Client of the Month – Whitechapel

Behind the Scenes at Whitechapel: Navigating Growth, Tech Challenges, and Making a Difference.

We work with Whitechapel supporting their IT infrastructure as the much needed charity continues to grow. Dianne Sorensen was kind enough to find the time in her busy schedule to talk to us about the Whitechapel and her role in the organisation.

Can you give a brief description of your role at Whitechapel and how long you’ve been with the organisation?

I am the Administration Manager, but my role involves oversight of a whole range of company functions including IT, finance, facilities management, Health and Safety, Switchboard, telecoms and admin.  I have a small team of 4 and have been with The Whitechapel Centre for 18 years.

What inspired you to work with an organisation that focuses on alleviating homelessness?

My move to Whitechapel was more by chance than by design, but it’s the team I work with and the ethos of the organisation that has kept me here for so long.  We genuinely strive to make a difference to people’s lives. The team I work with every day are a true inspiration and provide support to over 4000 individuals and families every year.

Can you share a project or initiative at Whitechapel that you’re particularly proud of?

I couldn’t possibly choose!  I will say that I am proud of all our staff for their response to the Covid crisis – in bringing people indoors and ensuring they were able to stay safe, in continuing to visit and support people throughout the lockdowns and the slow return to normality and continuing in their efforts to move people into more permanent accommodation.  We were one of the only homelessness agencies to keep our services running in this way.  For our team, the challenge was to quickly enable staff who had formerly been office based, to have the kit and systems needed to work remotely, whilst continuing to safeguard the integrity and security of our data.

Whitechapel has grown from 2 centres to 10. How have you managed this rapid expansion, and what challenges did you face?

Over the last 18 years we have grown from operating out of 2 sites and supporting fewer than 100 devices (phones , mobile and computers) to supporting over 500 devices plus 4 internet café’s for our clients.   We now have staff operating out of over 15 locations including remote offices in Halton, St Helens, Knowsley and the Wirral, from Liverpool and Aintree University Hospitals and a range of other drop-in centres across the region as well as in hostels, in people’s homes and out on the streets.   The complexity of our IT systems has risen exponentially.  In order to meet this challenge, I have learned the importance of building in flexibility by design.  Working in the 3rd sector means we have to be agile and respond to new challenges as and when they arrive. Sometimes this means putting workarounds in place until more elegant solutions can be found.  MICT have provided some invaluable assistance in this regard, helping us design and deliver effective solutions that continue to meet the expectations of our commissioners, our staff and the people who rely on our services.

How has partnering with MICT supported Whitechapel’s mission and growth?

Our partnership with MICT enables me to fulfil my responsibilities to provide safe, secure and efficient IT in The Whitechapel Centre. They are our sounding board, our advisors, our support service and our security net.  Working together closely has enabled us to come up with practical and cost-effective solutions to every challenge we face.  A valuable part of MICT’s support is always keeping an eye on the future, giving us advice and constantly steering us, to make sure what we set in place, can not only deliver what we need now, but will continue to deliver into the future.

MICT are an integral part of our team.

Can you give an example of how IT support from MICT has directly impacted your work or the work of Whitechapel?

Yes!  I can now go on leave with a clear conscience, knowing that MICT will have my back and will support the organisation and my team during my absence.

MICT have also recently been integral in being able to bring 2 new hostels online with very short notice, just before Christmas.  A temporary set up was literally created out of nowhere, as if by magic, so the 2 projects could go live while all the official installation took place.

Do you have any advice for other organisations undergoing rapid expansion and dealing with the IT challenges that come with it?

Share the pain! And don’t be afraid to ask for advice and help.

What is the most rewarding part of your work at Whitechapel?

Making a difference! Knowing I contribute to The Whitechapel Centres work, I take a lot of pride in that my systems enable the company to do what it does, and to help it move forward and continue to be a leading Charity.

Our thanks again to Dianne for taking the time to chat with us, everyone at MiCT wishes you and the Whitechapel continued success in the future.

Picture: Left to right: Dianne Sorensen, Sandy Clarke, Julie Riley, Heather Lawton and Meg the dog

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