There was a time not too long ago when FOIA was done without the assistance of the modern technologies that currently drive many agencies and offices’ FOIA operations. With every new technology, a FOIA professional’s job may ultimately get easier or at least more efficient, but along with these new technologies comes a need for training and implementation. The modern FOIA professional not only needs an analytical skill set, but must also adapt to the new technical requirements of the job.
Modern FOIA professionals still require the skills they have always needed – expertise in FOIA laws and analytical abilities. These two skill sets are the basis of a strong FOIA analyst and are two of the most essential skills for effectively processing FOIAs. However, FOIA professionals are also required to have expertise in administrative work, be extremely organized, capable of effective communications, and able to multi-task. Although many of these skills are still required, modern FOIA technologies have alleviated the need for some of them. Case management systems simplify many administrative actions and enable FOIA professionals and analysts to focus more on the essential understanding of FOIA laws and analytical skills. The more a FOIA professional is able to focus on the actual analytical side of processing FOIA requests, the more quickly FOIAs can be processed and the more accurate responsive records will be in regards to relevancy and applied redactions.
FOIA technologies have vastly improved FOIA processing and the efficiency of FOIA operations, but have also required FOIA professionals to modernize their daily tasks. FOIA professionals are now required to be able to use various types of software and are expected to be able to use them with relative ease and little training. This transition has not been an easy one as many FOIA professionals have been in the profession since prior to the technologies they use; they have had to learn the technologies as they have been deployed.
However, the modernization of the FOIA professional has come with many benefits. FOIA professionals who are experts in the deployed FOIA technologies are capable of being more efficient as the technologies they utilize streamline the administrate FOIA processes. In tandem, the more expertise that is gained the better the system becomes. The ideal modern FOIA professional is one who is tech savvy and can focus much of their energy on the actual analytical work. These professionals will ultimately deliver more accurate responsive documents to requesters more quickly.
In the final post in this series on FOIA and Technologies, we will focus on the future of FOIA technologies and ultimately FOIA agencies and offices.