Lesson 1: Getting Started with NextRequest

Welcome! Whether you are new to NextRequest or are an existing user simply wanting a refresher, this 6-part Self-Serve Onboarding will guide you through configuring your portal and learning its functionality.

Lesson 1 is broken into two sections to guide you through the first steps of setting up your portal:

  1. Configure Your Portal
  2. Map Your Process to NextRequest

1. Configure Your Portal

Configuring your portal allows you to upload your agency's logo & background image and update the text to help public requesters navigate submitting a records request. 

To access these configuration options:

  1. Click the ADMIN dropdown (top right) > Portal Settings
  2. Look for the following selections on the left-hand side:

    Basic Information

    Steps for setting Basic Information:

    1. Go to ADMIN > Portal Settings
    2. Select 'Basic Information' (under Organization Details) from the list on the left
    3. Enter the following information:
      • Your Organization's Name - this will show up in the top left corner of your portal right under where it says "Public Records Requests". It will also be included in the subject of notifications to both requesters and other staff.
      • Time Zone - this should be the time zone where your agency is located
      • Portal Point of Contact - the user selected will be automatically assigned to each new request that comes in (this may be overridden if a request is assigned to a department with a Department Point of Contact. The Portal Point of Contact should be somebody who can take responsibility for assigning requests to the appropriate Departments and staff, or even respond to requests themselves.
    4. Click the SAVE button at the bottom of the screen

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    Logo and background image (on the Front Page)

    Your organization's logo and your choice of background image will be displayed on your NextRequest site's landing page. For the logo, we recommend using a high resolution image that is 150x150 pixels with a transparent background. The background image should be one that represents your community, such as the local skyline. We recommend using high resolution image of 1200x600 pixels.

    Screen_Shot_2018-06-14_at_5.31.07_PM.png

    Steps for choosing a logo and background image:

    1. Go to ADMIN > Portal Settings
    2. Click 'Logo and background image' on the left side panel
    3. Click the Choose File button under either 'Your organization's logo' or "Front page background image'
    4. Select an image from your computer
    5. Click SAVE.

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    Front Page Text

    The text on the front page of your portal is a great place to put information that you would like requesters and members of the public to see before taking any action. Content to consider adding includes: 

    • Directing the user to first check the Documents Index and Request Index to see if the information they’re looking for is already available,
    • The date on which requests and responsive documents started to be posted on the portal,
    • Agency procedures for processing requests (or a link to where the procedures can be viewed)
    • The cost to the requester of fulfilling the request

    Screen_Shot_2018-06-14_at_5.31.07_PM.png

     

    How to add front page text:

    1. Go to ADMIN > Portal Settings
    2. Click "Front page text" on the left side panel
    3. Enter your preferred header text (up to 40 characters). The header will appear larger and in bold above the rest of the front page text.
    4. Enter your preferred “Text for front page” (short paragraph explaining the purpose of the portal - up to 750 characters).
    5. Edit your text with formatting options above the text box (optional).
    6. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click SAVE

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    New Request Form

    The text on the right-hand side of the Make Request page can be customized to provide guidance to your requesters about the most effective way to make a request. Content to consider adding includes:

    • Directing the user to first check the Documents Index and Request Index to see if the information they’re looking for is already available
    • Links to popular documents
    • Links to the correct place for commonly misdirected requests
    • Circumstances under which documents are not made public
    • Information that the requester should include for the request to be processed most efficiently
    • Information that will be redacted from requests (social security numbers, dates of birth, etc)
    • Whether the requester’s name will be displayed publicly
    • The cost to the requester of fulfilling the request

    Steps for changing the text on the make request page

    1. Go to ADMIN > Portal Settings
    2. Under "New request form," click "General configurations" on the left side panel
    3. Enter preferred text under “Text for the request form sidebar” (a few sentences with helpful tips - up to 750 characters).
    4. Edit your text with formatting options above the text box (optional).
    5. Click SAVE
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    Due Dates

    You can set a default Due Date for all requests that are submitted to the system. This will help ensure that no requests are forgotten and your agency stays in compliance with State laws. The system will track which requests are past their due date or approaching their due date and send out reminders to assigned staff. If your State has a mandated deadline for the initial response to a request, that deadline should be set as the Due Date. If there is no State mandated deadline, then you should set the response time that you would like your agency to meet.

    Steps for setting request due dates and due soon reminders:

    1. Go to ADMIN > Portal Settings
    2. Select Due dates (under Policies) from the list on the left
    3. Select the calculation type that applies to your organization:
      • Calendar days: this will count every day (weekdays, weekends, and holidays) towards the due date
      • Modified calendar days: this will count every day towards the due date except if the request's due date falls on a weekend or holiday, it will automatically be shifted to the next business day
      • Business days: this will only count weekdays towards the due date, not weekends or U.S. federal holidays
    4. In the field titled 'How many days until due?', enter the number of days that staff have to respond to a request
    5. In the field titled 'How many days before due date do you want to send a reminder?', enter the number of days before the time limit that staff should be reminded that the request is due (both by indicating in the application and sending reminder emails). We recommend reminding 3 days before if the automatic due date is 10 days, and 2 days before if the automatic due date is 5 days
    6. Click the SAVE button

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    Map Your Process to NextRequest

    Which process category is the best fit for my organization?

    If you have a single-user (free tier) portal, you can skip this guide as it only applies to portals with more than one user.

    NextRequest supports a wide range of processes for responding to public records requests, from agencies that want a city clerk to manage everything, to others where departments all handle their own requests with no central coordination. Identifying where in this range your agency falls will help you set up your portal to most efficiently respond to records requests.

