A tv remote, representing the single source of truth
It’s Time To Say Goodbye to the Single Source of Truth
A tv remote, representing the single source of truth

It’s Time To Say Goodbye to the Single Source of Truth

If you have 10 tabs open for 10 different tools right now, then you’ve probably felt the pull to build a single source of truth, no matter the cost. Or, alternatively, you’ve received requests from various stakeholders to do the same. Either way, too many of your workflows involve multiple tools, and you have to constantly switch between them to get the full picture. But is building a single source of truth really all it’s cracked up to be? Is it going to fix all of your data problems?

Here’s why it might be time to say goodbye to the ideal of the single source of truth — and hello to a new alternative.

What is a single source of truth?

Put simply, it’s the one place you can go to and find all the information you need. Now, a single source of truth will take different forms depending on your industry. But no matter what exact platform you use, it will be the authority on everything happening in your business. Whether you’re a sales team looking for a lead’s contact information or a data analyst trying to predict the obstacles slowing down a fledgling startup’s growth, the single source of truth would be the first place you check.

For a single source of truth to stay, well, true, it needs to receive constant updates from multiple sources. That’s because the tools your teams use all produce data. Unless you want to continually cross-reference information from dozens of tools, that information needs to be centralized.

In theory, this would make it easier for everyone to have the data they need. And it’s definitely achievable, if not absolutely necessary, in fields like healthcare and government work. But does that make it practical for your organization?

Is a single source of truth possible?

Anything’s possible. But is it practical? If you look at your tool stack, the way your teams work, and what it is you’re trying to accomplish, you’ll find that there are more than a few tenacious obstacles between you and the single source of truth you’re dreaming about.

Platform choice

Which tool is going to be the single place where all your data lives? There’s no such thing as “single source of truth” software; it’s more of a designation you apply to the tool that’ll play that role. The actual platform could be anything from a work management tool to business intelligence software, or even a CRM platform.

Picking this platform will be the first problem you’ll run into. You might already have an idea of which tool you’ll want to use, but is it really the right one? Every team will want their own tool to be the single source of truth, and they may present strong arguments for it. You’ll find that just choosing the right platform can be as challenging as actually rolling it out.

Resources

Building a single source of truth can be costly. Whether you’re planning to acquire a new tool or use something you already have, your budget will have to account for the cost of the tool itself as well as a way to get all your data into it. A business intelligence platform can range from $600 to $6000 a year while data integration software — to get all your data into a single tool — can go from $1200 all the way to $6000. Be prepared to pay even more if you need custom-built solutions.

Not only will you have to budget for this process, but you’ll also have to dedicate a lot of time to setting it up. Even if you outsource most of the process, you’ll still need the help of people within the company, whether it’s just to make data available or help design your single source of truth process.

Data sources

According to a recent survey from Matillion and IDG, the average organization pulls information from 400 data sources and 20% of organizations surveyed had more than 1,000 data sources. That means your single source of truth, whatever it ends up looking like, will need to cover a lot of data.

Do you have an integration solution that can cover all these data sources? If so, it’ll probably cost as much — if not more — than the tool you’re using as your source of truth.

If not, do you plan to deploy an army of interns to manually copy data from all your tools and paste it into your single source of truth? They’ll be spending hours doing this, over and over again, to keep your single source of truth up to date. Is that the best use of their time? Of anyone’s time?

If you’re not prepared to find some way to get data from all your sources into your single source of truth, are you going to ignore some of them? Could you then really say you’ve created a single source of truth?

Truth and “truth”

When you think of a single source of truth, you probably have a definition of the word “truth” solidly in mind. It’s not even something you have to think about, really. It probably refers to hard data, numbers, trends, and other information you’d get out of a report — or your data team.

But “truth” is a bit more relative than that. Overly focusing on data blinds you to other types of information, each just as important, that are often left out of a single source of truth. These are the bits of truth that accumulate as your teams work on a project, and can get lost when a workflow crosses over between tools.

That’s why, before trying to build a single source of truth, it’s important to reconsider what the word “truth” means to you. Instead of a single, objective thing, it’s important to consider it as a duality consisting of absolute and distributed truth.

What does that mean?

Absolute vs. distributed truth

Absolute and distributed truths are present in every process, even in your organization. It’s why a single source of truth isn’t practical; there isn’t a single kind of truth. But by understanding the distinction between these two types of truth — and the relationships between them — you’ll unlock a better alternative to the single source of truth.

What is absolute truth?

Absolute truth is to a workflow what the nucleus is to the atom. It’s the center around which everything else exists. It’s the driving force for your process. For a sales team, their processes often orbit around a lead. All the little nuggets of truth they create either contribute to or are derived from the relationship with this lead. For a marketer, an absolute truth might be a marketing campaign. Not the assets, the content, or the campaign’s performance, but the campaign itself. The goal it’s trying to accomplish drives everything else the team does.

What is distributed truth?

If absolute truth is the nucleus, distributed truth is all the particles orbiting around it; every piece of truth that contributes to your process and somehow links back to your absolute truth. Pieces of distributed truth can also be linked to one another, but ultimately relate back to absolute truth.

In a sales process, the network of distributed truth that exists around your absolute truth will encompass everything from individual conversations with leads, usage data, demographic information, website data, and more.

For a marketing campaign, distributed truth would include any research done beforehand, individual pieces of content, target audience demographics, performance of previous campaigns, even project briefs.

The main challenge with managing distributed truth is that it comes from many different sources. Where absolute truth usually resides in a single place — a lead is in a CRM platform for instance — there’s no limit to the number of data sources that can contribute to a network of distributed truth.

A single source of truth can hold both kinds of truth, but it doesn’t account for the relationship between them. It also doesn’t give you the ability to interact with the entire network of truth; it’s like a window. You can have a very large window that shows you plenty, but you can’t step through it and touch the things you see.

So what’s the alternative?

Enter the personal source of truth

A single source of truth can’t properly navigate a network of distributed truth because it’s forced to take a single perspective. No matter how much time and money you put into building this resource, it will always see all this information from a single point. And that point is not necessarily compatible with your teams or how they work.

Instead of putting resources into the futile pursuit of a single source of truth, you should be empowering everyone in the company to view and interact with your network of distributed truth — and the absolute truth at the center — from any platform. This is where the personal source of truth comes in.

A personal source of truth gives anyone the ability to see all the information they need from the platform of their choice and interact with it. Imagine checking in on a deal pipeline without leaving your project management tool, or following up on an escalated ticket from your version control platform. That’s the promise of the personal source of truth. You can contribute to any workflow without leaving your tool.

And it’s only possible with an integration solution that can handle two-way syncing between the tools you rely on. A tool like Unito.

Unito is a no-code workflow management platform with some of the deepest two-way integrations for the most popular work tools on the market. Tools like Trello, Asana, Google Sheets, Jira, GitHub, and over 30 others. With a Unito integration, you can turn any tool into your personal source of truth, and end the futile quest for a single source of truth.

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