Death of the Single Source of Truth

For companies wading through challenges associated with master data quality of their products, a Single Source of Truth sounds great – but it’s not good enough anymore. That golden record you’ve been chasing remains very important, but there is so much more value that can be gained from your Product Information Management (PIM) solution that business users are demanding. And it might not be immediately obvious without a fresh look at this age-old challenge.

How Did We Get Here?

For decades, Single Source of Truth has been considered the holy grail of Master Data Management (MDM), and complex and strict processes for data governance have become commonplace. But as the market has evolved, it’s become apparent that “just” having accurate product data is now just table stakes. Business users already expect accurate data, but they need more.

So, what’s driving this evolution?  The customer, of course. Customers have nearly endless options, and they want to make purchases when, where, and how they choose. Customers reward businesses that provide intuitive and personalized buying experiences centered around accurate and rich product information.

The classic Single Source of Truth gives us an authoritative description of what a product “is.” However, to truly capture and convert a consumer, that information (and more) must be presented to the customer in a manner that speaks to their needs and emotions in a channel-based context. This often requires changing product titles, descriptions, imagery, and even price based on the specific channel and audience.

Remaining competitive in this environment requires flexibility. Brands can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, they must create engaging, channel-optimized product experiences with their customers. Therefore, how  a product data management system manages the second half of the data lifecycle – to facilitate branching it out to each channel, persona, or even individual customer – has become a critical PIM requirement, and often referred to as Product Experience Management, (PXM) to create a perceptive differentiation between the two.

The Trouble with Tunnel Vision

If you’re still not convinced that Single Source of Truth isn’t THE answer for managing product data, look at this example from an Amplifi client:

This global fashion company was very IT-centric and focused heavily on the supply chain “master data,” and less about syndication of that product data to an ever-increasing number of downstream systems. They designed and implemented strict processes around product data governance. While governance was an invaluable core capability, the associated processes enforced rigid definitions and severely limited enterprise flexibility. For example, as part of their reference data management program, IT had defined the color “orange,” and all of the relevant variants of orange as defined by industry color consortiums.

Their e-comm sales team developed a series of micro-sites to launch a collection of products using a local Sports team color they called “Orange Fever”.  In the early stages of the product, when the e-comm sales team requested that “Orange Fever”  be added to their PIM so it could be enriched for the product attributes to appear on their new websites, IT  told the them that they would need to fill out some forms then present for approval at the next monthly “Reference Data Management Council.”

As it often happens when there is a gap between the needs of the business, and perceived inefficiencies dealing with IT, these business users said, “No Way,” and went rogue and instead of using the enterprise PIM to feed product attributes to their Enterprise PIM, they entered the product data directly into the web platform.

The market’s influence to demand channel-optimized content for this global fashion company was undeniable, and the business was unable to efficiently support it. We totally understand and agree that data governance serves a critical purpose in any enterprise, but businesses require flexibility in how governance is operationalized. The alternate perspectives can sometimes be viewed as at odds with each other. So, how do you move beyond SSOT to become a more flexible enterprise? The answer requires a three-pronged approach.

3 Things to Consider to Move Beyond Single Source of Truth

  1. Technology:  Here’s the good news – if you already have a MDM/PIM/PXM, you may not even need more software. Most modern platforms have the flexibility to support all but the most complex-and demanding use-cases. If you don’t have MDM or PIM, you will need that foundation first. The type of platform you choose/have may make certain configurations easier than others, but our experienced consultants can share best practices to make sure you ave the foundation you need.
  2. Process:  Moving beyond Single Source of Truth provides for an opportunity to evaluate and optimize business processes harmonized with technology; data model/business rules/workflows/ and integrations. At Amplifi, we start with strategic conversations to uncover your business problems, then design and deliver a solution that solves those needs using technology. It’s the business understanding and consultative side that makes this work so well. We’ll talk about what you want to accomplish – and then make that happen with the strategic planning, business, and technology architecture.
  3. Agility:  This is so vital for enterprises today, and this data management journey is never “done.” Market and customer’s demands constantly evolve, and most businesses will benefit by transitioning from a traditional legacy IT view of PIM, to a more expansive and inclusive design supporting business users such as rich content editors and channel managers; their influence will continue to increase. Change management is a critical success factor that is often overlooked in approaching an iterative process for delivering business value.

Maybe our blog post headline was a little extreme; Single Source of Truth itself is not really “dead”; we concede that it is still an important IT function to have a consistent view of your master product data. But the idea that Single Source of Truth is “good enough” is what has died. This legacy definition does not satisfy the holistic demands and expectations of modern business. Being able to say you have a Single Source of Truth for your products is a definite accomplishment but is just one milestone of many in your journey managing product data.

Some of the services that Amplifi offers clients to help them harness the power of their data: