FOI requests are increasing in volume and complexity. How to best manage this?
At the Freedom of Information Conference 2017 yesterday in Edinburgh I was struck by two things: the challenges involved in pulling FOI responses together, and how much time and resource this costs organisations. So many people I spoke to yesterday are managing these often complex cases with spreadsheets – how they keep track is a minor miracle!
As the case management supplier to the Office of the Scottish Information Commissioner, I attended the conference to keep current and to learn how our system can support the wider FOI community.
Joe Fitzpatrick, Minister for Parliamentary Business, said this has been the Scottish Government’s busiest year yet, with a 50% increase in FOI requests. The impact FOI has on resources will only increase with plans to extend the coverage of the FOI regime, for example to Registered Social Landlords (RSLs).
A modern democracy requires transparency and accountability in order to achieve trust and credibility. Daren Fitzhenry, Scottish Information Commissioner made the excellent point that these buzzwords are easy to say but hard to put into practice, and these concepts are devalued if public sector bodies don’t meet expectations.
I know I am biased, but I did occur to me how much time and cost could be saved with a workflow based case management system like Workpro to help them. Here are just a few reasons:
The ability to allocate tasks and automatically issue reminders and alerts (for example, prompting colleagues to supply certain information) helps manage timescales.
The ability to store all information and correspondence relevant to a request within an electronic case record, reduces the time needed to pull responses together.
This also creates an audit trail should the response be challenged.
Authorised staff can easily see what stage a FOI response is at, should the FOI officer be absent for any reason, with all action taken clearly documented.
Reporting on FOI cases is much easier. Standard reports can be set up and available at the click of a button, or ad hoc queries can be carried out at any time.
Categorisation of data helps with analysis. Trend analysis for example highlights common issues so that action can be proactively taken to improve services and address problems.
Workpro is a case management system that comes with a FOI case type as standard. For more information or a demonstration please click here or call us on 0131 449 7071.
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