FOIA & Public Records Software Solution
Using the ArkCase Open Source Case Management Solution, Armedia built a FOIA software solution that helps agencies get more work done, under budget. ArkCase provides the technology stack, while the FOIA software solution provides the needed business-level functionality, allowing FOIA agencies to tackle the growing FOIA challenges efficiently.
ArkCase – FOIA/Public Records Software
An one-in-all software solution for processing FOIA requests that will empower you to eliminate the backlog for good.
Problems FOIA Agencies Face
Citizens are growing in awareness that our government agencies are mandated by law to disclose specific information upon request. This is mandated by the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA). With the growing list of FOIA requests, the growing complexity of these requests, to a growing content footprint, each FOIA agency is facing an uphill battle. FOIA agencies face problems like:
- Responding efficiently and quickly
- Providing continuous visibility to stakeholders
- Manually processing paper requests
- Efficiently creating response correspondence
- How to do more with less
How The ArkCase FOIA Software Solves Those Problems
FOIA clerks would want a FOIA software solution that can handle the entire lifecycle of a FOIA request, preferably with an audit trail. That’s exactly what our solution does:
- Streamline the collection of FOIA requests from many channels (phone call, fax, letter, email, or web form)
- Deduplicate request at origination to reduce workload
- Route FOIA requests quickly and efficiently through a queue review process
- Generate annual and periodic reports (i.e. DOJ and Vaughn Index reports)
- Tailor to your agency’s review and approval
- Collect confidential information, redact or “black-out” with configuration exemption codes
- Bundle up responses for immediate electronic delivery based on the Requestor’s preference
- Seamlessly integrate with you payment processing service (i.e. pay.gov)
- Keep an audit log at every step of the way so agencies can backtrack every decision
ArkCase FOIA Demo –
See One Of The Best FOIA Software In Action:
Read Video Transcript
Welcome to our case today you’re going to see the FOIA software solution. We’re going to go through quite a few different steps as we show you this overview video. First of all we’ll log into the system. Right now you’re seeing the login screen and we’ll go ahead and we’re going to log in as one of our administrative users. We log into the individual screen this is actually a dashboard for this individual and this individual happens to be an administrator and her name is Ann. We’re going to go through a little bit of the overview associated to the dashboard the different modules that are available out of the box. Then we’re going to go through an actual workflow where we simulate the submission from a web portal. We have just a basic Drupal site as you can see here we’ll submit check status and we’ll even get a response so users can download our response from that original FOIA request.
First of all let’s go through kind of a high-level overview our case boy it really offers. As you can see here you have your logo at the top this is a configurable logo that’s available to you can change out an admin which will show a little bit later, you have your global new, you can create a request manually right through the application at the end of the day you have many other ingestion methods whether it is scanning, whether it’s a web portal which we’ll show today and many other options that can be integrated through the our case api’s.
You also have the ability to create an ad hoc task or a task that is associated to an individual request. Youalso have a simple search here at the top right that’ll be on every page it’s available and you can also see that we have a search module which is more of your advanced search module which will show you how that works today too next.
Let’s look at the information under and as you can see ends title her picture and some information under the drop-down are available. Let’s go ahead and jump out to the profile. The profile just tells information about Ann, as you can see here Ann has her picture that she can change, she has her title some email information obviously the groups that she’s associated to as it pertains to her security rights. Also the subscriptions, we’ll talk a little bit about these subscriptions module and how you can navigate through your secured subscriptions and you can delete certain things that you can do from here in your admin section just like that. You also have the ability to update your contact information. You have the ability update your your company information all this is in line editing so you can change the information very easily. You also have the ability to change the password and user password here also. In addition you have help and logout.
So let’s start on the actual dashboard, so the dashboard is extremely configurable like most of the information and most of the functionality within ArkCase FOIA, here all the columns the individual headers as it pertains to labels all of this is fully configurable and we’ll show you some of that functionality added a little bit later.
