To many, archiving email is nothing new. However, an email archive can provide much more value to a school district beyond just the cost to comply with eDiscovery or your state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
An effective email archive will also help you make data-driven decisions and allow you to get the pulse of your staff on everything from important policy decisions to opinions on the location of the next holiday party.
For example, if you’re in a Common Core state, you can use your archive to better understand how educators inside your buildings are dealing with the initiative. Another, albeit simpler, example would be to get an idea of what people think about a new dress code policy or a similar rule just put in place.
You can also use an email archive to get trend data about areas of concern and interest to your staff. For instance, if a state exam is coming up, do a search for the specific exam title and see if people are talking about it, or even get early reactions to the results.
Archive queries can be set up once and then rerun relatively easy on a regular basis. If one week, you get 500 results and then, a week or two later, that number doubles or triples, there’s a good chance that something is going on and probably needs attention.
The idea that you can obtain this type of information from good recordkeeping and begin to make critical data-driven decisions is really one of the key goals to Generally Accepted Recordkeeping Principles (GARP). Email is one of your biggest repositories of both work product and work communication. To the extent that you can run searches and analyze the data about a particular topic, you’ll be able to stay on top of what’s going on and what’s of concern to your employees.
It goes without saying that union or employment contracts can limit most acceptable use policies, which should clearly state what you’re planning to do with district-owned email. Don’t go into such an initiative with any ill-conceived plans to uncover dirty little secrets. Instead, avoid any perceived invasions of privacy by simply doing searches around topics and how they trend.
Start turning your email archive that you might actually never use for its intended purpose, into a rich content management and proactive discovery tool that can benefit your entire district.