A Generic Common/Core Data Template – In Trello!

Generic Common/Core Data Template in Trello
Generic Common/Core Data Template in Trello

You know how sometimes you get a brainwave so clever you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel? [Apologies to Blackadder!]

After this piece on Taming Common/Core Data – in 3 simple steps with Artefact Cards, I wanted to make the concept even more grounded by taking away some of the abstraction that tends to come with the territory. A conversation with a colleague later and I’d developed an ideal visual prototype using Trello to organise core data.

The concept is similar to the Artefact cards except:  the board stands in for the box, the lists stand in for the packets and the cards stand in for … the cards. And if you’re wondering what on earth this is all about, go read the piece above.

The Generic Common/Core Data Template is my attempt to wrangle the typical data an organisation captures or uses that is essential for survival: informaiton it must have to operate, comply with regulation or legislation, and report on its activities that is used throughout the organisation.

How do you use it? Copy the board and see what works for your organisation. Remember to ask of each field you consider:

  • What is it for?
  • Is it essential – why?
  • Is it used everywhere in the organisation?

Taming Common/Core Data – in 3 simple steps with Artefact Cards

How do you go about wrestling all the complexity of data in a sprawling organisation with multiple systems and an array of stakeholders into some semblance of order?

If you’ve ever attempted wrangling your organisation’s information ecosystem into some semblance of clarity, you’re painfully familiar with how close it is to herding cats. That’s why in March, when my colleagues and I at Open Data Services were asked to help with a core data initiative, I dug out my trusty desktop Artefact cards set.

Here’s 3 simple steps to help you organise your common core of data, without throwing the towel in and becoming a hermit somewhere in the outer Hebrides (I’ve been tempted!)

Step 1 – Nail down what you mean by common / core:

The clue is in the name – data that is used universally by your organisation and without which you’d be shut down, slow down or left in the dark. Behold the common/core box! Anything in it is common/core, anything that isn’t , isn’t.


What's in the box?  The common/core!
What’s in the box? The common/core!


Q: Does this mean this is the most important data?

A: No, just the important data that’s global. You’ll probably have other data that isn’t global but is just as important. That’s OK, it just needs its own box. Not this box.

Step 2 – List the types of information you need to survive:

Think of those as containers for the fields or bits of information  you want to put in the box. Too abstract? Let’s take an example. Say you’re making a shopping list for your supermarket-hating partner and you want to make sure they can get everything on the list without freaking out when confronted with  unfamiliar territory. Also, you want them to focus and not come home with just chocolate. So your list includes the categories the supermarket hangs from signs above every aisle: meat, dairy, laundry, bakery, fruit & vegetables – that kind of thing.

The aisles in the supermarket

The cards in the box

The categories in your common/core data

Don’t prop up your common/core categories!


Q: How do I work out the categories?

A: Think about the people, places, things, events and othe stuff you need to know about, report on or collect for compliance  in your organisation. A good place to start is your collection artefacts- the forms, websites, and other ways your organisation asks for information from customers, stakeholders and third parties. Also check the reports your produce and who for.  At the back of your mind, keep asking “why do we need this?”

Step 3 – Herd your fields into a category:

So you’ve got your common/core box nailed down, you’ve worked out your categories and put them in the box, now, the fun part begins, herding your fields.


Cards in categories in common/core data
Pick a card, any card!


Your fields are the smallest or most granular bits of information you need to survive. They live in a single category inside your common/core box. This is where resisting the temptation to list absolutely everything is needed. For each category, ask:

  • What information or fields do we absolutely need and why?
  • Is that information or field used everywhere in the organisation or just by a few teams or departments?
  • Where do we first collect it?
  • How does it help us operate, comply, report?

If a field passes your smell test, congratulations, it’s core. If not, not to worry, it can go in another box.

Q: How do I avoid getting completely overwhelmed when looking at fields?

A: Always keep your context in mind – why are you doing this? To improve the customer journey? To streamline your systems? Let’s say it was to provide better service by improving your customer journey. Use a high-level map of your customer journey to guide the process. Streamlining your sales pipeline, same thing. For each stage in the journey or pipeline, as – what categories and fields are needed here and why?

