Work: Building a System With a Client List

Use Case: I work as a Customer Success Manager for a SaaS vendor. I oversee a portfolio of 120-140 clients, rotating annually, for whom I conduct annual account reviews, semi-annual check-ins, and ad-hoc meetings. I am also their primary escalation point for support issues.

Initially, I thought to create an area titled ‘Work’, where each company for whom I worked would occupy a category. Each responsibility occupies an ID (e.g., AC.01 Account Reviews, AC.02 Escalations, and so on).

Upon further consideration, I think my employer should occupy its own area, and each responsibility occupies a category. Each ID would be a specific instance of me performing that responsibility (e.g., AC.01 Account Review for Acme, Inc., AC.02 Account Review for Joe’s Widgets, etc.).


  1. Is it better for work to be an area, or for an individual employer to be an area?
  2. How do I build a system that accommodates more than 100 clients?
  3. How do I build a system that accommodates a rotating portfolio? (i.e., I will not necessarily have the same client from year-to-year.)


To me your work in this role is bigger than an area, in fact it could be a whole JD system in its own right. You didn’t say, but it sounds like you were planning to have your work as one area in a wider system, perhaps one incorporating your whole life. If so, I’d suggest having a home system for your personal stuff (to include your own employment / HR data) and a separate system for your work at this company. That way if you got a new job you could simply retire the previous system and start a new one.

For your work system, I’d consider something like this:

000-009 system
010-019 internal topics
020-099 other areas you need
100-999 external clients (one client per category)

You could set each client up in the same pattern:

xxx.01 contracts
xxx.02 people
xxx.03 meetings
xxx.04 invoices

That way for any given xxx.yy you will know what type of work that represents, even if you can’t recall the exact client.

This should give you 899 clients, should be enough for a while! If a client drops off then leave their ID in place in case they come back in the future.

I’d be interested to know what you decide.

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Originally, I intended to have area 10-19 as Life Management and 20-29 as “work”, for some scope of work. I’m not opposed to a separate system for work.

This is a really creative idea! Thank you for the suggestion. My understanding of JD was that we assign categories to activities (verbs), rather than to items (nouns). As an example, my initial system looks like this:

21 Account Reviews H1
21.01 Client A
21.02 Client B
22 Account Reviews H2
22.01 Client C
23 Escalations
23.01 Accounts Payable Issue w/Client B

I am the sole user of this system, though I share parts of it with my colleagues. It’s important that they can easily access what they need, but they are not JD users themselves.

My understanding is that you are free to choose whatever setup helps you to find what you are looking for most efficiently and accurately.

I am a doctor and so have 1,000s of clients / patients (with data in a clinical IT system, not under JD!). When dealing with an issue the first thing I think to do is look up the patient record containing all of that persons information. Alternatively, data could be organised by type of information first (medications, test results) and patient second, but this would keep data I need to cross-reference quickly about one patient siloed into separate areas. This is an extreme example of course.

I suggest it comes down to how you work. If you will spend time on a single client working on separate areas for that client then I would organise by client first. However, if you are going to spend all day doing a specific activity on multiple clients then organising by these types of work could make more sense, but I think this would be less helpful in the “Dave from 123 Corp has just called up and wants to discuss everything” situation.

I might just be an “organise by noun” person though, taking a look at some of my categories.