Posted: 07 Oct. 2021 7 min. read

Single Source of Truth

Managing knowledge to achieve business goals

By Eyal Cahana, Dikla Hevion, Shraavya Koppole

With the rapid digitalization of business, organizations are facing challenges of providing communication channels and Knowledge Management [KM] solutions to their employees.

The past year and COVID-19 pandemic surfaced many challenges, both personal and professional. Almost overnight, organizations had to enable their workforce to work remotely and their customers to communicate virtually. Organizations that were forced to accelerate their shift to the digital workplace, and organizations that were already lagging behind were overwhelmed and forced to both shift and invest dramatically in order to meet the changing need of their clients and employees. COVID-19 intensified the need for organizations to have an intuitive, seamless, and efficient way for employees to access all relevant knowledge that support their processes and day-to-day tasks. In the remote work environment, the pressing questions facing organizations became1: Where can knowledge and information be found? Is it easy to use and accessible? Did we gather the information from reliable and trustworthy sources? Or to put it simply: Is a Single Source of Truth a dream or reality?

What is a Single Source of Truth (SSOT)?

SSOT refers to the ability to provide one access point to all of an organization’s knowledge. This ability is supported through managing knowledge through backend repositories only once and within its defined location. Knowledge is organized based on a content strategy that provides an integrated solution across repositories. The data from various repositories and systems should be managed alongside a KM solution that houses all critical content that supports day-to-day processes.

How does SSOT relate to Knowledge Management?
Consider the following scenario:

Jack, a premium loyalty customer of ABC Airlines, has to suddenly cancel his flight due to unforeseen circumstances. Looking at the company’s external website, Jack was happy to see that there were no cancelation charges for premium loyalty members who booked tickets between May and June 21'. Jack places a call to the Customer Care center to cancel his tickets booked for June 15th. 

Agent 1 informed Jack that the cancellation policy he saw on the company website only applied for tickets booked during July to August 2021. Jack becomes angry and questions how the information on the company’s external website could be wrong. Disappointed with the customer service and the inconsistent information from ABC Airlines, Jack hangs up the phone in frustration.

Jack calls the airline once again to double check that the information provided by Agent 1 was accurate. This time, Jack is connected to Agent 2, who patiently listens and assures Jack that ABC Airlines would cancel his travel tickets without any cancellation charges because he is a premium loyalty customer. Shortly after the conversation, Jack receives the cancellation confirmation from Agent 2.

Although happy with the outcome, Jack was confused by the conflicting information he was given by Agent 1.

The problem in this scenario is that different functions within the airline are responsible for creating, maintaining, and publishing content for internal versus external users.  The airline’s Marketing function is responsible for its external website, while the airline's customer service agents refer to multiple repositories that are created and maintained by a variety of Operations functions as well as information supplied by global Partner airlines. Due to the confusion caused by differing information sources, customers like Jack can receive inconsistent answers to the same question, depending on which customer service agent the customer speaks with and what information sources the agent uses. When internal teams are out of sync and share outdated or inconsistent information the customer experience can suffer.

Designing and implementing a SSoT can reduce duplicated, outdated, and faulty information as well as increase efficiency within an organization. It can also support an omni-channel approach that can utilize the same content and knowledge in different channels. In short, having a Single Source of Truth is essential to provide a seamless customer and employee experience.

How do we really get to the Single Source of Truth? Is it even possible? Does it even exist? Organizations that want to introduce one platform that can serve as a SSOT must:

Choose relevant knowledge: Organizations need to prioritize, select, and gather the most relevant knowledge and information for employees to consume. Usually, this knowledge is know-how or information that supports business processes. It is important to note that you cannot (and, really, should not) consolidate all information and knowledge into one platform. For example, while client information might live in a CRM, product information may remain in a separate product catalog. Organizations must make sure that the information they rely on is both valid and trustworthy. Creating a federated model where information that lives in the system of record it is created it (and where people go to do their work) can be indexed, retrieved, and presented in a user interface layer is the leading practice.  So, what are the critical activation steps for success?

  • Define KM governance and knowledge flow processes Governance is critical for establishing a SSOT that has accurate, up-to-date, and consistent information and knowledge. Each piece of knowledge in a repository must have at least one official owner for employees to reach out to. In order to operate a reliable SSOT platform, roles and responsibilities must be clearly defined, and the relevant knowledge flow processes must be outlined.
  • Choose and implement a technology solution architecture You may need a combination of technologies to successfully launch a SSOT platform, including a main KM solution, a search technology, and connectors to other existing enterprise applications. A technology solution mainly depends on your end-users needs, functional requirements, and the overall content strategy, governance, and approach. Make sure that any solution you chose would be scalable, cloud-based, and easy to integrate with.
  • Gain leadership buy-in New ideas, especially new technology platforms, are hard to adopt without leadership support. Organizations launching a SSOT platform need to identify the objectives and needs of both the end-users, as well as leaders, in order to gain buy-in from decision makers and stakeholders who can then advocate for a SSOT across the organization.
  • Measure! Measure! Measure! At the end of the day, it’s all about outcomes and KPI's. Make sure to define the ways to measure effectiveness, business continuity, or any business goal you set for your SSOT. Leadership needs to have a clear understanding as to why a SSOT is valuable to an organization and what the expected ROI will be since the platform usually requires additional resources, investments, and maintenance over time.

Digital technologies that support multiple flexible methods of working are crucial today, both in the workplace and in the Future of Work. Having a SSOT is no longer a 'nice to have', but rather a critical way to connect to the experts and critical knowledge within an organization. It can save time and effort by curating valid, reliable, and accurate knowledge from a Single Source of Truth by avoiding reinventing the wheel. A SSOT is ultimately a tool to support seamless business processes and to achieve business goals and outcomes.





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