So we’re going to show you here just quickly how you can configure by clicking on the edit button, you have a few buttons that are available to you you have the ability to add a new widget, you have a list of all the widgets that are available this is all per security right so I’ll show you how to restrict those here at a later time and admin but if you wanted to add an individual widget all you have to do is hit the actual icon and now you’ll see the information associated to that widget. This happens to be a pie chart once again if you wanted to change the labels, the information associated maybe you don’t want to be team workload maybe you want it to be supervisor workload. You can change that very quickly and very easily now you have it relabeled, maybe you want to drag and drop it over a different location, maybe you just want to delete it, maybe it wasn’t the widget you wanted.
You also have the ability to change the dashboard title, you can ultimately set up your dashboard to different views in the way that it looks for instance if we wanted to pick this view and hit close you’re gonna see the view has now changed once you were satisfied the way the view looks you can go ahead and you can save that. All of those changes will be retained for an specific dashboard every time she logs in it’ll look just like this and she can change it when she needs to.
In addition you have another module called FOIA queues. This is the queue module that takes the individual request through a very specific workflow. You can see that there are many requests in the intake queue. You can see who it’s a identified or who it’s assigned to. Once again all of these can be assigned to a group and then someone in that group can claim that, as it moves through the workflow you’ll see the information you’ll see certain things that are that are locked to other users that already being worked on as it moves
through the workflow you’ll see certain steps as we go and we’ll go through the workflow here at a later point but I just wanted to show you how there’s different queues and once again all of these queue names are configurable.
So if this doesn’t fit your exact business as it pertains the overall flow, the flow can be changed very easily maybe you don’t have a general council cube maybe you have a supervisor queue well changing that label and that logic is very easy to do in ArkCase FOIA. In addition you have a FOIA request module, this is all of the individual requests that come in but just have a little bit different view of the details that come in with the information you have a high-level view of all the information associated whether it’s requests or information or the request information you can check whether there’s a fee waiver on it whether this should be an expedite request doesn’t need to go through litigation so we have logic to dictate whether it goes to a special queue whether it’s a paid individual request.
You also have the ability to here if you have security rights to update this information and send it to an individual queue depending on the step in the flow. Specifically this request is in the fulfill queue and it can move on to the approved queue it can be sent back to the suspend here the whole queue and right now it’s assigned to a specific group and an has a claimed. She can unclaimed this and when she unclaimed it she will then see that has no assignee which means that anyone in that group can be assigned and you can see the update here that that individual record was updated.
The great thing about this view is that you can see the breakdown of the person that came in on the request any documents that were created specifically for this request. You can open is up and see those in a reviewer we’ll go ahead and double-click on that and you can see that this will open up and the individual viewer and you have just a different look and feel to the information you’re seeing whether it is the request information the details, any tasks associated tags, any references in the overall history of this individual document. In addition you have a lot of other information other than just documents you have participants on this case whether it’s restricted for just a reader or maybe it’s a sign to someone specific or specific group. You can create tasks associated to this individual request let’s say that you wanted to assign a task to someone to research find that appropriate documents you can append it here or you can do that directly from the queue itself and we’ll show you how that works during the workflow. You also have the ability to reference other individual tasks, documents, other requests that have come in at any one time. You also have the ability to see all your exemption codes that are associated and that has to do with when you were adapted document you have quote coinciding exemption codes which will show. You can add tags to this request level you also can have add notes rolling notes associated and then obviously history on this individual request.
As you move into the tasks module just from a high level has a very similar look and feel you can see the details associated with it there may be tasks associated as to what needs to be done for an individual request. At the end of the day you have the ability to have tasks that are associated to request and you also have the ability to have ad hoc tests it could just be creating an email or whatever it may be.
You have your advanced search module if we go in and we just do a quick search, let’s just say that we want to search spending and looks like we have a couple maybe I want to go ahead and click on that and hit Search. You can see that the search returns the information with the faceted search so you can narrow down the information associated and you want to see the one that maybe is assigned currently to Sam but was created by Ann.
If you want to go back to the original search can do that very quickly you also have the ability to export all of this information. All of these individual things are hyperlinks whether they’re files, whether they’re actual requests and you can quickly get to those individuals so for instance if we wanted to look at an individual request we can jump out to that request very easily and see the details. You also have the report module which we’ll go over here a little bit later once we actually go through the effort of creating a brand-new request we’ll do some redaction and then we’ll cover on some of the reports associated.
