Data-driven businesses outperform those that don’t incorporate data in their decision-making.
That’s a fact – and it’s backed by data.
A study by the MIT Sloan School of Management shows that data-driven businesses benefit from increased productivity and enjoy higher profits.
According to another study by McKinsey, data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers. That’s followed by a 19 times increase in the chance to become profitable and a 6 times increase in the chance to retain customers.
But collecting data is just the first step to ensuring your team can use it in their decision-making.
Most importantly, you want to make sure that all your team members can access and make decisions based on the same data.
And, if you’re collecting that data from various sources and automating multiple processes, it’s important to keep in mind that not all people can access all data. Many can access only a part of it. And, if that part is not enough, it may lead to inaccurate decisions or slow the decision-making process down.
But, that’s where a Single Source of Truth – SSoT can help you out. What is an SSoT?
If you’ve never heard about the concept of a Single Source of Truth, don’t worry. As you’re about to find out, incorporating it into your business on a small scale can be simple and done with a low-code tool like Airtable.
What Is a Single Source of Truth?
A Single Source of Truth (SSoT) is a practice of structuring your information in a way that ensures that every data element is stored only once.
This means aggregating all your data into one centralized location.
That way, all people involved in the decision-making process have one view of data they can all agree is the real, trusted number.
Of course, SSoTs come in different shapes and sizes. Usually, it’s a centralized database that serves as a repository of all company information.
But, if you’re a small business, your CRM may serve as a single source of truth for all your customer data.
However, if that’s the case, you still may want to move that data over to a tool like Airtable. Doing this allows you to easily give access to the data to people who don’t normally use your CRM.
Plus, it makes it simpler to collect data from different sources.
But, that’s not the only reason why you need an SSoT.
The Benefits of a Single Source of Truth
One of the benefits of having an SSoT we already mentioned is that it ensures all your team members view the same data. But, there’s a lot more!
- Consistent decision-making
Giving your team members access to the same data helps avoid potential discrepancies or contradictions. This is especially common if different people use various data sources which may not all be up-to-date or contain the same information.
- A clear view of business performance.
Keeping data separated by department or area doesn’t tell you how they cooperate with each other. For example, you may see an increase in sales, but if you don’t combine sales data with marketing data, you’ll never know how your marketing efforts helped boost sales (and if they did).
This bigger picture is also crucial to predict future trends and make the right decisions.
- Better team collaboration.
Because with an SSoT all team members have access to the same data, it helps them work together more effectively.
For example, marketing data can help your sales team better understand different segments of your audience.
Similarly, sales data can give your marketing team insights into your customers’ buying process.
- Ability to find information fast.
With an SSoT, you and your team members always know where to look for information. And all you need to do to access the right data is to do a quick search.
What’s important is that you can search for data without having to jump between different tools. It also ensures that all users get the same results.
- Regulatory compliance.
In some cases, you may be forced by regulations to store data in a single, secure location. This will depend on where your business is located or what industry you’re operating in.
Of course, in that case, you also want to make sure that the tools that you pick for your SSoT are compliant with any local data regulations.
If your team doesn’t have to jump between different tools to look for or enter the data, they save massive amounts of time in the long run.
That time can then be used to focus on other areas. This, in turn, boosts your team’s productivity and accelerates business growth.
- Better problem-solving.
Having all your data at your fingertips helps you solve business problems and make better decisions.
Of course, this assumes that you don’t just have the data in one place but that it’s also easily accessible to you and your team members. You also need it to be stored in a way that allows you to draw conclusions and insights from it.
Unfortunately, because of all these pre-requirements, sometimes an SSoT can have a negative impact on decision-making. And it’s just one of the things you should keep in mind when considering investing in an SSoT.
The Drawbacks of a Company-Wide SSOT
For many organizations, an SSoT is a brilliant concept that helps boost productivity and improves data management. However, before you implement it company-wide, there are several things you may want to consider:
- An SSoT can add work, not reduce it.
If your current data systems are working correctly and the team knows how to use them (and does that well) an SSoT may add an unnecessary layer of extra work.
This is especially true if you try to combine data systems that don’t necessarily relate to each other.
In this case, you won’t benefit much from having a Single Source of Truth – yet, you’ll still be forced to maintain it.
- It can overcomplicate everything.
Just like the previous point, this may sound counterintuitive. Yet, in many cases, an SSoT is not the right solution. For example, if you have your data and automation workflows operating smoothly, an SSoT can make managing data more complicated.
A great example of this is customer relationship management. If your CRM is capable of handling all customer data your team needs for effective decision-making, don’t force them to use a central SSoT database.
Not only does it add extra work, but may lead to frustration and poorer performance.
- It can be technically challenging.
Creating an SSoT is not an easy task. First, you have to understand where all your data is coming from. Then, you need to unify it so that it can all be stored in the same place.
To do that, you need to understand how the data is acquired, what tools are in your workflow, and why you’re collecting it. Next, you need to find a way to “move” the context of that data together with it to its new database.
Unfortunately, as you’re about to see, that lack of context can make the entire idea of an SSoT pointless.
- Data without its context is meaningless.
