The need for organizations of all kinds to embrace digital transformation has become more urgent since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

That’s because customer expectation drives the fundamentals of digital transformation: Adopting new technologies (known as digitization) and improving people and processes. And customers today are demanding a faster, more accurate, and safer delivery of products and services than ever before.

With this public pressure mounting, organizations — including government agencies — have no choice but to move to make digital transformation a reality. 

To start down this path, they must create a plan for what specific areas of the business need to benefit from digital transformation. They must then work out how they’re going to make the change, usually by onboarding technology. 

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The starting point is performing a cost/benefit analysis. This will tell the organization how much time and effort the digital transformation will require. 

Almost always, major operational changes such as this are difficult for organizations. It can be especially challenging for federal and state governments that have to convert a manual-first government records request process into a fully digital endeavor.

The Challenges of Processing Government Records Requests  

Government agencies don’t need to compete for consumers’ attention the same way traditional businesses do. However, they still have customers demanding efficiency and security — residents of the country or state — and so still face the essential need to adopt digital transformation like any other organization does.

One product a government agency provides for its customer is a government records request: Anyone can submit a request to receive a copy of any information the government holds.

The goal of a government records request is to provide transparency and build trust with citizens. However, the manual and outdated processes in place today are having the opposite effect.

Data complexity

Fulfilling a government records request means providing the most complete record of data available. However, information is stored in many different file types across analog and digital formats. Practically speaking, this means sorting through paper files, emails, databases, and other communication tools. 

This complexity of data files and formats makes it difficult for a government agency to provide a complete and timely delivery of a government records request.

Time constraints

A government records request must be processed within 20 business days, or 30 if the government agency decides unusual circumstances apply. This is a short timeline when considering the data complexity issue. 

Fulfilling a government records request often requires the coordinated efforts of several different offices. All information pertaining to the request for information must be gathered at any and all locations where it’s stored. Then it has to be sent back to a central location to go through the redaction process.

Add in the complexities brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and setbacks, and the processing deadline is even more difficult to meet. If there are any complications with the request or an uptick in the number of requests, delivering on time is nearly impossible. 

Customers have come to expect on-time delivery of goods and services, including government records requests. Not meeting these expectations raises questions of trustworthiness and integrity of government agencies from the citizens making the requests.

Redaction processes

One of the toughest, but most important, parts of fulfilling a government records request is redaction of sensitive information. 

The information that will be sent to the requester almost always contains other confidential information. The government agency is responsible for the redaction of that data, leaving only the information that applies to the requester.

Today, redaction is a manual process. Government agencies have to slog through sometimes hundreds of documents to delete sensitive information. This increases the processing time, and also opens up the possibility of incomplete redaction or missing information.

Conclusion: Simplify Fulfillment with Automation

Government agencies don’t have a choice when it comes to digital transformation. 21st century consumers want access to information, and they want it fast. Government agencies must adapt or risk deteriorating trust with the public. 

That being said, changing the long-held government records request process isn’t easy. Data gathering and redaction has always been done a certain way. There are a lot of different file types and storage types to organize. Sensitive information can’t be mishandled or sent to a requester.

Automation makes the shift to a digital transformation the least painful, in the least amount of time and effort. 

In fact, the OneTrust Government Records Request Solution is designed to make it easy for governments to address a known problem in the organization. This tool leverages automation to transform a process to enable better outcomes by residents, and better efficiency and outcomes by the government entity. It’s the first automated solution that handles government records requests from start to finish, including from the FOIA, Privacy Act, and PRR.

 See how it works — request a demo today!


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