6 min read
Content modeling/Single source of truth
The importance of a single source of truth
If you’ve been running digital experience for a while and have an extensive library of content, it’s often a struggle not only to maintain consistent branding and messaging, but also to avoid creating redundant content. In conversations on commerce or content-management processes, the term “single source of truth” (SSoT) often pops up. This article defines it in terms of both practices and benefits and explains the ways in which modern composable systems work.
What is a single source of truth?
An SSoT refers to a central, authoritative source for a particular piece of data within an organization, thus ensuring that all users and systems there reference the same data as well as reducing inconsistencies and errors. Since organizations regard it as the most reliable and accurate source for that data, the SSoT can be an indispensable tool for adopting a composable approach for content production.
It’s extremely common for a single experience in a composable architecture to have content from multiple sources, such as a product catalog, an inventory system, a digital asset management (DAM) system, and a content management system (CMS), all assembled together. A digital experience composition platform (DXCP) is a remarkable help. The platform establishes relationships among those repositories, roles, and groups tasked with publishing and deploying content, clearly defining their responsibilities.
Why do you need an SSoT?
Duplicate versions of similar content or outdated data on your site can hurt your brand’s reputation and SEO, leading visitors to believe that you lack a good grasp of the subject matter. Not to mention the negative effects redundant content has on your SEO performance.
In practice, organizations with different divisions or regions working in systems that are unique to them often have multiple sources of truth. Or, vis-à-vis production, after being approved and going live, assets might go from Google Docs to your DAM system and CMS.
Similarly, a commerce system might include a product information management (PIM) system and an order management system (OMS). To select the right tool for the task and for your team, you must embrace those “best-of-need” systems as a key principle of composable architecture.
Adopting a proper composable approach ensures that those systems boast a unified system of truth. Nonetheless, it makes sense to manage your data sources to reduce the number of authoritative systems and processes and have multiple SSoTs instead. Even with composable architectures, you should separate the concerns and minimize the number of extraneous systems and connection points.
What are the key elements of an SSoT?
Accuracy and availability are two key elements that ensure an effective SSoT.
The data in an SSoT must be reliable, up-to-date, and consistent for use by all stakeholders. Data accuracy helps reduce errors and speed up the content-production process.
An SSoT must be available to all stakeholders. Toward that end, follow these three guiding principles:
- Promptly communicate SSoT updates across departments through a simple system with which you can announce updates quickly and easily and follow the same workflow every time with no updates falling through the cracks.
- Secure collaboration and consensus on establishing and maintaining the SSoT so that all stakeholders are working with the same information, error free, and that they know exactly what data to use for new content initiatives.
- Provide training on when, where, and how to access the SSoT. Since your SSoT will become mission-critical over time, you might need to work with IT to control access permissions.
As new content is created, tools such as workflow and webhooks can update other stakeholders and systems.
What are the benefits of an SSoT?
An SSoT delivers five major benefits for content production, some of which were mentioned earlier. Below is a more in-depth description.
1. Improved communications
With an SSoT, teams can access and share the same information, eliminating confusion and inconsistencies that arise from multiple versions of the same data, which in turn fosters collaboration and decision making.
2. Higher productivity
Thanks to an SSoT, teams spend less time searching for and verifying data, gaining time for other tasks. Streamlined processes, minimal delays, and higher efficiency inevitably follow.
3. No version control
An SSoT leads to no worries about multiple versions of the same data, which can be time consuming and confusing to sort through. No version control is necessary, and teams can rest assured that they’re working with the most up-to-date information.
4. Accurate data
An SSoT spells accuracy and consistency, reducing the risk of errors and raising the quality of the data overall. Multiple teams accessing the same data also means that the data is double- and triple-checked, as a result of which inherent human errors in data entry and management processes are minimized, which in turn leads to higher quality of the decision-making and reporting processes.
5. Timely content updates across channels
An SSoT facilitates quick and easy updates in all channels: websites, social media, email campaigns. Correspondingly, your content becomes more consistent and relevant, and your marketing efforts are more effective.
How do you align your SSoT with a composable approach?
To strike a balance between using an SSoT and a composable approach, consider the following factors:
- Business objectives: Organizations should determine the specific business objectives that need to be achieved through an SSoT or a composable approach.
- Data complexity: Teams should consider the complexity of data when seeking an appropriate approach. Ideally, an SSoT contains more reusable and portable, simple data structures while a composable approach, including one with a DXCP, best fits the assembly of those disparate data structures into an overall experience or channel usage.
- Integration: A core requirement of an effective SSoT is that the APIs are comprehensive, supporting data usage in other systems. Systems that limit portability and integration are often restricted in their potential as an SSoT.
- Scalability: Organizations must take scalability into account while evaluating the various approaches. Typically, an SSoT is better suited for accommodating scalable content, whereas a composable content approach requires more complex scaling. Before making a final pick, answer these two questions: What is the end goal for your team and content production? How big does your organization expect to grow?
- DXCP: Organizations can leverage a DXCP as a single system of truth for managing and composing their various information sources and ensuring consistency and accuracy of the data. Instead of an SSoT, teams can use a DXCP to combine multiple datasets in a simple way that caters to reuse and assembly into different channels and experiences.
What are the relationships among content modeling, experience modeling, and an SSoT?
Content modeling helps organizations align around an SSoT by offering a clear and consistent structure for all content within a website or application. Through proper content modeling, all content is organized logically and consistently, so much so that users can find and understand the information they need posthaste. In essence, a content model ascertains that all content is accurate, up-to-date, and easy to access.
Similarly, a DXCP such as Uniform helps organizations reap the benefits of the SSoT for their content by clearly separating the underlying strategic content from its assembly and other sources into a single experience. For details on the benefits of Uniform, schedule a demo with us.
Within an organization, a single source of truth (SSoT) refers to a central, authoritative source for all the data, which guarantees that everyone is working with the same information, reducing errors and confusion, as well as promoting consistency and accuracy.
An ideal goal for all organizations is to have an SSoT. In practice, however, organizations often have older systems that are difficult to retire or migrate for various reasons. In those cases, consider strategies to modernize on top of those legacy systems by integrating them into a larger composable architecture.