On a lazy Wednesday afternoon, the FOIA world registered a significant seismic event. The FOIAOnline EOL was announced, citing cost of maintenance and support of the 20+ FOIA agencies that actively use the software solution.
The news barely made a blip on the twitterverse. However, this seismic shift will result with 22 agencies looking for a FOIAOnline alternative. The NexGen FOIA event in February 2022 saw representatives of the 22 FOIA agencies, and some promising FOIAOnline alternatives.
One software solution seems to have caught the eye of most participants. Its 5-minute presentation was welcomed with a raised eyebrow, emphasized with an affirmative nod. But more on that later on.
So what is FOIAOnline?
On October 1st 2012, the EPA launched FOIAOnline. Within a year, it served 1600 FOIA agency professionals. A year later, there were 4000+ FOIA agency users that have processed over 200.000 FOIA requests. By 2014, 11 agencies were using FOIAOnline. Today, 22 large FOIA agencies are using this software.
The large brand presence, the weight of EPA as an institution, and these 22 agencies already using this software, gave FOIAOnline a formidable market presence.
It was all great, until that lazy Wednesday afternoon. For some, FOIAOnline was a safe choice. For some, there might have been some lingering hope that an earlier EOL announcement wouldn’t really happen. All this has changed with this reminder-announcement.
These large agencies need a larger-than-life replacement for FOIAOnline. Now the race is on for them to find a suitable FOIAOnline alternative that will provide better functionality at the same, or preferably lower cost. The added value goes to a software solution that will have a proven track record of successful integration but also aggressive growth in functionality and adaptability to new computing trends. The one FOIAOnline alternative that got the most nods seems to cross all T-s and dot all I-s. But more on that later.
Why is FOIAOnline EOL the right decision for Government?
The NexGen FOIA conference in February 2022 left FOIA agencies helped agencies get a shortlist of viable replacements. This has cut research time significantly, and agency representatives had the chance to see these FOIA software alternatives in action.
EPA has stated that maintaining FOIAOnline is becoming too expensive. However, the market is already prepared with several solutions that have had a cloud-first approach.
The benefit for government agencies is that switching from FOIAOnline to a newer solution is a good example of modernization.
The proposed solutions on the conference were cloud-ready. Some had the capability of a hybrid deployment. Most offered backwards compatibility so government agencies wouldn’t have to spend too much on this modernization process.
Whatever the choice, these modern FOIA software solutions will help agencies achieve more with fewer resources. Cloud-based solutions will enable employees to respond to FOIA requests from anywhere. Secure login mechanisms will help in ensuring security while providing accessibility. The codebase of all these solutions follow the strict FedRAMP requirements, ensuring greater resilience to cyber attacks.
FOIAOnline options and key considerations
FOIAOnline will leave some big shoes to fill. Clearly, the established players like FOIAXpress will be on top of the lists for many agencies. However, a time of change is a good time to step up the game, and think outside of the proverbial box.
There are established players, yes. However, seniority does not warrant a better set of features at a more affordable price. When it comes to adopting new technologies, FOIA agencies will do good to empower decision makers to explore newer offerings from disruptive companies.
Such companies will have what to prove on the market, and astute decision makers can find excellent FOIAOnline alternatives at a better pricepoint.
These companies are eager to challenge the status-quo with their own approach and vision of the future of FOIA requests processing. FOIA agencies are spoiled for choice. One quick search on reputable software evaluators like Gartner or G2 can get you dozens of brand names that are recognized as reliable, established solution providers.
To save you some searches, here are some of the names we regularly see as solution integrators:
This is clearly not an exhaustive list. The point is to help you see, as a decision maker in the FOIA software replacement for FOIAOnline, that you have plenty of choices.
Which is the best solution, you may ask. Well, that’s unfortunately not a clear-cut answer. “It depends” would be the only universal answer.
What we have seen is that most FOIA agencies usually deal with a similar set of requirements:
- Low initial cost of setup in a form of no expensive software contracts, no need of extra hardware procurement
- Low cost of ownership, especially with unscheduled software interventions
- FedRAMP compliance, or at least FedRAMP-ready
- Flexible architecture (on-premise, cloud, hybrid)
- Safe access from any place and any device
- Easy to use for staff that has been accustomed to another solution
- Use of AI and ML to automate repetitive tasks
- Seamless integration with eDiscovery technology
- Automated redaction of PII with corresponding supportive legislation
- Low-code or no-code form and process editor
Again, this is not an exhaustive list. But it is a list of items that decision makers regularly bring up. On a features-level, these are the topics that most often pop up in conversations with other FOIA agencies we’ve helped over the years.
The technology conversation is also more or less standard, but we’ll cover those details in another blog post.
The cost of time in choosing a FOIA Online replacement
May you live in interesting times. It’s an old saying that is used as a polite insult. We surely do live in interesting times, and spillovers happen from all sides.
At the dawn of the COVID pandemic, most IT spending slowed down. But that has gone and is replaced with a rush in IT spending.
Gartner reports that we can expect a healthy 9.8% spending in Software in 2022, compared to only 1.9% growth in hardware. While some spending was postponed in the first quarter mostly because of the Ukraine situation, Gartner reports that there will be a significant bump in spending in the months that follow.
The same report hints at the growing cost of anything-IT because of the growing wages in the sector. Suffice is to say that FOIA agencies that act fast will probably close better deals, and get better service from solution providers.
Agencies that plan on going through most of the FOIA software offerings on the market will spend months in internal reviews, demos, shortlists and so on.
This might be a wise strategy a year ago. In 2022, the software services market is strong, and prices are climbing. Quick thinking could save agencies significant funds.
On the February conference, agency representatives heard a confirmation that it would be best to find a new FOIA solution by June 2022.
This means that agencies don’t have the time to go through all the offerings, consider all technical implications and factor-in all financial costs of migrating to any one of the offerings.
How you can skip the confusion and get the perfect FOIAOnline replacement
While all this may sound a bit too scary, FOIA agencies have an excellent support structure provided by private companies that offer software integration services.
ArkCase has invested the past several years in developing a FOIA solution based on the experiences of several solution integration partners like Armedia.
Using this field knowledge, we’ve built a FOIA solution that meets and exceeds the needs of FOIA agencies. With such a future-proof software, agencies don’t need to worry about transitioning from FOIAOnline. We mentioned the FOIA conference back in February 2022. We’ve heard excellent feedback from participants in this conference, saying they were impressed with the ease of use and the excellent set of features the software brings out of the box.
If you want to get more details on how ArkCase FOIA can meet your FOIA processing needs, please feel free to Contact Us.