Data exists in various systems across an organization. When these systems exist in silos it poses a challenge for businesses looking to make data-driven decisions, as not all members of the organization are operating off of the same data. Modern businesses are now moving toward a single source of truth model to overcome this challenge.
A single source of truth (SSOT) is the practice of aggregating the data from many systems within an organization to a single location. A SSOT is not a system, tool, or strategy, but rather a state of being for a company’s data in that it can all be found via a single reference point.
A simple example of this is search engines. Let’s say a searcher enters a query about their favorite restaurant. Google aims to be the single source of truth for anything they may need to know about this restaurant; such as, the restaurant’s hours, phone number, local locations, menu link, ratings, and popular times. Google is bringing data from many sources (Google maps, the restaurant’s website, Yelp or Google ratings, etc.) to be the searcher’s single source of truth for the data they may want to know about that restaurant.
Why is a SSOT critical?
Creating a single source of truth ensures that businesses are operating based on standardized, relevant data across the organization. Without a single source of truth, data sets exist in siloes and each department operates as a black box. Implementing a single source of truth enables business leaders to make data-driven decisions based on the data from the business as a whole, rather than from compartmental data silos.
Everything from production data, to customer and service data, to sales and marketing conversion rates, and much more can inform business decisions. Businesses need holistic insights to stay competitive in today’s data-driven market.
How to obtain a single source of truth?
For a business to obtain a SSOT, all data components from the various systems across the enterprise will aggregate their datasets to the primary single source of truth location. To do this, an integration strategy is needed, as well as an interface that will host and surface the organization’s data. Additionally, all departments and teams must provide access to the systems and data they use.
There are a number of ways to achieve a SSOT architecture.
One method is through an enterprise service bus (ESB), which allows many systems to get data updates from other systems. With an ESB, the numerous source systems send their data to the aggregated data system on a regular cadence and any changes in those sources (new creates, updates, or deletions) are published via the ESB.
Another way to do this is with a master data management (MDM) system. An MDM tool serves as a hub for an organization’s master data, making it visible and accessible via a single reference point.