The notifications module – the notifications module is specific to any request that is assigned to your user and any events associated, so you also have the ability to set these up as single emails or daily emails with this information, but this is just your archive of that information you can also configure it to purge it on a monthly basis whatever it may be but you have the ability to search through this information. Let’s just say that you’re looking for any events associated with ticket one one six or request one one six you can see the information there. Once again you have the ability to export.
Subscription this is a little bit different than the fact that if you don’t have any subscriptions which means you’re not following any specific requests, you will not see any events associated. Notifications have to do with requests or tasks that you as an individual that’s logged in is assigned. So the audit module as you can see there’s a lot of information that can be generated here you have to build to narrow it down to a specific object or in this case a request a task or a file, let’s just say that I want a request and I want to see anything that’s happened today on any request. As you can see here this report is now generated quite a bit of information, all of these are hyperlinks back to the actual objects you can get quickly back to them with a little single click, you also have the ability to download this in many different output types.
Admin – admin is extremely important to the super user since and as an administrator she has the access to go into admin. We’re not going to spend a lot of time right now on admin what come back that to that at the end because I want to show you some of the cool features to manipulate your existing FOIA application out of the box. ArkCase provides this FOIA as you see it now but you also have the control once you download it to implement it exactly how you want any super user that has access to admin that wants to change labels or restrict certain modules that type of thing can do that from admin so we’ll come back to that.
Now that you had a quick overview of ArkCase FOIA. We want to go and actually run through workflow of a request, for simulation purposes we’ve created a demo site which is just so basic web portal to do submissions. We’re going to take you to that site and go through a submission process, once we’ve done that we’ll go through will process the request here in ArkCase for you show you how that works and then we’ll show you how to check status from the web portal in addition and then we’ll also show you how the delivery method works. In addition to that we will ultimately go through the reports to show you some of the information and then we’ll also go through admin towards the end to show you a little bit more about how to configure your application exactly how you want.
This web portal is used for demo purposes only the main reason for this is to show you the different ways that can be integrated with ArkCase FOIA to process your FOIA request whether they come through an existing web portal that you have now or some form of electronic method, whether it’s the ability to scan things in, whether it’s from fax ingestion there are many different ways even email ingestion these days we can ultimately integrate with ArkCase FOIA application. That’s more on the processing side and we’ll show you how to do that but first I want to show you how to submit to actually get it to show in ArkCase.
So this is just a sample web portal, all you have to do is click on submit new for your request, once you submit click on submit new for your request you’ll see a new page generate. Now the page is rendered you can see that there’s a lot of information that needs to be populated to submit your request once again this is a configurable form and can best fit your business exactly with what you need from a metadata perspective to collect to ultimately respond to a request. Now that we have the information populated we’re going to go ahead and we are going to submit this request. Once we submit this request we’re going to get a confirmation that the request has been submitted. Once that’s all done the end user has completed their request and has submitted all the information that’s needed.
Let’s move on to what are ArkCase sees once that’s the request has been submitted. So once we jump over to ArkCase we’ll jump right into the FOIA queues and you’re going to see that the intake queue is the default queue. At this point I’m going to go ahead and I’m going to change the order to descending and you’re gonna see that I have a request here credit card spinning in the state of in State Department from Phil J Miller and this was actually submitted to us directly from the web portal. So I’m gonna go ahead and I’m gonna start processing this. So I’m going to open up this individual record and you’re going to see a couple of things that we’re going to work on so let’s just assume that Ann is her responsibility is to work on intake queue documents, to make sure the information is correct, to go ahead and go through the information associates the request and the requester. Maybe there’s some additional information that she needs to fill out, maybe there’s some organization information so, maybe she needs to fill out this information and I’ll just go ahead and show you just basically tabbing through this information I can quickly enter and I can be done with the information. So maybe her job is to intake and make sure it’s all populated maybe she wants to review and see the documents that are associated, so a couple of documents been created, these were automatically created one being the request information form and one being an acknowledgement letter that can be automatically emailed or you can right click and email it out. So many different options that are available to the user once again if you have existing forms that you want to place the metadata that comes in from the portal or from any other ingestion point we can leverage those here in ArkCase very easily. At this point in most cases the person doing the intake work would probably assign it to themselves this would be self assigning because they have access to this group so I’m gonna go ahead and assign it to myself and I’m gonna go ahead and say that this is complete and could do one of two things she can click Next and see the next individual request in the intake queue that she needs to work on as you can see this is in the intake you or since she’s an admin we’re gonna show you how it updates the page and just moved it along in the workflow.
