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September 14, 2020
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For this mornings blog I’m going to take a broader view of what is going on, look outside the monitors on my desk and give you an update of breathtaking vistas, of change and development and innovation. Time to talk about the projects that are going on behind the scenes and in particular the software that is going to make all our lives easier.

I’ve spoken a bit about our CRM project and perhaps left you wondering what all the fuss is about, why would Chrysalis, who exist to support trans, non-binary and questioning people and their families and friends with our groups, counselling and workshops, need to spend time and energy and money on software?

Back in the mists of time Chrysalis operated with bits of paper. You contacted Chrysalis and your details were recorded, that paper was then sent to your facilitator, your facilitator made contact with you and met up with you and more bits of paper were generated. The same questions were asked, the same information was recorded and now there were lots of bits of paper with all your information on it that needed to be secured. Your facilitator carried that paper back and forth to meetings and kept it under lock and key outside of meeting times. Chrysalis grew, but the paper remained the same, then in early 2017 changes started to happen.

Sheila Elsey was engaged as an external consultant following her incredible work with the Purple Community Fund to look at what Chrysalis needed to do to survive the retirement of our founder Dianne. Sheila met Kevan and the database was born. The database that has held all our information, enabled us to produce reports, win funding bids, know who is attending which group and how many volunteers we have. The amazing, all encompassing database. All hail the Database, the herald of a new dawn for Chrysalis as for the first time you could know with certainty where your information was.

 

The Database lived on a mysterious beast called the NASbox, a box of tech wizardry (well mainly memory) which sat between the printer and the fridge in the office. All hail the NAS, it was secure, it was reliable and it worked, but it couldn’t leave the office.

Then along came the new CEO, with a passion for technology, for continuous improvement and a vision of a national charity. We needed more, we needed better and we needed to be able to access it remotely.

Andi on a train
Progress and remote working captured in one image of yours truly

 

Chrysalis doesn’t live in an office, we are not a place that you can find, we are lots of groups across two counties, we are a collection of passionate volunteers supported by a small team of staff, we have busy lives, we don’t want to be fiddling about with paper and postage and filling out forms, we want to be out there giving it our all. Running groups, providing counselling, networking and connecting with new people, engaging funders and showing off how good we are. Chrysalis volunteers have a wide array of skills, of abilities and interests and administration comes more easily to some than to others.

Chrysalis was already remote working long before lockdown, we had long prepared for this moment with our introduction of Microsoft Office 365, with the move to our new office and the purchase of a Voice over IP (VOIP) phone system so you could contact us on 03448 468 545 and know we were committed to supporting you locally, but the Database could not be moved! It dug its metaphorical heals in and insisted that unless we were going to buy it some very expensive (un)real estate in cloud land it simply wasn’t interested in this next phase of our development.

Come the time, come the man and along came Ross London, Lead Developer and Database Analyst from the IET who offered to help us define, design and develop a Client Relationship Management System which would allow us to connect up with all Chrysalis’ stakeholders through the cloud and the CRM project was born. Ross identified CiviCRM as the best software for our needs, now and in the future as it can develop with us and following approval from the board and input from Sammy and An he found us Circle-Interactive  to be our developers and hosts. He and the office team worked hard on building a User Stories Trello board, nailing down all our processes, making sure we knew who should access particular bits of data and how we can enhance safety, security and privacy for everyone and late last month Ross, Dawn and I met Gareth from Circle and the process was well and truly under way.

Access to good, secure, data as and when we needed it and best of all the volunteers would only need to make a few clicks to update all the records of their groups. Begone foul paper forms, to the bin with you complicated Excel documents, no need for lots of chasing our tails to keep tracks on who does what, where. Want to volunteer for some things and not others? Fed up with emails from the office about things that don’t interest you? Want to be able to pay your subs online? Bewail no more! We have heard, even if you weren’t shouting that loudly, and we are responding.

Here’s to the future, and perhaps a time when I’ve created some templates for this blog and all the photos are the same size! Bear with me.

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