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What is a Single Source of Truth, and why do you need it?

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

Nowadays, too many companies struggle with difficulties organizing multiple data sources, low data accuracy or poor data accessibility. Most organizations have their company information scattered across several sources, databases, email threads. Thus, many teams end up having multiple conflicting versions of the same information, which may lead to severe errors. According to KPMG and Forrester's survey, only 34% of decision-makers report that they feel confident in the accuracy of the information they use.

Single source of truth anyone?
Our take on SSOT visual representation

Just imagine the following scenario: you have three teams that work independently but within the same project's frames. Everything's going smooth: each week you are updated by your teams – you know that they all are on track, and the project is finally moving to its final milestone. But in the end, it turns out that the product cannot be delivered as expected: the teams have worked each with a different goal in mind, supported by entirely different sources of information. 

For example:

  • Team A relied on your email guidance;

  • Team B followed specific client requirements without sharing them;

  • Team C followed the notes they made during the check-up meetings.

So, what Is the main problem? We all have too many information channels, and instead of investing time into the right organization, we waste it on information search and verification. Besides, many employees search for the necessary information only when they need it, but they don't have it always at hand and don't follow the updates regularly.

Afterwards, we get what we deserve­ — dozens of communication channels, each carrying its own version of the information. Solution? A concept called Single Source of Truth (SSOT). This article will uncover what SSOT is, its characteristics and benefits, how it is organized, and why you clearly need it.

What is a Single Source of Truth (SSOT)?

Here's one more example. Imagine that you're watching a football match with your friend, enjoying popcorn on the couch. And then your friend suddenly declares that Ronaldo is the best football player in the world, but you insist that it's Neymar, and the situation is getting tense. To settle this, you have to agree on the source with trusted stats, such as the number of played matches, wins, goals, etc. In other words, you agree upon your Single Source of Truth, to check who really is the best of these two talented guys, based on the trustful information.

SSOT is a concept used to ensure that everyone in an organization bases business decisions on the same data. It is a platform where all company knowledge and information are stored and managed centrally to avoid overlaps and duplication. This platform might include decisions, processes, and operations of various company departments, e.g., Management, Human Resources, Sales, Marketing, etc.

A single source of truth provides employees, employers, and stakeholders with a clearer picture of information they possess, which in turn makes the decision-making process much simpler. SSOT ensures that the provided information is most recent and accurate; the reports are up-to-date so that you can rely on this data.

Why have a Single Source of Truth?

SSOT is important for the times when an employee needs only one right answer. Organizations must ensure that their personnel is provided with one source that stores the information they need. You don't want your projects to fail. And you clearly don't need those dozens of tools in use, numerous apps to get the job done, and not a single one integrated with another. That doesn't sound good, right? The main idea is to put away the useless discussions and argues on which numbers/sources/stats and other data you should primarily rely on.

Here are the primary and inarguable benefits of having SSOT:

  • Decision-makers are provided with the right data;

  • Reduction of the time spent on identifying the source with the correct and updated information;

  • Eliminate duplicates and overlaps;

  • Increased clarity, transparency; and productivity;

  • Reduction of tools and communication channels and associated costs; 

  • Reduction of error chances.

How organizations put an SSOT in place?

For organizations, the best way to establish a Single Source of Truth is to connect and organize all the company information in one integrated software toolkit/suite. Creating SSOT isn't as complicated as it may seem from the first sight, especially if you already use a centralized task and project management tool. The project management tool that fits your team's needs has everything to become a single source of truth for your team.

Many ideas, single place to keep them
Many ideas, single place to keep them

An SSOT should be agreed upon and declared so that everyone knows where is the right information stored, when/how often it should be updated. If this works for your team, you're almost here. But wait, you still need to choose the right tool that will serve you as an SSOT.

Here are some ways how task and project management tools, used as a single source of truth might help your team to deliver better results:

Reduced number of meetings and emails

You simply wouldn't need so many. Suppose your team has a central place to store important information, project progress, and updates. In that case, many status/sync meetings can be transformed into project chat messages or short comments/descriptions in task cards. The number of delayed projects due to miscommunications will decrease as well. So, it is highly recommended to choose a task management tool that has chat functionality.

Greater team accountability

Task management tools ensure clarity and transparency, which leads to increased employee accountability. The past projects are stored, the future projects are planned, and everyone is on the same page. Each team member can track the team’s progress, always in the know of who is working on what and by when. An extra layer of clarity/personalization can be added with custom fields: priority, notes, comments, progress, or any other additional information. When everyone has up-to-date information on the project progress and is informed about the deadlines, it is more likely to be delivered in time. By updating Statuses in real-time, you provide more visibility for everyone in your team on their accomplishments.

Greater team accountability
With great team comes great accountability?

One task – many details

Emails and meetings are a part of our lives for some time now, and we got used to them. But aren't they getting a little outdated? With a task management tool, you don't have to send long emails with task descriptions and many attachments, which might later get lost in your inbox. Create a task, add subtasks or checklists (if needed), attach any documents you need, set due dates and responsible assignees, add tags, and any other details you wish in custom fields. You can be very specific, writing a task description, and avoid a lot of questions. Knowing that you have everything about the task in one place makes everyone more confident in doing their jobs. And you always know where to look for updates.

One task — many details
Looks like this one is already overdue

One place for everything

The most crucial benefit of any task management tool is that it is an all-in-one place to manage people, projects, and everything in between. You control the team's and projects' process; you share files, communicate, brainstorm, provide comments in one place, and collaborate in real-time. You can store all your reports, tables, presentations, lists, and links in spaces and update when needed. The only important rule to adhere to: this is the only source of truth for your team, and it contains the most accurate and up-to-date information. As a Manager or a Team Lead, you should be responsible for keeping this source updated or for selecting responsible employees to delegate this important task.

One place for everything task and project related
Nobody said you can't keep tasty recipes in you task management tool!

How to choose the right project management tool for your team?

Everyone knows there are tons of project and task management tools available right now. And many of them are really great. But how to choose the best one? We would say that the "best "is a very subjective and unfair evaluation. When choosing your project management software, you need to consider many factors, such as team size and particular features needed, functionality, security, budget, and more. It's obvious that a small start-up team will need a completely different tool compared to the needs of a vast organization with many departments and hundreds of employees. Thus, we have prepared some recommendations that you can take into consideration:

Freelancers/ individuals:

Small to mid-size teams:

Bigger teams:

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