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What is a single source of truth (SSOT)?

When it comes to business, you just can’t afford to not know the whole story. That’s where a single source of truth comes in.

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So…what is a single source of truth?

The single source of truth (SSOT) is a term given to the practice of bringing all business data to a single location. The idea is that everyone in that company can then make crucial business decisions based on mutually accessible data. That means there are no work silos keeping people from knowing important information. If your company works from a single version of the truth, nothing will be concealed from anyone and you’ll all be on the same wavelength. By keeping your records accessible in a centralized location, you can prevent yourself and your colleagues from getting lost in multiple versions of the truth/the same file.

Banning the lies

It can only be a good thing if your team is all working in the knowledge that things aren’t able to be swept under the rug or lost to confusing admin. It’s also the most optimal way to deal with your data and crucial if that data is incoming from a dozen omnichannel directions. Consider it a state of nirvana for all your company’s information.

Knowledge is power and having more information to share with every member of your team will result in greater business intelligence. "Truth” doesn’t necessarily mean that all the data you’ve put into your single source has to be exact, but that, when viewed in unison, it provides a truer look at your business.

For example, maybe your brand has two hundred thousand followers as shown by social media metrics. But, when you run a survey, you find out a quarter of your followers are in a country you don’t ship to, and that a good portion of them are bots. You need both these information sources to get the best overall picture of your brand, and to figure out how to remedy this situation. For example, now you know most of your followers are international, you can either hone in on local efforts or seriously consider broadening your shipping destinations. You have, therefore, climbed the road to business betterment.

Enlightenment via data management

A SSOT can only be achieved if all your data is in one central place and if you have suitable processes that allow for it to stay updated. You can all agree to place your documents in one central folder, but what then? You must be dedicated to this idea as a company, ensuring that data is always up-to-date and ready to access. Consider adding the following workflows to your business processes:

Work from the cloud

The cloud has helped transform the workplace in endless ways. It allows you and your team to access documents from anywhere, and, better yet, they can be the same documents, not outdated versions.

Consider internal guides

Of course, your team knows your company and your company culture, they experience it every day they walk in (or log on). Still, think about how many times you’ve messaged a colleague with a question you know you’ve asked before. “What delivery format should this take?”, “where should I send this invoice?”, “is Bob still in charge of accounts payable,” and so on. Take a day or two to build up a resource of documents that isn’t about your clients or your market but about enabling your staff to do their jobs better.

Make things clear

Quarterly goals, revenue, and team quotas may be important, but talking about these numbers isn’t always the most engaging way to present the data. Find a better way to show your business’ progress, one that is easy to digest and always updated, so your team can watch your success grow. That can be as simple as a shared document where goals are written and updated often, for teams to view whenever they want to check-in on progress.

Think about the bigger picture

Having data that is easily accessed by any personnel who need it, like in a data warehouse, isn’t just about company culture, it’s about better business processes. It’s not just your core team who benefit from open communication channels. After all, you also need stakeholders and key decision-makers to know everything you know from every data source you use. Transparency is vital nowadays not only in CRM and things like corporate social responsibility, but also in the way your own team views the brand, and how that impacts their continued loyalty. Consider all of this when you are forming your source of truth.

Forging a source of truth

Every team has its own way of doing things. You might have one uniform company culture and overall concept of work processes, but a finance team can’t operate their workflows the same as the marketing team. The way one team views the business and its data will be very different to how another does, and both will differ from a CEO with a 10,000 ft view. A single source of truth is, in this way, impartial. It also prevents duplications of the same files which leads to confusion and setbacks.

Dropbox can help you create a source of truth, ensuring that only the latest information is available as everything updates in real time. With features like version history on Dropbox, you can see what has been edited and changed, and if you don’t like the new version, just revert back. If something changes, other team members on the file will be notified. Accidentally deleted something from your single source of truth and worried there’s no way you can replace it? You don’t have to. Dropbox will let you recover any files deleted in the past 30 days. This leaves you safe in the knowledge that if you ever have a patch of bad luck when working on your files, you can always revert back to better times.

You can even set up automations for shared folders in Dropbox. They standardize naming, sorting, and tagging which leaves less room for user error and minimizes work for your team.

Different teams, various systems, one truth

As well-informed as you may feel about any team, process, or area of your business, there’s always the possibility that there is more to the story. Maybe that means your online presence isn’t as organic as you first thought or that your team is working from a version of a file you thought had long since been revised. A SSOT is insurance against all that. Whether it’s people or data that aren’t showing a clear picture, your SSOT can bring the truth to light and bring your brand back to reality.

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