Solace Women’s Aid - Bringing strategic clarity and tech direction at a time of crisis

Discover how a long term digital roadmap built around strengthening IT structures offers a focused direction for the many women and children seeking solace

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Project features

  • Digital Strategy
  • Digital Maturity Framework
  • Managed Transformation
  • Agile Team Development

Retna Thevarajah

Chief Operations Officer

Firm digital foundations have been laid for our future, with the right infrastructure in place to support our ambitions and the growing need for our services. Digital and data is now at the forefront of our minds as a charity, as we look to use data to understand and measure the impact of our work throughout our whole organisation.

The Brand Story

One of the U.K.'s largest charity organisations for women escaping domestic abuse

Solace Women’s Aid has supported women and children in London for more than 40 years to build safe and strong lives - and futures free from male abuse and violence.

Covering a large and densely populated geographic area, Solace’s support services - including crisis hotlines, refuge and counselling - are in high demand,

As more and more women and children are forced to flee crisis situations in London, the right technology would play a crucial role in providing Solace’s beneficiaries with essential free advice and support and help survivors achieve independent lives free from abuse

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The Challenge

Moving the infrastructure from manual to digital

When Solace approached Digital Wonderlab back in 2018, their ways of working and daily processes were very heavily manual, and the IT infrastructure and digital capability was well behind where it needed to be in order to support the ambitions of this much needed organisation.

Some of the biggest challenges included lack of integration and automation between systems, no single view of the “customer” with much information in many systems and spreadsheets accompanied by inefficient document management. Combine this with duplication of data, systems not being maintained resulting in workflows not operating efficiently and reporting being ineffective across the organisation with lack of secure access – it was time to work with the team to help build safer lives and strong futures through people centred technology to help Solace become a “digital first” organisation.

The starting point for Solace and Digital Wonderlab’s working relationship was to aid with crafting the charity’s long-term strategy, vision and direction: the fundamental building blocks for digital transformation and eventual maturity.

Addressing back-office infrastructure for the charity would be essential: growing at scale simply wouldn’t be possible without the right foundations firmly in place. The charity needed hands-on support with its procurement process to find a new IT provider that could offer a fully managed service to stand Solace in good stead for the future.


The Approach and Solution

Turning a vision into a strategic digital reality through the right technology

We embarked on a two-step change journey, looking first at Solace’s high-level processes and organisational challenges before building out a top-level strategic roadmap to define and make sense of the charity’s ambitions over a three-year period for the organisation and its executive and senior leadership team. This paved the way for a significant public fundraising platform to raise the necessary funds to help deliver on their digital goals.

The main strategic themes in our approach covered:

  • infrastructure - maximizing cloud services to anywhere access on any device securely and cost effectively in a scalable manner for the organisation
  • information security – allowing continued availability and control of information assets
  • Systems – the right process, right systems and the right information for effective information management and automated processing
  • Communication and collaboration – through a single “one stop shop” intranet and leveraging of apps for a more productive working environment
  • Insight and Intelligence – maximizing data and leveraging business intelligence to inform decision making and help measure impact
  • Digital Culture – nurturing the IT team both internally and externally to support and underpin the evolving needs through skills and capability building along the maturity curve.

Once the vision became clear, we set about understanding and aiming to meet the needs of the staff, residents and service users. This focused upon integrating and automating the technologies to improve the ways of working of the skilled and knowledgeable teams, which in turn would make a difference to the people who needed this the most – women and children.

All the ingredients were in the mix for a successful digital transformation process for Solace: the strategy was agreed, roadmap for delivery set, and there was internal recognition for the importance of strengthening the existing IT infrastructure and migrating to the cloud. Experienced IT services provider OryxAlign were appointed as Digital Wonderlab’s implementation partner.

With lockdown placing great pressure on the charity and the challenging conditions leading to a heightened need for its support services, we delivered the roll-out at pace. We accelerated the charity’s offline capabilities, putting a Windows 10 fully secure mobile environment in place, and helped Solace to make sense of new ways of working.

Throughout the uncertain lockdown months and Solace facing growing pressure to deliver its essential services rapidly and effectively, we kept our eyes firmly on the bottom line for a charity which had little funds to spare, finding solutions to help Solace to move steps ahead without vast investment.

With an intranet system successfully implemented to bolster internal communications, focus was placed on change management and harnessing the charity’s people as its greatest enabler to delivering its important work with a clearly defined structure.

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The Result

Digital Wonderlab helped Solace to pause, take stock and focus on its strategic objectives - with long-term goals always front of mind.

Our comprehensive digital audit identified both risk and governance priorities for Solace and focused on the charity’s bigger needs for the future, with our challenger mindset shifting Solace’s perspective from reactive to proactive.

Our focus on managed governance and change for Solace helped put the right structures in place at a time when they were most needed, with education provided around using tech with strategic intention. Working as an interim CTO, Nathan used guidance principles and relevant language to break down barriers to tech adoption internally, helping to manage valuable digital change and facilitate rapid development, always guiding and supporting along the journey - and acting as a trusted voice of reassurance during times of crisis.

Solace now finds itself in a future-focused position. The charity, which has grown by 30% since the first lockdown in response to the heightened need for its essential support services in the UK and greater Government funding, is now stepping forward with strategic intent and moving ever closer towards a digitally orientated proposition that always places its end users’ support needs first, fully harnessing digital to make a positive difference to the lives of even more beneficiaries.

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