Wessex Water has over 2.8 million customers across the southwest of England and a turnover in 2021 of over £500m. Its workforce of 2,500 is spread across the localities it serves, in offices and in the field.
One of Wessex Water’s core values is Clear communication to and between staff, resulting in a well-informed workforce. The organization has always had an intranet, but it was a platform that existed mainly to distribute policies and manuals. With a drive for a more diverse workplace, and a younger, digital-native cohort in areas such as call centres and apprentice programmes, the intranet, known as Source, had to evolve its style, relevance and inclusivity.
Until 2016 the intranet was running on a Content Management System (CMS) that was viewed as inflexible and complicated to manage and consume. Consulting company Clearbox, after an extensive review, recommended a LiveTiles-driven solution.
In 2016 Tom Chippendale, the Digital Channels Manager at Wessex Water, engaged Clearbox Consulting, an independent consultancy, to advise on the organization’s intranet and wider digital workplace strategy. Clearbox, together with the in-house digital production team at Wessex Water, conducted a broad survey at all levels of the organisation to find out what was valuable in the existing service, and what would be useful additional features.
The results of the research showed that the CMS-based intranet was a static resource that did not offer a strong search functionality, making it difficult to surface information. Nor did it improve collaboration or knowledge sharing and crucially, it wasn’t designed to drive mobile usage, essential for frontline employees.
While there was clearly an urgent need to improve and personalise the content to make it relevant and compelling, the technology decision was whether to leverage Microsoft’s SharePoint and have an ‘Intranet in a Box’ around it or deploy a separate standalone product. Out of this work, Tom and Clearbox decided on a solution that was tightly integrated with SharePoint and would track Microsoft’s roadmap for Office365. After a competitive search of such offerings, the team decided on LiveTiles Intranet.
“One of the things we started doing was improving the storytelling around the activities of the 2,500 people who work at Wessex Water. From long service awards to exceptional customer service, to health and wellbeing, local office stories and communities,” says Tom. “This supplemented the corporate news and helped increase the visibility of the information employees needed to know, while putting a face to people and work done beyond the headquarters. Employees can inform themselves and can also interact with each other.”
Current stories that exemplify the impact of Wessex Water include staff joining in the Great British Beach Clean, improvements at a company WRC (water recycling centre), and an invitation to participate in a Skillshare programme.
LiveTiles Intranet aggregates content from Office 365 and other cloud services and serves it up seamlessly. Groups of staff with shared interests manage these various channels within the Intranet, and by and large have sole responsibility for content published as well as its distribution criteria.
In total there are approximately 80 publishers on the site, and around 40 sections to populate. All main company departments have their own section, and other sections include “Ask Colin” (Q&A with CEO), a Buy & Sell corner, and an applications directory. During the lockdown, the intranet served as the principal source for information, updates and direction of travel for Wessex Water’s staff, as all the publishers continued to keep the site updated from their remote locations.
“Earlier this year we started preparations to migrate our intranet from SharePoint Classic to Modern,” notes Tom. Taking on a major project like this, while fulfilling the strong demand for the information and connections Wessex Water’s employees have become used to, is quite a challenge. It’s as much a digital transformation exercise as a technical one, the in-house digital product team must bring along their 80 publishers and gradually introduce new features and capabilities to them.
Commenting on how LiveTiles’ tech solution is managing the transition to Modern SharePoint, Tom notes: “Because of the SharePoint Native architecture of the solution, we can mix and match Modern & Classic webparts on the intranet. This allows us to update like for like (Classic ->Modern) webparts depending on the business need or functionality required at the time.
Tom’s transition team is currently running two Intranets in tandem, a Classic one and a Modern one. As he says, “Once a section is ready to go live, we hide the old one and reveal the new one after some minor tweaks to the global menu.”
“LiveTiles has provided us with some really valuable tools for our Intranet,” Tom concludes. “The features on top of SharePoint helped meet requirements such as additional web parts, global navigation and more comprehensive content management. This future-proofs our investment in an intranet Wessex Water can be proud of.”
When we turn on the tap and cool, clean water comes out, we can ignore the complexities that got the water there. Similarly, the in-house digital production team is focused on getting the details right behind the scenes so that his 80 publishers and his internal audience of 2,500 employees get the modern, seamless and compelling employee experience they expect.