Getting to a single source of truth

Trusting your data shouldn't be hard to do, but it seems impossibly in many organizations. Every day, thousands of helpless spreadsheets are questioned about the accuracy of their numbers. Operating on fuzzy data makes everyone uneasy. Why can't all of our numbers just be accurate?

Time is an unstoppable force. As soon as the data is saved or exported, it loses it's connection to any future updates. As it passes from person to person, department to department, each handoff is a risk to introduce error or operate on old data. We expect to the up to date metrics from things around us like stocks or train times, yet most companies are grappling with monthly or quarterly reports.

There are a lot of sophisticated platform solutions out there. They require you to shift a significant portion of your work to that platform. Picking the right one, sticking to it, and connecting it to other systems take time and commitment. Getting to a single source of truth is a journey everyone in the company does together. There will be moments where things don't quite connect. Working together, we can smooth both the people and digital process into alignment.

The digital promise

Every day it seems a new project or information management platform is announced that can do mind bending things. Looking at your current stable of software solutions, it's easy to imagine the smiles and ease that is promised on commercials. Very few digital transformations go smoothly, so when you're testing platforms, be prepared.

When you go platform diving, here are a two to keep note:

  1. Without the software component, what does the information flow in your company look like? Every platform has an opinion on organizing data, make sure it matches your perspective.
  2. How technical are your users? A powerful platform is still limited by the learning curve required from users.
  3. The goal is to find the minimum number of platforms to cover your business end to end without limiting it.

Trying new platforms can get out of hand quickly. There's so many out there that do a lot of fantastic things. However, remember that they have to play nice with your existing platforms too. Digital transformations are not done overnight. Shifting procedures from one platform to the other may prove challenging, especially if there are a lot of business logic built in. As your look at adopting new software, natural intersections in functionality will occur. In this battleground, your people determine the winner. Adopting any platform can improve work without getting in the way is potentially thousands of micro-efficiencies gained every day.

Design, Curate, Connect

There's a three step process we use to grow sources of truth as we digitally transform. Most of the action happens not in these platforms at all, but between people and teams agreeing on objects and processes.

Design your data

Data design is at the heart of configuring your digital systems. Make sure your business concepts are represented correctly allows you to more powerfully leverage the out of the box analysis features that come with many platforms today. Data design across an organization has a heavy emphasis on creating consensus, which is why we look to build up every team-member as a digital native.

This is an exercise best done with process leaders from each area. How does sales track deals? How does production track projects? How does accounting track billing? Does a deal = project = invoice? Across the systems that each specialist needs to do their job, business objects need to be configured properly to link up and down the value stream.

Design to reduce friction and duplication. The platforms where the work is performed is often the best source of truth for data about that work. If that data is needed elsewhere, it's an opportunity to look at syncing or a quality control step.

Curate your tabs

Once you have a good idea of what platform tracks what, as well as a design that roughly matches what your business is doing day to day, it's time to look at reducing extraneous platforms. We can all use less tabs in our browser. Any time something is tracked statically in two places is a potential risk for error. This again is an iterative process. Teams have to migrate both their people and digital process into the centralized platforms. This takes time and coordination. 

Once consolidated, the data should flow much smoother. Where the source of truth is will slowly spread across the company culture, and more folks will go directly to the source.

Connect your platforms

Getting all your data flowing is becoming easier and easier. Our own architecture at Voyansi is simple to administer and maintain. If you've designed right, and cut down on duplicate tracking, connecting across your platforms is almost like turning on a magical switch.

We can now look at things across the company as well as build automatic feedback loops. Reports that used to take an email chain and several trackers can now be a single refresh. Connecting data across your platforms is designing a structural perspective into business health. These sensitive higher-level indicators are what modern businesses need to act before they are forced to react.

A more sensitive organization

We can talk about metrics or how data-driven we are, but really what we love is our better understanding of our present and our future. As our data flows, we see a summarized glimpse into different areas and different teams. Instead of spending our time double-checking metrics, we talk about solutions and ways forward. Our system is not without murky data. In fact, we are leveraging out connectedness to monitor and improve our data quality and sources of truth. With the whole team working together, we're sure to achieve data bliss, creating the best data ecosystem for us.