IM evolution at Unley has wider potential

Unley’s Information management team, from left, Sheeja, Katrina (team leader), Sam and Jocelyn.

In recent years, the increase in Freedom of Information (FOI) requests for councils shows no signs of reducing.

Managed by small teams, often with limited resources, FOI requests can pose challenges in tracking and meeting deadlines.

Katrina Windebank, Team Leader Information Management at the City of Unley, offers insight into the impact of Vendor Panel’s FOI Management System on her team’s processes.

Referring to past practice, Katrina candidly describes management of FOI requests as “quite painful”.

“State Records provided a FOIMS for over a decade, but the system was prone to crashes and was replaced with spreadsheets, which proved inadequate for the regulated, complex nature of FOI processes. Challenges intensified when dealing with larger FOI requests involving multiple stakeholders,” she said.

“There were more challenges with high staff turnover rates post-Covid. With limited training resources available, teams struggled with the intricacies of FOI legislation and procedures, relying on individuals with specialised knowledge. This strained our capacity and created considerable stress when navigating written instructions and convoluted spreadsheets.”

With urgent need for more effective FOI management, Katrina sought alternative solutions.

“Vendor Panel offered a tailored FOI platform aligned with South Australian legislative requirements. Its cost-effectiveness, useability and procurement solution made it an attractive proposition for a small council like Unley.

“Implementation presented other challenges, including accommodating SA legislation when consulting with third parties. Vendor Panel solved this with functions to streamline consultation and enhance user navigation.

“Since deployment, we’ve seen tangible benefits. The platform’s intuitive interface was adopted easily by the IM team, significantly reducing training needs.

“With multiple copyright inquiries processed quickly, the system demonstrated its efficiency handling diverse requests. Thorough tracking capability provided us real-time visibility in FOI processes, improving collaboration and accountability. A streamlined process generating letters and simpler reports also contributed to time savings and efficiency.

“With this success, Unley is exploring expanded system use to include police and legal discovery and insurance claims. The potential to integrate with Electronic Document and Records Management Systems (EDRMS) offers exciting prospects for greater operational synergy.

“Vendor Panel’s innovative FOI management system has resulted in greater compliance and stakeholder satisfaction for our council. As FOI requests grow, adopting a tailored solution like this has been a welcome breakthrough for navigating this regulatory landscape with confidence.”