Severn Trent Water uses Social Squared to implement Communities of Practice

Severn Trent Water is based in the Midlands, England and is one of ten regional water and waste authorities in Britain. It’s responsible for water supply management, and wastewater treatment and disposal.

The organization had developed a “Communities of Practice” (CoP) model for cross-functional engagement among employees with various areas of interest. However, they were finding that their existing discussion forum software was not meeting their growing needs. They were looking for integration with SharePoint, allowing users to reply to posts via email, and gamification (badges, likes, and ratings). The existing system was a “closed box”, not permitting access to the content in other ways.

In 2014 the team researched other forum options and after a successful trial and proof of concept period they purchased Lightning Tools’ Social Squared discussion forum solution for SharePoint 2010 (at that time). For their “Seek and Share” project they built a “room” template within SharePoint and added a Social Squared forum within each CoP room.

Jonathan Lucas is a SharePoint Analyst at Severn Trent Water and has been involved with implementing Social Squared since 2014. About the gamification features, he says:


We came up with our own badge hierarchy…. I think we probably went over and above what we thought we could do with the tool. People seem to like getting points!

Jonathan shared some examples of their custom badges, which are awarded based on not only a person’s interaction with the forum, but also on their position within that community.


Also, because Social Squared content is stored in a SQL database, the CoP team is able to access the content beyond the of the out-of-the-box Social Squared interface to create custom dashboards.


On each CoP forum page, Severn Trent has made use of Social Squared’s multiple web parts which work together to present the content: the main forum web part, a tag cloud web part, and an active users web part. And because this is a standard SharePoint page, it can include other standard web parts, such as images, related document library views, and so on.

According to Adam Palfreyman, Standards Content Specialist, the project began with about 8 or 10 CoP’s and they are up to about 50 now, so they are very pleased with the level of engagement in the forums. Currently around 6000 staff members use the CoP’s, plus another couple thousand supply chain members.

In addition, Severn Trent also uses the Lightning Conductor content aggregation web part to surface relevant list content from the Communities of Practice. They have been happy with the level of service they receive from Lightning Tools throughout the years and updating SharePoint versions, and they plan to maintain the relationship as they move to SharePoint Online in the near future.


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