Do you need a single source of truth (SSOT) for data? Yes. For a data-driven company, an SSOT is essential to provide accurate insights for informed decision-making. According to recent Dun & Bradstreet research, 69% percent of CFOs agree that an SSOT is necessary to run a business. But where do you start? Below, we discuss five steps you can take to achieve success with a single source of truth for data. By identifying these, you will quickly realize that an SSOT is not the goal, but the result of a well-executed data journey and culture.
What is an SSOT and what is its link to fine dining?
Traditionally, "SSOT" is an IT term that refers to an approach to data storage where data is obtained from a single location. However, this is much more than a technological talk. Before you can design an SSOT strategy, there are a number of necessary steps that must be taken.
Let's take cooking as an example. Creating a luxury fine dining worthy meal is a process. You have to have certain skills, select the best ingredients, follow a specific preparation method, make any recipe adjustments, and of course find a delectable way to present the result. Working with data is no different. Before you can present data to your organization as the "only source of truth," there is much to consider. For example, you need to understand that truth comes from a collection of data artifacts that themselves come from multiple sources.
Five steps to SSOT success
There are five key steps to consider when creating a data culture enabled by an SSOT.
1. Curation of data sources
Revealing your data sources is the first step. This usually takes the form of a workshop with various stakeholders, data and technology leaders. The idea is to bring forward all data sources in scope within the initiative and explore their origins. The goal of this step is to identify not only all data points, but also their true sources. Through a workshop, users get a handle on the process behind the data and at what point that data is ready for consumption. Discussions can reveal the sustainability of these sources and users can collectively decide whether to improve the source or drop it altogether.
2. Identification of data owners
There is a need to identify "officially recognized data" that the company can use with confidence. Certain groups with authority should be responsible for the data. These entities are groups of data owners or experts in the organization who develop or manage data for a specific business purpose. The data may be created internally or externally; all are validated for quality and accuracy. Answers to questions such as "At what point is the data ready for business consumption?", "Are there data owners who are responsible for the data as it is now and how it will be in the future?" are important for understanding what data should be considered authoritative sources for the SSOT. These concerns may require data owners, creators, and providers to review their data policies and processes to declare these source(s) authoritative.
3. Supervision and maintenance
Data and data sources typically require preparation, including enrichment, standardization and validation. Once authoritative data sources are identified, members or a central group are responsible for entering and maintaining these data sources.
4. Identify a reliable data source
This is a publisher of data, possibly from multiple authoritative sources. It may be an internal organization or external vendors whose process for compiling or aggregating data has been vetted by data users - their strengths, limitations and usefulness are known and transparent. One example is Dataxess, our secure, cloud-based master data solution for your CRM or ERP environment.
5. Design and implementation of data architecture
It should be clear from the four phases listed above that the concept of an SSOT is not just a technological implementation. There are crucial ingredients to this proverbial gourmet meal. These are the data, the qualifications, the processes, the defined rules, and the parties involved in its creation and maintenance. All of these must be figured out before a system is designed or selected. The goal here is to scale the above phases and allow reliable data to be grown in a capable, secure, and accessible environment that will become the SSOT. Data flow delineation, distribution and access are important aspects of this stage.
Conclusion: SSOT goes beyond technology
Traditionally, SSOT has been an IT term with a predominant focus on technology. Technology is certainly an important part of this journey, but data, stakeholders, business logic, planning and governance are equally important to successfully implementing your organization's SSOT. In a nutshell: The single source of truth is just a result of a well-designed and executed data strategy. The goal is to be able to deliver data that is organization-wide useful, reliable and accurate.