So we’ll go ahead and hit complete, once she’s done that you can see that the queue is now updated fulfill and se hits a notification that it’s been updated.
Now we’re gonna play the role of the person fulfilling, we’re still logged in as add as an admin but at the end of the day if Sally or some other user wanted to log in. That was specifically supposed to work on a fulfill of the actual request she could do that. Maybe at this point to fulfill this request something needs to be done let’s say let’s say someone needs to work on a task so let’s go ahead and create a task.
I can either assign it to a group I can also assign it to automatically – and by default or I can pick another user that would come in and work on this, let’s just say Samuel, so Samuel is a supervisor and I’m gonna go ahead and have him work on this boy request it automatically populates the information linking this task directly to this POI request and I’m gonna ask Sam to go ahead and find documents related to this task to this request I should say.
I’m also going to give him a status of active and I’m gonna say that the due date is tomorrow, hopefully you get it done today but maybe not. So we’ll go ahead and we’ll get it we’re gonna save this you’ll now see that we have an individual task that needs to be worked on by Sam, Sam the super supervisor and I can actually click on that it’ll take me out to the individual tasks module.
Let’s go ahead and have Samuel complete this task. So we’re gonna go ahead and log out we’re going to come in as Samuel. Sam was gonna have a little bit different look and feel as you can see here he only has a couple of widgets let’s go ahead and clean his dashboard up a little bit. I can configure his dashboard by deleting a few things maybe I just want my tasks to show and save that. As you can see here we actually have an actual task that needs to be worked on and I can use my dashboard widget to jump to that directly as you can see here, here is the location and the actual information associated. I can actually jump back to this individual request knowing that it’s in fulfillment or I can just complete my task.
Now Sam was going to go ahead and fulfill this he’s going to go ahead and work on finding the documents he’s gone out to maybe an external system maybe he’s actually found them within the system and he’s going to go ahead and put his documents in this working folder. So he’s going to right-click he’s gonna click documents and he’s gonna find them either locally network drive and you can even tie in another search to this, we’re just gonna go ahead and grab a document to fulfill his request that he has to complete. At this point I’m gonna go ahead and I’m gonna complete this task. Once this task has been completed I’m gonna go ahead and sign out and I’m gonna come back in its and and you can see all the work that Samuel is actually done on this individual request.
So we’re going to come back in as an and you can do this in many different ways from our dashboard you can click on the actual request itself or you can jump right into the queue and I’m gonna show you that it’s sitting in the fulfill queue, happens to be still assigned to an so we’re going to go ahead and we’re gonna open this one back up. Once it’s now been opened we’ll go ahead and look at this we’ll see that the task has now been closed it’s been completed and ultimately and needs to know that it’s being deleted by looking at specific information like the working information that was supposed to be uploaded and as you can see there’s an additional document here and when I double-click that document you’ll see that the document is now shown here and the information is there. Now that Anne has had that information done and completed she may have to take steps on this individual document for instance she may have to actually redact an area of this document before it can be sent over to be approved for release. Let’s just say that some of the information that needs to be redacted is anywhere on the page ultimately if we want to redact this area we can do that and we can right-click and specify the exemption code, I’m going to say this is exemption code 6 and once again you can redact as many areas as you want.
Once you redact you ultimately have to save this, saving this is actually adding it as an annotation which means it’s just an overlay on the original it’s not affecting the original document at all, you then have the ability to what we would call burn and create a brand-new version.