One of the biggest benefits of the Single Source of Truth is that different people from various departments can work together using the same data – and do that in one place. But, while it sounds amazing, it doesn’t always work that well in practice. Why?
When you take the data out of the tools and dashboards that it lives in, it can lose all its power. Why? Once you move it to the SSoT, the data may lose all its context. As a result, you simply won’t know what it means. Or, at the very least, you’ll become unable to draw the insights and conclusions that you’d like to.
Moreover, sometimes data that’s “gold” for one team, just isn’t comprehensible for the other – and it’s a good thing. Your sales team doesn’t need access to all the project data from your dev team. Similarly, your marketing team may need access to sales data – but that doesn’t mean they need every last piece of it. And the reason is simple – they may simply not even be able to use it!
But, does that mean that you shouldn’t create an SSoT? The answer is – it depends.
When to Create an SSoT?
There’s no simple yes or no answer to whether you should create an SSoT. The decision will depend on several factors, most importantly on:
- Your business size.
- The amount of data you collect – and how you use it.
- Your business goals.
Sometimes, smaller businesses may find it easier to create and manage an SSoT than those with multiple departments. Similarly, both your business goals and data goals will impact how you should manage your data.
Another interesting concept is that of context-dependent SSoT. For example, you may not need an SSoT for ALL your company data. But, you may benefit from creating one for all your customer or sales data. Another common case for centralizing your data management (or, a part of it) is automation – let’s take a quick look at why.
Single Source of Truth in Automation
If you’re creating robust automation workflows, data accuracy is of vital importance. First, changes to that data will often trigger your workflows. Moreover, many of those workflows will at some point update the data that you store.
In fact, quite often that database will serve as both a starting point and the final destination for your automation workflows. If you’re building your workflows with tools like Zapier, Make, or n8n, you may want to build your automation SSoT with a tool that can seamlessly integrate with each of them. A great example of such a tool is Airtable. Let’s find out why.
What Is Airtable?
Airtable is a popular low-code database platform that you can use to power your apps, dashboards, and automations. It comes with a wealth of pre-built templates for organizing your data and tracking KPIs. You can easily create different types of records, customize data architecture, and link records. The tool can be used as a CRM, a sales management tool, or even an SSoT.
On top of the user-friendly UI and versatility, it boasts excellent built-in automations and a wealth of integrations. And it’s the latter two elements that have made Airtable a popular addition (and, often, a core element) of automation setups.
Airtable as Your Automation Single Source of Truth
Big enterprises can afford internal development and data engineering teams to deploy and manage data lakes and stores. But small and medium businesses can’t – and, in fact, they don’t necessarily need to do that.
And while the amount of data that businesses collect and consume keeps growing, if you decide to be strategic with what data you centralize, a tool like Airtable can be an excellent choice. It’s cost-effective, secure, and easy to connect to key automation tools. And, with the built-in automation editor, you can even deploy custom Airtable scripts!
What’s important, it allows for real-time updates and can be accessed by anyone in the organization. It’s also more secure (and less prone to accidental edits) than Sheets – which are a surprisingly common way of storing data.
All that makes Airtable an excellent choice for a powerful data hub that can keep your team aligned. and your automations aligned. What’s more, it all about what data sources you connect to it – and how you store it.
Of course, just like any other potential SSoT solution, it doesn’t come without certain limitations. Here are some of the key things you should be aware of:
- There’s a limit to the number of records you can have in one table or the database (but it’s very generous for small businesses).
- The cost of having multiple people access Airtable can quickly add up (but, you can use other no-code tools on top of it to build dashboards).
- As you scale, you may become limited by the number of records that you may have in your database.
- A low-code solution is never as flexible as the one that you build from scratch (which is something worth keeping mind). But, for many small business, it’s more than enough.
- You’re constrained by the field types that Airtable allows you to create. And while they should cover the needs of most businesses, there’s still room for improvement. But, this can be said about any tool.
So, does that mean you shouldn’t invest in an Airtable-based SSoT?
Well, it depends.
As discussed, the decision will depend on your business, its size, and your business goals. But even if you decide you’re not going to build a company-wide SSoT, I still encourage you to incorporate Airtable into your automation workflows.
In fact, you might even consider turning it into a central hub for all your automation efforts to further optimize your workflows. This, in turn, would allow you to save time and money and become even more productive. And, of course, with access to all the precious data, to make better business decisions!
Up Your Automation with an Airtable SSoT
Building an SSoT for your entire business may either be overkill or too complicated to implement. But a Single Source of Truth for your automation workflows can, in many cases, give you more control over your automations.
And, thanks to no-code and low-code solutions such as Airtable, Zapier, or Make (Integromat), you don’t need to spend 10s of thousands of dollars every month to automate and maintain your workflows.
With the help of a Zapier, Make, and Airtable consultant, you can build an SSoT and start automating your work without a software development agency budget.
Ready to become more competitive? Schedule a call or use the contact form and let’s discuss your automation needs.
And, if you’re already using Airtable – leave a comment below sharing your #1 Airtable tip!
Hey, I’m Jacek. I’m the founder and Chief Automator at Clickleo.com
I’m on a mission to help you use automation to reclaim your time and achieve more in your business.
You can find out more about me – and why I started Clickleo – over on this page