The growing demand for a quicker release of information can be tough to keep up with. When you’re working with multiple departments, filing systems, and approval processes, it can take weeks or even months to pull information as it’s requested. However, that slower turnaround period is quickly diminishing as multiple states and governments are feeling pressured to update their public record laws.
With new standards going into effect in multiple states detailing how quickly records must be released after they have been requested, departments in charge of executing FOIA requests are being hit hard.
While it may feel like you’re scrambling to stay compliant and meet these fast turnaround times, there are ways to lighten the load and get back on an efficient structure.
2018 is here and that means it is the perfect time to take a good look at your current FOIA process and make changes. Take into account each staffers role in the process, what guidelines you need to meet and what (if any) changes you need to make to your digital environment to meet them. What worked in the past probably won’t hold up now. Getting together as a team to move from processing each request individually to creating a single, efficient process that can be repeated is the first step to meeting these requests and helping your employees feel more in control.
Create A Single Repository
If you don’t already have one a central location to store and streamline every request and file, it’s time to add one. Look into software solutions like OnBase for FOIA. They can integrate with most of your current systems and still have a usable and familiar functionality so you don’t need to add “jumping over the learning curve” to your growing list of to-dos. By adding this software or revamping and updating your current one you can process constituent intakes, acknowledgment letters, invoices, executive reviews, and responses the moment they are needed, from any location.
Automate Reminders & Notifications
It’s unrealistic to rely on managers to assure each department is finishing their portion of the process on time. Instead, systems like OnBase allow you to set up workflows to automatically notify departments or employees when it’s their turn to take over the process, link them directly over to the file and even remind them 24 hours before it’s due. Some organizations even establish a queue that allows employees to view their current requests and check on the status and due dates from a single window without having to jump around. Find what works best for your staff and reach out to your software provider or IT Admin to help set up that process.
Ensure Compliance Standards Are Met
The integrity of information is key to any FOIA or records request. With advanced software solutions, you can effortlessly stay compliant even during the rushed time constraints being thrown at you. Before, meeting quicker information requests potentially meant risking a bit of security along the way. If you go into a meeting with your software team and lay out your specific compliance standards, they can create customized programs that meet them every time. A lot of companies also offer teams of people who already understand the standards you have to meet and can use their past knowledge and experience to cover those grounds and potentially meet even higher quality and control standards. You don’t need to add extra steps along the way to check on compliance or risk failing an audit. Choosing the right software can take care of this for you.