    Most agencies using NextRequest have public records processes that fall into one of three broad categories:

    1. Fully centralized
    2. Partially centralized
    3. Fully decentralized

    Read on for a guide to which category is the best fit for your organization. Don’t worry if nothing is an exact match - you can pick the one that is closest and then tweak it as you go along. In particular if most departments will follow one process but there are a couple exceptions, pick the category that fits the majority of departments. Once you know your category, keep an eye out for the configuration recommendations that are specific to that category. They are included in the relevant set-up guides as well as listed in the corresponding section below.

    A) Fully Centralized

    This setup will be a good fit for your agency if:

    • All requests are routed through a central coordinator (individual or department)
    • This central coordinator has primary responsibility for communicating with the requester and releasing documents
    • Other departments and staff assist with locating documents but are not permitted to release them or communicate with requesters


    If your agency is fully centralized the lifecycle of a typical request will look like this:

    1. A member of the public submits a request
    2. The request is auto-assigned to central coordinator
    3. Central coordinator adds a department and/or individuals to the request as support staff
    4. Central Coordinator coordinates with requester as needed
    5. Support staff uploads responsive records
    6. Central Coordinator reviews and releases responsive records, then closes request


     

    If your agency is fully centralized you’ll want to do the following when configuring your portal:

    Portal Configuration:

    • Under Policies > Requester Form, leave the checkbox ‘Allow requester to assign a department’ unchecked Screen Shot 2021-09-21 at 10.13.34 PM
    • Under Organization Information > Basic Information, make sure the central coordinator for requests is listed as the Point of Contact. They will need to have the ‘Admin’ user role to be listed in the drop-down


    User Setup

    • All users besides the central coordinator(s) should be given the ‘Staff’ user role. 


    Department Setup

    • The Point of Contact field should be left empty for all departments
    • The records coordinator for each department should be added as Department Staff, with ‘Auto-Assigned as Support’ toggled on
    • All other users for each department should be added as Department Staff. Only toggle on ‘Auto-Assigned as Support’ for each user if that user should be notified about all new requests for their department

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    B) Partially Centralized

    This setup will be a good fit for your agency if:

    • Most requests are routed through a central coordinator (individual or department)
    • This central coordinator hands off the request to a department to fulfill
    • When a request is submitted directly to a department, that department does not hand off the request to a central coordinator
    • Departments have primary responsibility for communicating with the requester and releasing documents. The coordinator may choose to receive updates on the request but is no longer responsible for it. 



    If your agency is partially centralized the lifecycle of a typical request will look like this:

    1. A member of the public submits the request
    2. The request is auto-assigned to central coordinator
    3. Central Coordinator assigns the request to a department, handing off responsibility to the Department Point of Contact
    4. Department Point of Contact coordinates with requester/department staff if needed
    5. Department staff upload responsive records
    6. Department Point of Contact reviews and releases responsive records, then closes request

      Departments may also enter and assign requests that come to them directly, bypassing the central coordinator and replacing steps 1-3.


    If your agency is partially centralized you’ll want to do the following when configuring your portal:

    Portal Configuration

    • Under Policies > Requester Form, leave the checkbox ‘Allow requester to assign a department’ unchecked if you want all requests to go through the central coordinator. If you want the requester to be able to select a department for a request, check the box. Departments will be able to enter and assign requests to themselves regardless of whether the box is checked.
    • Under Organization Information > Basic Information, make sure the central coordinator for requests is listed as the Point of Contact. They will need to have the ‘Admin’ user role to be listed in the drop-down
    • Under Policies > Request publishing/visibility, select the ‘Department’ option for Default Request Visibility (assumes you only want staff to see their own departments’ requests)


    User Setup:

    • The records coordinator for each department should be given the ‘Publisher’ user role
    • All other users in each department can be given either the ‘Publisher’ or ‘Staff’ user role depending on their level of responsibility


    Department Setup:

    • The records coordinator for each department should be set as the department’s Point of Contact
    • All other users for each department should be added as Department Staff. Only toggle on ‘Auto-Assigned as Support’ for each user if that user should be notified about all new requests for their department


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    C) Fully Decentralized

    This setup will be a good fit for your agency if:

    • You don’t have a central coordinator to route requests.
    • Requesters should submit requests directly to the department that they think is most appropriate
    • Each department fulfills their own requests and releases them
    • There may be a portal administrator who monitors and assists with requests but only as needed


    If your agency is decentralized the lifecycle of a typical request will look like this:

    1. A member of the public submits a request directly to a department
    2. The request is automatically assigned to the Point of Contact for that department
    3. Department Point of Contact coordinates with requester/department staff if needed
    4. Department staff upload responsive records
    5. Department Point of Contact reviews and releases responsive records, then closes request


    If your agency is decentralized you’ll want to do the following when configuring your portal:

    Portal Configuration

    • Under Policies > Requester Form, check the box ‘Allow requester to assign a department’, then check the box ‘Require requester to assign a department’  Screen Shot 2021-09-21 at 10.15.52 PM
    • Under Policies > Request publishing/visibility, select the ‘Department’ option for Default Request Visibility (assumes you only want staff to see their own departments’ requests)


    User Setup

    • The records coordinator for each department should be given the ‘Publisher’ user role
    • All other users in each department can be given either the ‘Publisher’ or ‘Staff’ user role depending on their level of responsibility


    Department Setup

    • The records coordinator for each department should be set as the department’s Point of Contact
    • All other users for each department should be added as Department Staff. Only toggle on ‘Auto-Assigned as Support’ for each user if that user should be notified about all new requests for their department


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