While openness and access to records have improved over the past few years, there is still room for improvement in FOIA and Electronic Records Management (ERM). The Freedom of Information Act allows anyone to request records from an agency, and unless the information is exempt from disclosure, the agency must provide the records within 20 business days. However, it often does not work as planned. FOIA implementation has nuances that make the process longer and more difficult for all involved. This pandemic has only further complicated the situation. Many employees have limited access to records while working remotely, especially for sensitive or classified records.
Freedom of Information Act’s biggest challenges
For most FOIA teams, their biggest challenges are:
- Internal / external communication and cooperation
- Effective use of resources to reduce backlog and teamwork
- Increase in volume and complexity of Freedom of Information Act requests
- Automate document archiving to comply with US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) mandates
- High rate of turnover in this area
As government agencies look to address these challenges, Adobe solutions can help with industry-standard tools and automation.
In 1991, Adobe launched the digital transformation revolution
Introduced by Adobe, the PDF/A file format was formulated by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and NARA, which is used for archiving and archiving of electronic documents. In addition, Adobe Acrobat is the standard for the Department of Defense (DoD) Portable Document Format (PDF) and is DoD 5015.2-STD compliant.
Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Photoshop, and Digital Asset Manager (DAM), which is part of the Adobe Experience Manager, can be used together to improve the experience of everyone who participates in FOIA and Electronic Records Management (ERM) requests. In most cases, agencies may not have considered using Commercial Turnkey DAM (COTS) as an ERM and workspace for FOIA. However, agencies can manage large amounts of digital assets by leveraging the full power of content and data (both structured and unstructured) to organize, collaborate, and publish electronic records from a single source to the source site.
Adobe solutions are flexible and secure. It can reside both on premises and in the cloud and operate across multiple networks. And Adobe solutions, such as Adobe Experience Manager, Adobe Creative Cloud for enterprise, Adobe Acrobat, and Adobe Sign are FedRAMP certified. Additionally, agencies can easily recruit around Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Photoshop, and DAM technology to help attract the next generation of FOIA professionals.
Simplify your business processes with the apps you love
For an agency that meets a FOIA request that requires a redaction, a potential digital workflow using an Adobe solution could look like this:
As shown in this sample workflow, Adobe Experience Manager has a powerful workflow editor. This allows editing of existing processes and process steps. You can easily customize workflows according to your agency’s business rules. You can also add or extend new process steps with Java or other application services.
With the help of a Freedom of Information Act request workflow, documents and content can be recorded and filed by those responsible for redaction. Editors can perform assigned tasks and forward them to references. The reviewer can then implement the recommended revisions and then issue the final document. Digital or electronic signatures powered by Adobe Sign can be used to authenticate the original application form and any subsequent communications, as well as in the verification/approval process. This allows agencies to track and review assets throughout their lifecycles to ensure compliance with the comprehensive NARA-compliant data management architecture in the areas of metadata management, document and content management, data security management, and data quality management.
With data management in place, there is also a living record of why content has been revised. Adobe Acrobat allows users to permanently delete sensitive information from PDF files using powerful debugging tools. This solution also allows users to convert and validate PDF/A files for compliance with NARA’s transition to e-government requirements.
As Adobe Experience Manager integrates with Adobe Creative Cloud and other applications, data and content can be accessed via RESTful WebServices, other APIs, and third-party solutions, such as ServiceNow, Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, and SAP, to help automate normal business operations. Adobe Experience Manager also has a powerful in-browser workflow editor and existing processes and processing steps to adapt to the agency’s business rules.
New process steps can be added or extended using Java or other existing application services. Adobe Experience Manager can integrate with email to send notifications with links to Adobe Experience Manager when an HTML or PDF form is submitted, assigned tasks, project updates, and more. Below is an example of how to automate PDF workflows.
Files can be received from various external sources, including scanners, external systems, watch folders, and more, and stored in the Secure Data Store, while Adobe Sign allows users to digitally send, sign, track and manage signatures. If desired, these formats can be converted to a common and ubiquitous format such as PDF/A. For example, the US Citizen-Facing Law Enforcement and Public Safety Agency makes use of Adobe Experience Manager to produce a record document (NARA compliant) for more than 30,000 Daily treatment for their case management system. In addition, metadata can be applied to digital assets for classification, search, and other purposes.
Adobe Experience Manager templates work with digital rights management (DRM) to provide an extra layer of security. This provides document protection with policies that reflect data sensitivity, which is especially useful while working remotely.
Adobe can help you
Adobe has a long history of offering digital document formats, having created the PDF/A format more than two decades ago. With in-depth knowledge about creating and managing digital documents, Adobe solutions can directly help reduce the burden of FOIA requests and improve the quality of services provided. Adobe is committed to continuing to provide robust digital management solutions for government agencies.
To learn more about digital versus electronic signature, read Does every business process seem to start and end with a PDF in the public sector? Here, or contact your Adobe representative.