A Single Source of Truth Will Make Or Break Your Business

Resources > Single Source of Truth

by Rachel Kaplowitz, CEO of Honey

The high cost of keeping information in more than one place

According to management consulting firm McKinsey, the average worker spends nearly 20 percent of their workweek looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.

That’s a full day out of every 40-hour workweek wasted.

But difficulty finding information is only one symptom of a much bigger problem. Many growing businesses lack a single source of truth that their people can rely on, and this causes a host of issues that can cost them dearly.

High Cost

The good news? Those who actively work to build a single source of truth can gain an edge over competitors who will continue to struggle.

At Honey, we're on a mission to make work better by making workplace communications more thoughtful, inclusive, and simple. Sign up for a demo of our beautiful intranet >>

What do we mean by a single source of truth?

The term single source of truth (SSOT) has its roots in information systems design. The principle says that any piece of data should exist in one spot — and one spot only.

Everyone who needs the data can access it in that place. When people review or update the data, they do so in that place. Instead of pulling out the data to use elsewhere, they link back to it. This prevents any duplication, preserving the single source of truth.

We use the term “single source of truth” to refer to more than just data now. It can apply to all information that benefits from having a single, canonical or “true” instance. That includes documents and communications, too.

How the lack of a single source of truth hurts your business — and how implementing one can help you gain an edge

Some might say we’re suffering from a content crisis. Even though many businesses have long dispensed with printed copies of documents, digital content is just as easy to mismanage. And its impact permeates all the most important aspects of your business.

In operations

Every minute your team has to spend digging for information is a minute your company is delayed in meeting its objectives.

COST: INEFFICIENCIES

Think of sales content or marketing assets that go unused. Someone put time into creating that content, but no one is using it because they don’t know about it. And, very likely, someone else will invest their time into creating it again. Conversely, sorting through which document to use when you see six that appear nearly identical is definitely not how you want your best team members spending their time.

Setbacks also happen when teams have to realign because they are not relying on the same source of truth. Companies lose time when managers spend too much time debating which numbers are the right ones to use.

OPPORTUNITY: TIME REGAINED

A social intranet like Honey can provide a single source of truth to answer the questions that cause documents to become lost or duplicated, teams to misalign, or people to dispute data sources. This is thanks to high searchability, which, McKinsey's report says, can reduce the time spent looking for internal information by up to 35%.

Your intranet gives you a place to organize and store documentation, so your team can find a definitive answer to things like goals for projects and metrics you use to measure success. And being able to find documents in the first place will help prevent the time loss and fragmentation that happens when people unknowingly create new versions.

In customer service

Mistakes stemming from fragmented and out-of-date documentation can have big ramifications when it comes to revenue and customer perceptions.

COST: DAMAGED REPUTATION

Consider the mistakes that can happen when customer data is stored in multiple places. For Orlando Health, this meant patient addresses might be updated at one location but not at another. This could lead to disastrous results when patient communications go to the wrong address.

Important tasks can be missed, or teams can act on out-of-date information.

Effects of this fragmentation can trickle down to your bottom line. Executive search technology company Thrive TRM notes that errors from lacking a single source of truth can kill the chances of success for recruiting companies. Imagine how the candidate feels when she is a front runner in an executive search, but then another recruiter from the same firm reaches out about a different job. Thrive CEO Reed Flesher says this happens when companies don’t operate with a single source of truth for their candidates.

OPPORTUNITY: CUSTOMER CONFIDENCE

A single source of truth helps avert mistakes by making the most up-to-date information available to everyone. By storing all relevant data in one place only, you reduce the risk of missing an important task or acting on old or incomplete data. Your team can be confident that everything to do with your customers or a task is recorded in the spot where you are looking and nowhere else.

Your customer relationship management (CRM) system should be the definitive source of customer-related information, for example. There, you can see the history and supporting details. Creating a customer feedback loop in your system can help bring together marketing and sales teams.

The result is that your team can proceed with confidence to their next steps.

In the executive suite

Leaders run the risk of making ill-informed decisions when teams have not agreed on the data sources they will use or when data from multiple sources are not compiled into one unified view.

COST: POOR DECISIONS

A dearth of data has complicated decision-making for leaders because they often disagree on which data to use.

“Without a single version of the truth, it’s easy for marketing teams and entire companies to end up working feverishly on the wrong activities that fail to move the needle,” says Brent Dykes. He calls this lack of agreement on data or metrics the Tower of Babel syndrome. It’s a problem when different teams speak different “data languages” because they can’t work together to build the business.

CFOs today are feeling the need for a single source of truth to support decision-making in their organizations. They are tasked with making more strategic recommendations than ever before. But to do this, they need to gather data from multiple departments, like HR and operations. According to a study by Adaptive Insights, 69% of CFOs said they believe siloed data is the biggest financial mistake companies make.

OPPORTUNITY: IMPROVED ALIGNMENT

Aligning data sources goes a long way toward getting people on the same page.

Company leaders need to clarify which data will lead the company. To do this, Jeanne Ross, director of MIT Sloan School’s Center for Information Systems Research, advises, “Just declare it. Pick the source, and declare that this is now the one version executives and employees will use to make decisions.” That becomes your single source of truth.

The goal is not to have perfect data because that’s unrealistic. But which data to rely on is not a conversation to have over and over.

In your company communications

The report The Effects Culture and Communication have on Businesses reminds us that communications help shape the culture, vision, and principles of your organization. So a unified approach is paramount.

COST: FRAGMENTED CULTURE

Discord can lead to unhappy employees and increased turnover. But as your company grows, it becomes more and more difficult to reach everyone with the same message and provide a unifying experience.

Information gets buried too easily when you don’t have a single source of truth for company communications. In The State of Internal Communication report by communications company Ragan, one respondent summed up the sentiment that can develop: “Senior leadership doesn’t communicate to mid-level staff and plays favorites with those who are communicated to. The rest are left in the wind.”

OPPORTUNITY: SOLIDARITY

Your culture and employee engagement need attention as your business grows. Company communications become an important vehicle for people to feel valued and in touch with what’s happening.

An instant messaging platform alone isn’t enough to hold together the fabric of your business — only an intranet will fill that role.

Honey provides a single source of truth that pulls together all your communications, tools, and documents into one home base. It gives your teams a dependable way to see what’s going on at the business and where to find the information they need to do their jobs.

Gain a competitive edge with a single source of truth

There’s an opportunity for those who commit to a single source of truth.

By storing everything in only one spot, people can find it easily. They can rely on the information because they know it’s always the most up to date, and there are no other versions floating around. You cut out mistakes and wasted time. You align your team and better equip them to make decisions.

So, while competitors’ employees are still struggling to find information, yours can move ahead confidently.


At Honey, we're on a mission to make work better by making workplace communications more thoughtful, inclusive, and simple. Sign up for a demo of our beautiful intranet today >>