As a product manager, you know that your success depends on capturing and having access to accurate product definitions. But keeping track of all that data can be tricky– it's easy for information to get scattered across different files, databases, and teams. The problem gets more complex as your market grows and you want to extend your current products to new or adjacent markets. This can make it challenging to efficiently have all the information at your disposal to make informed decisions about your product.
A Single Source of Truth (SSOT) for your product definition can help solve this problem. In addition, by consolidating all your data into one place, you'll ensure that everyone is working from the same information, which will help eliminate confusion and inconsistency. And by making it easier to access and analyze your data, you'll be able to make smarter decisions about how to improve your product.
This blog post will cover the benefits of having a single source of truth and show how you can achieve it in your organization. But first, we'll give a proper definition of the term, single source of truth, and explain why it's so important.
What is a single source of truth, and why is it essential for managing product definitions?
The concept of a single source of truth has been around for decades, and it's still one of the most important concepts in product data management. All information about your products should come from only one place–ensuring consistency across channels, systems & locations.
Having a single source of truth in data management allows for clear accountability and increased trust between parties. When there's only one version that everyone relies on, all organization members receive accurate information they know they can trust.
"Having a single source of truth in data management allows for clear accountability and increased trust between parties."
Here's an example of why a single source of truth is important. Let's say the customer service representatives within your organization need more details regarding products and their features to assist customers in placing orders. When there's a single point of truth, users can quickly access any definition without needing to search different databases or being concerned about whether their version of product definition includes the latest changes–they can find all the information they need to know in one place. It saves them time and reduces the chance of human error.
The single source of truth is also beneficial if you have to share information externally. When you have complete control over how and what information gets into production systems, errors in data are significantly reduced.
How can a single source of truth (SSOT) help you improve your product definition accuracy and efficiency?
Product managers define the product in a way that bridges engineering and marketing. They need to explain the product in terms that marketing and sales will understand and relate to, and at the same time, it has enough detail for engineering to act on. Naturally, a collaboration between product, engineering, marketing, and sales become critical. But having inaccurate, incomplete, or duplicate information being exchanged between individuals can dramatically reduce productivity. SSOT can improve this three-way communication to a large extent.
With many sources contributing to the product definition, from engineering to marketing and product management, usually, you can expect duplicates, different versions of the same information, and conflicting messages moving from one recipient to the other. With SSOT, however, you will have to change control and deduplication processes to ensure stakeholders receive the latest information and resolve the conflicts before stakeholders consume the information.
"The value of a single source of truth increases as its consumers grow."
The value of a single source of truth increases as its consumers grow. With many users consuming this information, two things happen:
First, with information organized in one place, users will be able to access the information one time from anywhere, anytime, especially if this information is digitally accessible over the internet. This will boost efficiency as users do not need to extensively search, validate the information, and deduplicate or merge the data sources manually.
Second, with many eyes on the same set of records, you will receive more feedback on any issues the data may have and can use this feedback to increase data collection and processing accuracy and efficiency.
You can conclude that a well-implemented SSOT will create a form of a virtuous cycle that can bring to people who need access to its information collectively many hours of saved time, which can continuously improve as they collaborate.
Benefits of using a single source of truth for product management
Like project managers, product managers need to spend a significant amount of time and effort communicating their plan and strategy to their stakeholders. Product managers are hubs where many parts of the organization turn for information about what, when, who, and why. What are we building, when should it be in the market, who are we making it for, and why?
Having a single repository of information that is well maintained can help ensure that all stakeholders have access to the most accurate and up-to-date product data. This can help reduce the risk of poor decisions and improve communication and collaboration among stakeholders.
When different teams within an organization use various product data sources, it can lead to confusion. For example, if the marketing team uses one set of data while the sales team uses another, it can lead to inaccurate information being shared with customers. A single source of truth can help prevent misunderstandings by ensuring that all stakeholders use the same data.
Having a single source of truth can also increase transparency and improve communication and collaboration among stakeholders. For example, in one of our conversations, a prominent automotive manufacturer sales executive mentioned that they had to check for updates on the latest features and changes to products across many records in spreadsheets that would drop on a shared folder frequently! With an SSOT, you can get notified and see the history of changes instead of manually checking for updates, which leads to faster and timely actions.
You can also enjoy increased customer satisfaction rates. Maintaining product definitions and making them readily available ensures your customers receive accurate information about your product features and specifications.
"Product Management success relies heavily on the accuracy of the product definitions and their impact on business and the market."
Finally, using a single source of truth can help streamline product management operations. We explained how an SSOT helps increase the accuracy of data. Product Management success relies heavily on the accuracy of the product definitions and their impact on business and the market. By having one place to exchange this information, Product Managers can enjoy higher levels of collaboration, receive more meaningful feedback, and create that virtuous cycle.
How can you ensure your team follows best practices for managing product definition using a single source of truth?
You can follow a few best practices to help ensure that your team uses an SSOT to maintain product definitions efficiently.
- Establish clear guidelines for how the organization should manage product data. For example, specify who is responsible for maintaining and updating different data types and defining standard naming conventions for files and fields.
- Implement a system for tracking changes to product data. This can help you to identify any discrepancies that may occur and determine who is responsible for them.
- Make sure the system you select is also easily accessible by the people that need it. A secure cloud-based solution is usually ideal.
- Have a kickoff with key players, especially the candidate change agents, to explain the benefits to each team and get buy-in.
- Ensure that all team members know the SSOT and understand how they should use it. You can provide training on the system and set up regular check-ins to ensure that everyone stays updated on changes.
By following these best practices, you can help ensure that your team uses a single source of truth for managing product definition. As a result, your team can enjoy improved communication and collaboration while also reducing the risk of data discrepancies.
Implementing a single source of truth for product definition
While a single source of truth may seem like an obvious solution, it's often difficult to put into practice. But the benefits are clear and well worth the effort.
By implementing a Single Source of Truth, your company can improve accuracy and efficiency while decreasing the potential for human error. Having all of your data in one place gives you total transparency about what is happening at all times within your organization. This improved accuracy and efficiency can lead to better decision-making, resulting in more successful business outcomes.
Product managers can have meaningful and more efficient communication and collaboration regarding what products are available or will be available for their various markets and focus on answering questions regarding the value they bring to the business and consumers. Likewise, engineering and Marketing will have a more productive time leveraging this information to ensure products are built and presented according to customers' needs.
Gocious PRM is a Product Roadmap Management system built specifically for organizations that develop or manufacture complex physical goods. Our platform helps Product Managers drive their strategic planning process from a single source of truth into a product management executive dashboard.
Want to learn more? Click to schedule a demo and see how you can leverage Gocious PRM on your journey towards a more flexible and agile product team.