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How to Achieve a Single Source of Truth For Your Business Data

In a previous blog, we highlighted how the “golden record” was critical in managing your business data. In the treasure hunt for the most reliable and consistent data to make the best business decisions, your quest is for the Single Source of Truth (SSOT).

Curating reliable business data so that you can make the most informed decisions doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Your successful path to SSOT relies on the following precepts:

  • Your Single Source of Truth does not form organically; it must be intentional within the organization and tailored to your business goals.
  • Business rules must be established before a Single Source of Truth can be determined.
  • You need to ensure that everyone in an organization bases business decisions on the same data and business rules and definitions.

About this Post

In this post, we will review how to achieve a Single Source of Truth and address the following key questions:

1. What is a Single Source of Truth (SSOT)?
2. Why is a Single Source of Truth important?
3. How is single-source data collected?
4. How can you arrive at an agreement on SSOT that benefits everyone in the business?

How the Absence of a Single Source of Truth Can Cause Serious Problems

Is your business struggling with multiple versions of the same information from different verticals within the business?  For example, does marketing agree with finance? Does finance agree with production? Does production agree with logistics and shipping? Do all those players serve as a consistent source of information across your organization?

Conflicting information is a prevalent problem within organizations that cause severe consequences because the lack of agreement creates barriers to communication necessary for success. Those barriers result in a dysfunctional and unproductive business communication process. 

For example, logistics says shipments are down 7% this month. Production says no; shipments are up 3%. That's a 10% difference between those two departments. How do you resolve that difference?

Everyone in the business needs to agree and focus on the facts. Then they can go to the next step and address and deal with those facts. How do those facts impact the business? How can the organization’s talent leverage those reliable facts, fix problems, and grow the business?

Why is SSOT so Important to Your Organization?

Again, SSOT allows the organization to focus on the facts, rather than the variants between diverse sources and constituencies within the organization. Using SSOT, business leaders can make timely, unified decisions based on facts, which drive the overall success of the business.

Also, SSOT is the information everyone agrees to. SSOT eventually evolves to becoming common “tribal knowledge” across the organization. Everyone is empowered to make decisions in the same direction for the same purpose. 

For a more in-depth discussion of the meaning and importance of SSOT, see our blog “How to Wrangle Your Data Into a Powerful Single Source of Truth.”

How is a Single Source of Data Collected?

The short answer is to begin at the end, i.e., starting with the consumer. In other words, determine who consumes the information and where they are currently getting it.


The next step is to work backward to trace the process to the source of that information. For example, if the consumer is getting the data from a BI dashboard, the next step is to drill into that dashboard. Where is that information coming from? What system is it pulling that information from?

If the data results from a calculation, there are many reasons it could be skewed or wrong, even if the source of information may be accurate. For example, calculations and assumptions applied to the data along the way can create a variance to the truth within the business.

Example 1: Your logistics operation uses a dashboard containing assumptions and calculations defined when their analytics dashboard was initially created. Since the original time of implementation, the dashboard has not been maintained. In the meantime, corporate assumptions and calculations have changed, injecting variables in dashboard displays and resulting in inaccurate information.

Example 2: Your shipping department relies on a siloed database with outdated addresses, resulting in failed or returned shipments. Your single-source SSOT could benefit from a corporate customer master or local logistics software resource.

 In summary, single-source data collection is a process of validating the source of information for each user of that information. Knowing how the user acquires the information can help identify siloes and multiple versions of the truth.

How Can You Arrive at an Agreement on SSOT that Benefits Everyone in the Business?

The answer to that question involves a triad of ownership, accountability, and participation across the organization. 

First, defining and assigning data masters is the key to ownership and accountability. A fundamental principle of management is that for every job there is to do, someone must be responsible for doing it. In arriving at SSOT, the person assigned to a given data set must be named the data master. That person is responsible for ensuring the information is correct throughout the business's entire information ecosystem.

Next, business rules must be established before a Single Source of Truth can be determined. Master data management and data quality come in to ensure the organization is collecting consistent and the most recent data. Data quality involves continually checking new data against the master.

When everything is in place, participation follows in the form of the corporate culture. The Single Source of Truth emerges as a form of positive, consistent thinking, talking points, and sharing of goals and aspirations.

The Need for an Unbiased Partner

Finally, to implement a plan to achieve your SSOT, you should partner with an unbiased third-party coach to build consensus and reach an agreement on the definition of the Single Source of Truth. This agreement and intent will bridge communication issues across the organization and help leaders make more efficient decisions.

Having a partner “with no skin in the game” who only wants to ensure that every constituency is operating from the same data can build that bridge. Disagreements over what is fact and how those facts should be included in calculations and decisions are resolved when everyone realizes that clearly stated problems are half-solved.

Your Takeaway Summary Point

  • A Single Source of Truth does not form organically.

  • The SSOT must be intentional within the organization.

  • The path to obtaining a Single Source of Truth will be unique to your business, AND there has to be an owner for the data.

  • Without both parts (a data dictionary AND an owner), your business cannot accurately achieve a single source of truth.

Discover how you can begin your journey of developing a single source of truth for your business data by downloading the eBook, "The Executive's Guide to Building a Data Strategy that Leads to Business Growth & Innovation."