee. Without overhead, with no hidden expenses. Cloud-based, secure, and infinitely scalable.
One thing I’d like to point out here is the strong redaction mechanism we’ve built for the Armedia FOIA Solution. You can redact any document and add annotations that explain what laws govern the masking/hiding of each spot on a released document. FOIA workers can review other redactions, edit them as needed and the system stores all these versions. You can “burn” a redacted version that’s ready for sending out to the public, without affecting the actual document. And all this is handled with great care and a strong focus on data security thanks to Alfresco.
It’s Up To You Now
As you can see, the two FOIA Software Solutions have much more similarities than differences. At least when you’re looking at simple checklists of features.
The reason for this is that both vendors have been in the industry for so long, and both teams know their job well enough.
Both Armedia and AINS have long partnerships with established companies.
Both Armedia and AINS have a strong presence in the ECM and Case Management world to be able to offer usable and useful solutions.
And, although FOIAXpress is one of the leaders in the industry, Armedia FOIA is built cloud-native with AI/ML integrations.
Switching to the Armedia FOIA Software Solution will certainly help you switch sides and move past the backlogs problem that so many FOIA Agencies are facing nowadays.
Talking of switching, with Armedia FOIA Software Solution you don’t have to worry about the challenges of migrating onto a modern FOIA solution. We’ve done so many ECM migrations that we have the entire process almost automated.
I hope this comparison will help you take a deeper look at all FOIA solutions out there. When it comes to choosing a reliable, flexible, cost-effective, modern FOIA Software Solution, you simply must look deeper, way past the simple checklists and features comparisons. One such deeper look was the issue of document redaction, but believe me, each and every item on a checklist requires a deep-dive.
If you want to find out more about Armedia FOIA Module, read some of our other blog post about FOIA. But to take a deep dive, it may be best if you contact us for a demo. That way, you can get a guided tour of the capabilities we’ve built into the Armedia FOIA Software solution.
If you’ve been tasked with modernizing your organization’s outdated and costly FOIA solution, this webinar will be of great value to you
Join Armedia with our technology partners AWS & Alfresco on Tuesday, July 24th at 2:00 pm EDT to see why organizations are turning to Armedia’s FOIA Solution built on ArkCase.
During the webinar, you will see how we can enable IT Transformation by providing you the ability to:
- Manage your FOIA requests and appeals and the associated information (people, organizations, notes, tasks, etc.)
- Manage all digital files to include office documents, audio, video, etc.
- Redact through a full-featured toolset including pattern searching with tracking of Vaughn Index for exemption codes
- Generate reports (i.e. DOJ Reports)
- Integrate with your existing portal, e-mail and Outlook
- Deliver Responses electronically and publish to Reading Room
- Generate template based correspondences for consistent communication
- Adopt a cloud solution that is FedRAMP compliant
- Leverage AI to search audio and video files for discovery
- Integrate with records management (i.e. Alfresco) for data governance
Click on this button below to register for the webinar and see how you can eliminate your backlog and reduce your Total Cost of Ownership.