You’re taking the actual version, you’re burning the actual overlay on the original and creating a brand-new version too so once again the original is not affected eat on this page that we have exemption code 6 shows on the individual. Once that work is done maybe her work is completed and she wants to move it on the workflow. Let’s go ahead and just show you if she clicks next what will happen, as you can see and is still in the fulfill queue but she now has a brand new request it just happened to be the next request in her individual queue. But if we want to continue working on the other request and take that all the way through let’s go ahead and jump back out the queues and show you that 117 is now an approve, so there may be someone that only has access to approve individual requests and they would work on this now, but this would be a good time to go and take a look and see what the status of this individual request is maybe the user from the web portal wants to see that information. So let’s go ahead and take a look at that now let’s go back to the ArkCase web portal for different purposes.
Let’s go ahead and take a look and see what the status of our individual request looks like, so if you remember we entered in Phil Miller, so we’ll go ahead and type in his information and we will put this in and this will validate and return any information about any requests that he’s entered so far with these three criteria. So we’ll go ahead and hit search and it returns two requests as you can see one was released to him at 2:31 on the 24th and then we’ve got one that’s currently in fulfillment. So at this point you can see the status of these two and ultimately if he checks back later this request may be an updated status, but so far he can see the status of these individual requests.
Now that we’ve checked the status we can actually go back into our case FOIA continue to process the users request. So let’s go ahead and open up this individual request again from the approval queue, as you can see here we’re in the approval queue and you can see that we still have the information that we needed, but there’s a couple of things that need to be done at the approval step maybe the documents need to be reviewed, maybe they need to go through and look at the individual documents, maybe they just want to see what exemption codes have been critically collected or created on individual document. Addition, you have the ability at this point to waive the fee which means that it will not go through Billy, you can also dictate litigation which means that from approval it would go through another step of approval which would be general counsel and we’ll go ahead and check that box. So let’s go ahead and hit complete, once again this configurable litigation check box takes us through an additional queue called general counsel as you can see it’s now been updated there just may be a secondary approval step this could ultimately fire off additional tasks for someone to go and look at this individual request it could be firing off a task for multiple folks to review in this queue.
Once everything’s all set and done we can then send it to the next cue by hitting complete, as you can see the billing queue has now been updated and a couple of things may happen at this point. We can integrate with any accounts receivable system or in best-case scenario most likely we would integrate with pay gov which would be the best solution in this case we’ll go ahead and say the payment was collected we’ll do this manually but this can be an automated step that can be integrated with an accounts payable system and we’ll go ahead and hit complete.
Once we actually hit complete is going to move to the last step in the overall workflow and you’ll see the release. We’re going to go ahead and jump into the queues and show you now that it’s moved to the release queue as you can see here it’s available in the release queue. If I double click this and open it one of the things you’ll notice is there’s no more steps associated to moving this through any of the queues. Now that the workflow for the request has been completed, let’s go ahead and see what the delivery method looks like.
We’re gonna go back out to the web portal and we’re gonna go to the check status page as you can see here we’ve check status before so you know the three elements that need to be entered to search so let’s go ahead and let’s search that information. So we know the last name is Miller his email address and the original phone number that he entered.
Once that information is entered and we can hit search and see all the requests that are available he also has another and review currently and he also has one that was released today, you can see now that type of linked in blue he has the ability for a set amount of time it’s a configure about a mount of time can be downloaded from the actual web portal.
So let’s go ahead and download that zip file looks like there’s a couple of documents that are available let’s go ahead and open one of those documents we’re going to use Adobe to open this document as you can see here he now has one of the documents that he needed maybe he wants to look at another one of the documents associated to his response and you can see that there’s some redactions on this so i think of the day the delivery of these documents is available to him in this abstract he can now save it locally he can do whatever he wants with it as it pertains to printing it or emailing it off at this point.
So now you’ve seen the overall workflow from our cases submission from the web portal all the way through the workflow within ArkCase and what a user would ultimately see from an admin perspective all the way down through the status checking and the release of the individual requests. Now that we’ve finished processing this request and we’ve submitted it out and the end user has now seen the individual download and has gotten their response to their request.
Let’s go through some of the more supervisor components specifically reports an admin, let’s go to reports first I’m going to go ahead and just run a few reports to show you some of our sample out-of-the-box reports the report engine is very very easy to use and you can design your own reports through a report designer but let’s just show you a few of the examples. First of all let’s go to the FOIA request we’re going to go ahead and run it for today you’re gonna see that we’re going to generate a report that has obviously one FOIA request for today. Once again this is just a sample set of what metadata can ultimately be displayed here it also can be displayed in many different ways with this report designer, whether it’s bar charts pie, charts it can be once again a very detailed report it could be even a drill-down report. You also once again have the ability to export it in a specific way.
