A Tree Grows at Phius: Keeping Up with Expansion Digitally

SONY DSCIn this week’s blog post, Phius Associate Director Lisa White gives insight into the organization’s new centralized data management system and how it will impact Phius professionals.

I’m here to report on an update to the behind-the-curtain, inner-working organizational elements we’ve been working on at Phius. It will change the way professionals interact with Phius virtually, and greatly expand our capacity for data collection and cross-referencing.

But first, a little background. 

Since I started with Phius almost 10 years ago, we’ve grown significantly as an organization — continually evolving with new offerings to help execute our mission. Training programs have expanded, Alliance membership and benefits have grown, the building certification programs have advanced, and the product program has evolved — to name a few. With capacity and infrastructure limitations, program managers did the best they could with what they had to carry out and build their respective programs. And yes, this means many great Google Sheet coders were born of Phius staff (I’ll be the first to admit the satisfaction of successful G-sheet programming, and I’m sure some tech staff will miss it just a little). But ultimately these programs were all disconnected, because they grew organically. We recognized that we’d reached limitations and needed to make a leap in order to continue to grow sustainably.

A little over 2 years ago, we set out with a goal to streamline and optimize our workflows and internal processes. We began working with a consultant to perform what they called a “data inventory” of Phius. The review captured everything Phius offered — the who, what, why, where, when and how. 

The resulting product was essentially an exhaustive report on business operations: major processes, products produced, core customer profiles. We documented who was involved, which resources we used, required data inputs and outputs for the workflows, which data points triggered other processes, where those linked up with other systems, etc. And then of course we looked at the gaps. The sheer amount of opportunity to optimize our business excited me, but I knew we had a lot of work ahead of us. 

I like to think of that startup phase as a bunch of branches held together by tape to create the “Phius Tree.” And it worked for a while, as long as we kept adding tape and kept the branches light. But what we’re creating now is the tree trunk — the firmly rooted central connection piece for all of our data and workflows to feed the branches. This trunk is a Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM). I think of it as a Content Resource Manager, because we’re going to use it to organize more than just customers. We’ve built custom modules to manage data for building projects, building components and products, policies, continuing education units, etc. But of course, all of those are ultimately centered around the customer.

CRM GraphicOur CRM is the new central data hub and workflow engine for Phius. It’ll hold all the information about our constituents, the activities and events they’re involved in, professional certification statuses, continuing education reports, products and projects they certify, etc. It will also house workflow rules and blueprints — activating, automating, and communicating data as needed.

The CRM content will be displayed in Phius’ shiny new website databases for Professionals, Projects, Products, Events, and Policies. These databases are greatly improved from previous iterations because they’ll have more filters, search functions, and connectivity! Yes, this means a certified project is now connected to the certified products it uses, the Phius certified professionals involved, and the policies or incentives that helped make the project possible. Plus, we’re expanding the data that we collect based on what we’ve learned our constituents need over past years.

So what does this mean for you?

Probably the most notable impact on professionals will be the new customer portal for Project Submitters, Trainees, Certified Professionals and Phius Alliance members. 

This portal will be your “gateway” into the CRM. You will be able to: 

  • Access and edit your core profile information, including your professional database listing
  • Access Alliance members gated (Member-Only) content 
  • View past and upcoming Phius events that you are registered for
  • View expiration dates for Alliance membership and professional certifications
  • Log and track continuing education units (I am especially excited about this one)
  • Submit certified project data for the website database listing
  • Track your product certification jobs and product expiration dates
  • Renew memberships
  • Submit support tickets or questions to Phius staff/departments 

Additionally, all Phius Phriends (contacts in the system) will be assigned a 6-digit Phius ID. This will replace any and all other personal numbers assigned by Phius or the Alliance in the past, alleviating confusion moving forward. This also means a single login for all Phius-related activities! 

What I’m most excited about

From my perspective as Associate Director, I’m most excited about having a single source of truth for data — eliminating duplicate data entry and variables. Also, about the amount of knobs and automations we can set up in the system to improve both the experience for our constituents as well as the administrative load for Phius staff. It will be great to free up more time to focus on our mission — certify more buildings and products, enhance educational offerings, connect developers with passive building policies and incentives, educate the general public, etc. 

From my past role as Project Certification Manager, I’m most excited about the data — and the reports, statistics, and other findings we can pull from it. The certified project and product databases are going to be greatly enhanced, allowing us to track and sort data like never before. This adds significant value for customers, especially in the product program. And, now we feel better suited to answer questions such as “Is this the first certified project greater than 4 stories and over 62 units with ICF construction in the Midwest?” :)

While this may seem mundane, and you may be thinking “duh” from the outside, this is a significant step for Phius. This will allow us to continue to exponentially grow and alleviate some of our growing pains. As we get close to the finish line (planning to launch before the end of the year) I can reflect on the process and see a lot of similarities between optimizing building design and optimizing business processes. It’s still all about finding synergies.

What’s Next?

After the CRM and Portal launch in early December, all constituents will receive their new Phius ID. Alliance Members, Certified Professionals, Trainees and Project Submitters will receive login information for the Phius Portal. We’ll take this opportunity to ask everyone to review their profile and project information — sharpening it up before the new website launch in early 2022!

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