Single Source of Truth: Definition, Benefits, Tips, Examples

A single source of truth (SSoT) houses all the important information in one reliable place. This article gives you everything you need to excel as you create or maintain yours.
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Think about where you go on an average workday to find information. Are you searching through multiple sources, trying several different search queries? If the answer is yes, you might be in need of a single source of truth. 

A single source of truth (SSoT) is just what it sounds like—a one-stop destination for all important company knowledge. Whether you’re searching for your company’s PTO policy, looking for process changes, or a list of colleague-recommended restaurants in Philadelphia, you’ll find it all in your single source of truth. 

For your day-to-day, having a single source of truth at your fingertips saves time. You won’t waste precious time searching through emails, DMs, task lists, and lengthy documentation to find the knowledge you need. You’ll kick the headache of looking for information to the curb, thankful for the efficiency that a SSoT brings to your day. 

All this said, how do you establish a single source of truth? And what exactly does it look like? We’re diving in, so stay tuned. 

A SSoT is your one stop for all the crucial information.

What is a single source of truth (SSoT)?

A single source of truth (SSoT) means aggregating all data from an organization into one central location. See tips to excel as you create or maintain yours below.

Your SSoT is a repository of all company information. It helps the organization run smoothly and ensures everyone at the company has easy access to the same information (AKA org-wide transparency)—it’s the foundation of your internal communications. 

SSoTs allow companies to say goodbye to information silos, distracting shoulder taps on subject matter experts, and time lost to searching for answers. All information is clearly communicated in bite-sized pieces and easily accessible to everyone. It’s trustworthy, so there’s no question of how recently information has been updated. As a general rule of thumb, if it lives in the SSoT it’s up-to-date knowledge and relevant. 

Some SSoTs are accessed through a separate browser while others are extensions that can be accessed from wherever you are in your workflow. SSoTs come in many shapes and sizes (we’ll come back to this later). Regardless of where the SSoT is found, it’s one place for all your knowledge to call home. 

How to tell if you need a single source of truth

When information exists across multiple systems you run into two problems: 

One: it’s unclear what information is accurate and what information you can trust.

Two: it’s difficult to know where to begin looking for information. 

These are the two problem areas that a source of truth solves just by existing at your company. How do you assess your company’s knowledge management health? Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • When you need to look something up, do you know where to go?
  • Can you find information without navigating away from your present screen, thus interrupting your workflow?
  • Is it quick and easy to find the information you need?
  • Can you avoid interrupting colleagues to answer questions?

If you answer “no” to any or most of these questions, you’re in need of a SSoT. You probably spend inordinate amounts of time looking for information–time that could be better spent finding creative solutions to problems or producing excellent work. With a SSoT, you save time and ditch the info-hunt headache. 

What happens without a single source of truth?

Absence of a single source of truth fosters confusion and frustration. Your team is probably going to get irritable when they’re struggling to find the information they need to successfully do their job. No SSoT creates more barriers than it does bridges. 

When you don’t work with an SSoT, you might experience:

  • Information silos where knowledge is not shared between departments or across organizations
  • Wasted time trying to find information that is not easily accessible
  • Inability to trust the information one does find
Avoid the headaches and give everyone the information they need.

The benefits of having a single source of truth

There’s a compelling case for introducing a SSoT to your organization. We’ve laid out many of the risks and reasons why you might want this to support your work. Here are the tried and true benefits of SSoTs:

  • Ditch duplicate and inaccurate information from the workplace
  • Feel confident in the reliability of the information you find 
  • Search and find answers to questions fast, without leaving your workflow
  • Gather data to see what information is being accessed the most
  • Boost transparency across the organization, keeping everyone of the same page

There is no one size fits all for single sources of truth. They can look and function differently depending on how an organization needs them. Some are built internally while others are sourced from third parties who are experts in knowledge management. 

What is a single source of truth software?

We’ve laid out all the advantages and disadvantages of a single source of truth, but what exactly does it look like? The truth is, SSoT software comes in a wide array of shapes and sizes. The good news is you’re certain to find one that fits your company.