If I go ahead and change to say the exemption report let’s go ahead and generate that. When I generate this report as you remember we created one specific exemption or redaction should say an exemption of a number six on that FOIA we worked on, so this would keep track of all of your individual requests as we go through the overall workflow it will keep track of your exemption code you can generate a report on date range and many other different criteria depending on what you want this is just a sampling. In addition you actually have the ability to show the disposition report this would be if there were full grants or partial grants and why was it partially granted.
Moving on to admin – admin is very detailed in the fact there’s a lot of things that you can do specifically security. Functional access control is one of the main ones. Functional access control is driven by a role as you can see here these roles are linked to individual groups. The groups are actually pulled directly from the organizational hierarchy, these groups are synced with your LDAP and your LDAP user set, when I talked about an individual request being assigned to a group and individual users in that group could claim that, that would be how this information is set up and how the security works.
So once you have groups that are ingested in the functional control setup, the individual functional control you have the ability to create a new role and set privileges to it that then you can link to an individual group. So you have the ability to control that very easily
In addition you have your dashboard we talked about Dashboard widgets that people have access to as you move through you can see the different roles that that have access for instance if I did not want a weather widget I could remove that. So let’s jump up through the dashboard and show you if I click Edit I can see that the weather widget is available to me I’m going to go ahead and admin and I’m gonna delete that from the individual.
So weather widget and I’m gonna go ahead and I know that and that’s part of the administrators group but just in case let’s go ahead if she’s in any other groups we’ll get rid of all the groups. So we’ll go ahead you’ll see that the action was successful without even logging out you can actually go right in and see the weather widget has now been removed and you can do that for any of these widgets you can restrict it by group whatever it may be.
In addition you have the ability to do the same thing with reports you have the ability to do also one that I skipped modules for instance maybe depending on the user that’s logged they don’t need access to a specific module, maybe and doesn’t need access to notifications. So let’s click on notifications will remove access from all folks associated note get notifications as you can see very quickly updated the information. There’s a lot of other things you can do as it pertains to generating new forms in the system the workflow is very very specific and the different workflow you saw as it moved to the queue and you have the ability to navigate through that you can link individual forms with individual workflows and this is just a spreadsheet they break down of whether you’re utilizing that or not.
You also have label configuration this is pretty vast in the fact that across the board you could change labels no matter whether there are the module labels, the labels of the global new individual labels say in the actual individual queues you can rename the labels of the queues themselves.
So let’s go ahead and just rename something, so let’s go ahead and show you that I want to relate with something in the core which would ultimately be relabeling, let’s just say we want to real able reports which is our left navigation. Maybe I want to real able this FOIA reports, so I’ll go ahead and do that and with a quick refresh of the label bundle and I’ll go ahead and log back in as and you’ll see now that it says for your reports.
So you have a lot of control throughout the application to modify these things you also have the ability to purge your audit history every certain amount of days, you can change your logos as you can see here it’s just a real quick and easy change these are little things you can do on your own that make this tool so cool as it pertains to being able to configure it on your own to best fit your needs out-of-the-box it may work for you and may meet your needs but if you want to customize it a little bit or really configure it to meet your needs it’s available to you.
You also have the ability to do custom CSS maybe you don’t like the color scheme maybe you want to change the color scheme every one so while you can do that. So at this point I hope you really enjoyed this demo once again we can get into a lot of the details of all the other things that are available out of the box with ArkCase FOIA, but this is just a sampling or an overview of what soil offers hope you enjoyed it thanks
- Lower your total cost of ownership with a FedRAMP cloud solution
- Protected information through role-based security and built-in redaction exemption codes
- Ability to search for critical information
- Faster assembling of correspondence and response packaging for efficient delivery
- Reduced risk of lost information
- Increased workload capacity
- Improved sharing of information
- Centralized processing from multiple request channels: web, fax, paper
- Compliance with security and records retention