A data playbook

First steps

Dan Barrett
2 min readAug 12, 2022

For a while now I’ve been thinking about collecting the various things we’re learning on our data journey at Citizens Advice into one place. A ‘playbook’ of sorts.

I imagined it as being something I’d do at the end of this journey, whenever that might be. Like writing a memoir. This meant it felt like a big task for an unspecified time in the future. The kind of task that never gets done.

So I decided to just get started.

Here is our data playbook in progress. It’s an open Google Doc.

At the moment it’s mostly a skeleton. The intent is to fill it with material and links over time. I’m setting a target of at least one new item a month.

This isn’t the data playbook, it’s a data playbook. Just like our data strategy work in progress it’s rooted in our own context and the circumstances we find ourselves in. I know our experiences won’t be universally applicable elsewhere.

The categories and subcategories in the playbook are intended to cover the full range of data work. Here’s the top level list at the moment:

  • Strategy
  • Values
  • Culture
  • Capability
  • Operations
  • Practice
  • Measurement
  • Standards
  • Documentation
  • Governance and ownership
  • Case studies
  • Reading list

I expect we haven’t covered everything there, but it’s a good start.

There’s some material in there already. It’s been interesting putting the categories together, because it indicates areas where we need to do more work. It’s also made me reflect on how far we’ve come. I couldn’t have put this together even 12 months ago, let alone when I started in this role in late 2019.

There are also areas in the list where we’ve done a fair bit as a team for ourselves and for internal audiences already. We just need to get that material into the right shape for sharing on the internet. I think when we get something under at least half of the headings it will start to be valuable.

As a team we believe in working in the open as much as possible and we hope that this playbook will be of use to other people as it develops. It’s also useful to us, because it helps us hold ourselves to account and to track our own journey. The intent is to keep it informal, accessible, and humble. We don’t have all the answers but we want to share what we learn along the way.

From a personal point of view I know I can sometimes have some seemingly bright ideas that I don’t follow through on. On the other hand, I can sometimes achieve near-ridiculous feats of staying power. With the help of the team I’m confident this playbook can be in the latter category.

Thanks for reading. If you’ve got any thoughts or suggestions please get in touch.



Dan Barrett

Head of Data Science at Citizens Advice. These are my personal thoughts on work.