The good news for Americans with an interest in how their federal, state, and local governments work is that the federal government, every state in the U.S., and many municipalities have enacted laws that allow the public to request and get copies of certain government records.
The bad news is that records responsive to their requests may be scattered across many government agencies and departments, which can often delay how quickly they receive those records.
In the past, public records officers faced the herculean task of manually searching through various databases used by a government entity or entities to find records in response to requests. As a result, public records offices struggled with ever-increasing amounts of government records and requests for those records that together further drain already limited resources.
Fortunately, new public records software makes responding to public records requests much faster, cheaper, and more accurate for government entities. Some of the cutting-edge Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) management software now on the market offers public records officers significant benefits, including direct integration with data sources, powerful organization, filter, and search tools, quick redaction capabilities, and easy downloading of productions in response to records requests.
What to Look for in Public Records Software
When evaluating the public records software on the market, government entities should look for a solution that provides the capabilities and tools they need to produce public records but that also fits nicely within their budget.
The most attractive public records software solutions will have features like:
- The ability to integrate with an entity’s data sources – Government bodies can speed up the adoption of public records software while reducing transition costs by choosing a solution that automatically integrates with their data sources, such as Google Drive, Microsoft 365, Slack, and other common platforms. Integration capabilities keep costs down by eliminating the need to hire third parties to collect, convert, and upload public records
- Not requiring a PhD to use – Public records officers are busy enough; they shouldn’t be bogged down by endless tutorials and webinars they’ll need to watch to learn how to use a new FOIA management software. Ideally, the software they’ve chosen will be easy for employees of all computer and technical skill levels to pick up
- Automatic organization and filtering of documents – Public records software solutions should automatically organize and filter records, including deduplicating and integrating email chains
- Detailed search capabilities – Public records officers should be able search through a public records software’s database using the details of a public records query, such as by topic/search term, sender/recipient/custodian, agency, or date range
- Built-in redaction tools – Public records laws require agencies to redact confidential and privileged information, including personally identifiable information, pre-decisional deliberations, or attorney work product. A good public records software should have a feature that allows public records officers to redact sensitive information from records before producing them
- Being remote working-friendly – The COVID-19 pandemic has taught every organization the value of being able to continue working remotely, including government entities. Public records software solutions should avoid the need for records officers to have to come into the office to prepare responsive productions
- Strong cybersecurity and data privacy – Software solutions should be at the forefront of industry standards in cybersecurity and should comply with applicable data privacy and data security laws governing electronic public records
- Quick production processes – Public records software should allow records officers to quickly download and send document productions in response to records requests
Ensuring Adoption: How to Integrate Public Records Software into Your Workflow
Government agencies transitioning from a manual, labor-intensive public records search and production process will need to take time to incorporate their new public records software into their public records office’s operations. This integration will involve plugging the new software solution into the agency’s existing computer systems and processes for responding to records requests.
Public records employees will need to train on the new software to make sure they can search for and produce documents quickly and accurately. The integration process can go much smoother for government agencies when they select a software tool from a provider whose support team provides onboarding resources, ongoing support documentation and training, and will work closely with customers to ensure success when integrating the software.
Ideally, a public records software solution will have “plug-and-play” capabilities for integrating with a government agency’s existing systems. Instead of forcing a new government agency customer to hire a third-party vendor to download records from their databases and computer systems, convert those records into a common file type, and upload that data, a good public records software solution should play nice with the most common sources of data and have a drag-and-drop function that automatically converts files into a readable, searchable format.
Public records employees should be able to quickly pick up and effectively use a public records software solution. Records requests may get backed up if employees can’t get comfortable using new software — which, of course, completely defeats the purpose of buying software to increase efficiency. A software vendor’s responsive and helpful support team that works closely with its government agency customers to provide customized support can go a long way in helping agencies hit the ground running with their new software.
The ROI of Public Records Software
Multiple state and local governments and public agencies across the country, including Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, and the Port of San Diego, have turned to Logikcull’s public records software solution to make responding to records requests quicker and more affordable.
The City of Baltimore, another adopter of Logikcull’s public records software, has saved time and money thanks to its use of public records management software.
Before adopting Logikcull, Baltimore’s legal team frequently relied on off-the-shelf software like Adobe Acrobat to handle public records requests. Team members would convert electronic records to paper, read them page-by-page for sensitive information, redact that information with black markers, and then re-scan the marked-up paper for production. This decentralized, manual (and frankly, painful) process came with the risk of missing documents during production, potentially leading to expensive and time-consuming litigation if requesters went to court looking for missing documents.
With Logikcull’s browser-based platform, Baltimore’s legal staff saves hours of their precious time by automatically converting electronic public records into searchable PDFs and then redacting portions of those documents, if needed, with the click of a mouse. This automated, streamlined workflow saves the City of Baltimore time and money when responding to public records requests, while also furthering its goal of providing greater government transparency to its citizens.
For years, public records offices in government bodies across the country have worked hard to respond to an ever-growing number of public records requests. The old-school, manual methods of searching through multiple file cabinets and electronic databases to sift through and redact hard copies of records turned public officials into proofreaders and cost governments countless hours of lost time. But thanks to new public records software solutions, government agencies can compile productions in response to public records requests easier, cheaper, and more accurately than ever before.
Government agencies looking to leverage public records management software should carefully evaluate the options on the market to find a solution they can integrate easily into their existing systems and processes. An ideal solution should be easy for public records officers to use, have robust search, organization, and filtering capabilities, make redactions a breeze, and keep government records secure. Many government agencies throughout the U.S. have turned to Logikcull’s cloud-based public records software solution for powerful-yet-easy-to-use tools and features for organizing and searching public records in response to records requests.
Ready to say goodbye to a manual approach to responding to records requests? Schedule a demo today to see how your government agency can put Logikcull’s public records software solution to work for you, your colleagues, and the people you serve.