So, 3 simple steps to help you organise your common/core data. It’s still not easy and there is a whole passel of people wrangling involved, so make sure you include them at every step and good luck!

Header image: Mailboxes by Rae Allen is licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license

Are you there Mabel? Tech & The Art of Aging

There’s this thing about tech, you need to keep up…

When I was a much younger data whisperer, I worked for an e-tailer, so most of my pay packet went into buying the latest gadgets. I was up for bashing Twitter till I figured out what it was for and I jumped feet first into the whole smartphone shenanigans with enthusiasm and bucket loads of curiousity.

Lately, as I approach my 40th year, despite spending over half my lifetime in Tech, I’m feeling a sense of comfort with the staus quo. Nope, I don’t snapchat, I hardly instagram and I’ve never, ever swiped for a date.

"i saw you on tinder" Trastevere 2014 by Denis Bocquet
“i saw you on tinder” Trastevere 2014 by Denis Bocquet https://flic.kr/p/oB7QsR is licensed under an Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

It used to be that as defacto tech support for the OAPs in my life, I struggled for patience. I barely restrained the eye rolls at timidity  when it came to tech. I never really knew how to explain the love, concern, fear and hope I have for Tech and its myriad of products. I’m still a little irritated when old dears say “Oh you must be so clever to do that”. Not that I’m not clever, I don’t think you necessarily need to be clever to have digital skills. What I think you need are a healthy dose of curiousity, a dash of tenacity and a smidge of devil-may-care for making mistakes.

Dexter's Lab © Genndy Tartakovsky / Cartoon Network
Dexter’s Lab © Genndy Tartakovsky / Cartoon Network

It occurrred to me that I just wasn’t speaking their language. I knew deep down I didn’t understand how some older folks saw newer tech. It took one incident to really drive that home.

On a cold, autumn evening in 2014, Arriva Yorkshire’s announced bus timetable change landed. Not world ending you might think but the OAPs on my street were up in arms: Confusion abounded! Even the bus drivers were getting the new route wrong! All was not lost, the brave ladies who shared my route took matters into their own hands – they set up a social media page.

From my spot at the back of the bus, I listened in amusement as I learnt something new.

Firstly, they didn’t talk about tech like I do. Sure, this may be a geographical or life experience thing but what struck me was the conversation was like all their conversation (what can I say, bus journeys can be boring!). It went a little like this:

“So, what you do is, you go onto this website and put your details in. Then you say, ‘Are you there Mabel?’ and if she is, she’ll say hello.”

No “log in”, no “type”, heck, barely any tech terms.


Jargon via itnews.com.au
Jargon via itnews.com.au

As if to drive the point home, a few months later I was on a train (this happens more than you’d think). Someone had barely missed being hit on a track and delays were inevitable. The silver-haired lady next to me tried and failed to send a text, so she called instead. Getting an answerphone messsage, she said:

“I’ve sent you an electronic message”

No “text”, not even a “message” but a very preceise “electronic message”.

This made my day. My point here isn’t that their terms are right or wrong, simply that they are. Could my newfound understanding of the language barrier help the OAPs in my life ignite, well, not a passion but perhaps less of an aversion to all things digital?

So what if I started this quest from a self-centered point of view? My own sense of loss of being at the cutting edge of tech was the trigger, but Mabel and her friends planted a seed of curiousity that blossomed into conversation and a renewed passion for “Tech for everyone”.

In April, I began my project “Are you there Mabel?”. Every month or so, I’ll be talkng to OAPs about tech, how they feel about it and what it was like in the analogue day. The intention isn’t to convert them to tech fiends but to tell the story of new tech with old words, to connect the dots between their experience in which they’re comfortable and the alien Tech world they may feel excluded from.

Aged by Ronnie
Aged by Ronnie https://flic.kr/p/pWrrQh is licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Tech is for everyone and we can learn so much from people who’ve lived through things you only ever read about. People who have a deep life experience to share with us only we reach out and include them.

header image: Aged by Ronnie