Most SSoT softwares are third party operations from companies who are experts in knowledge management. These softwares are designed to import, organize, store, and share all your organization’s important information and data. They can hold a lot of knowledge, so it’s important you choose one that resonates with your company.

TIP: Consider adopting SSoT software that lives where you work. By this we mean you don’t have to navigate away from your workflow to find the answers you need. After all, part of the point of pursuing a single source of truth is never having to leave your workflow to find answers. 

Here’s are the characteristics of a good SSoT to guide your search:

  • In-software system for flagging duplicate content
  • Browser extensions for easy access without exiting your workflow
  • Intuitive design and content hierarchy structure
  • Bite-sized pieces of knowledge 
  • Strict security measures to keep your information safe

Single source of truth examples 

1. Software development

Teams that are developing software products being used by countless individuals need somewhere to store information about sprints and status updates that are reliable. In these environments, there are a lot of different people and teams working toward the same goal. They need a single destination where all information lives that everyone can access. For teams like these that are already toggling between several tools throughout the workday, having a one-stop-shop for all internal knowledge saves precious time and energy. 

2. Regulatory compliance

Companies that are regularly performing audits based on specific guidelines (HIPAA, GDPR, etc.) need a trustworthy place where all their information is safely stored. This is the place where notes from cases or meetings can live. It’s the same place templates and guidelines to ensure compliance with mandates can be found. 

3. Search engines

An SSoT is just a mini search engine with slightly different functionality. It uses the word for phrases you’ve typed into its search to find related information. All major search engines reference a central database where all this information lives to find answers to their customer’s queries. SSoTs do the same, but on a much smaller scale. 

Building your single source of truth with Guru

Here at Guru we like to think we know a thing or two when it comes to knowledge management. We believe teams deserve to save time and energy by having information easily accessible, so we provide a tool to support that endeavor. 

1. Easily transfer existing knowledge

Nothing is more intimidating than the dreaded blank page–you fear it, we fear it, and no one knows what to do with it. That’s why we make sure that you’re not starting from scratch when migrating to Guru. 

If you’re coming from a previous SSoT, we’ll help you bring over existing knowledge. If you’re new to SSoT software, (first, welcome, we promise it’ll be worth it) we have a massive library of templates and frameworks to help you begin building your content library. Just hit download then start editing!

TIP: Try distributing your knowledge in small, bite-sized chunks. This digestible format makes content easier to remember and implement. When employees have to read through lengthy documents to find the information they need, they are far less likely to retain that information (or read it at all).

2. Smooth integration into where you already work

We’re huge fans of accessing information without ever leaving our present screen. It’s a common way of finding information for everyone at Guru. Just click the little Guru iconic on your browser extension to open a pop-up window on the right side of the screen. Now you can find the information you need without interruption. 

We’ve even implemented smart results. This lets Guru take a quick peek at what’s on your screen then populates the extension pop-up window with resources related to that topic. It’s kinda like Guru is doing all the heavy lifting for you–pretty cool, right?

3. Create a clear, customized organizational structure

Guru’s content hierarchy allows you to create folders within folders that hold Cards with your organization’s information. It’s a basic subfolder layout that you’re used to using on other platforms, so there’s no new organization structures to learn. You choose how you want to layer your content in a way that will best serve your company. We supply the resources to do it. 

4. Set up regular content verification 

A central problem for most SSoT software is the inability to know if the information you’re finding is recent and accurate. How do you solve this? Glad you asked–the solution is a content verification system that allows you to choose an interval, and when the interval runs out, you’re notified that it’s time to re-verify your content. 

You need to be able to trust the information you find. We make sure that happens through content verification notifications.

5. Have some fun and get creative!

Single sources of truth don’t have to be cut and dry. At Guru, we have all kinds of information stored for easy access. Looking for a new playlist? Tee up a colleague’s collection of hits. Want to know the best place for a cup of coffee in San Francisco? We have the answer to that too. 

Treat your SSoT as a way to boost your internal communications from all angles. You’re creating transparency across the organization by giving people the information they need when they need it AND inviting everyone to connect through sharing recommendations (cue Guru’s list of gifs we love to see). Your SSoT captures your company culture–keep it focused, transparent, and fun. 

Guru supports you so you can support your customers.
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