Building a System of Record vs. a Source of Truth
By Mark Adams Posted January 4, 2022
As technology evolves, it’s transforming how people do everything from communicating to shopping. Because so much of what we do happens because of the internet, it’s more important than ever that we can rely on and trust the data fed through various applications and systems. Likewise, most organizations rely on a system of record to serve as the backbone for their most essential business processes.
What is a System of Record?
A system of record (SOR) functions as a reference data source for a specific data element. It protects that information from other inconsistencies that can creep in when data gets handled and processed by other people in the company. For that reason, there must be strict checks and balances around who can access and make updates to the data in the system of record.
For example, a customer service rep may use a specific CRM to review information about a customer. Among the information displayed is the customer’s first and last name. That CRM functions as the system of record for reliable customer information. To keep the data consistent, the CSR should not have the ability to change the customer’s name and pass those changes directly to the database.
Instead, there should be specific controls limiting who can change customer information. Otherwise, you end up in a situation where multiple CSRs could inadvertently make updates that cause inconsistencies within the source system. A system of record should always have the most complete, accurate, and timely data because it’s relied on to feed other applications and systems.
Other sources around the organization might house similar details about that customer. However, your system of record should function as the master; the one referred to when there are questions about data entered through other applications.
What is a Source of Truth?
A single source of truth refers to the need for everyone within an organization to make sure they’re making decisions using the same information. Companies should ensure that employees understand which source to use for reliable data to accomplish that. That’s especially important in today’s business environment when so many decisions rely on the validity of the information used.
By having a single source of truth, company leaders eliminate ambiguity for workers who might get confused. For example, the information a business collects from social media may differ from metrics collected from online questionnaires. In addition, having a unified data source to reference makes things less confusing because everyone’s relying on the same data to drive business decisions.
To construct a single source of truth, organizations need reliable, uncorrupted data from SORs, along with buy-in from company leaders. From there, you must work to ensure that only high-quality data makes its way into the single source of truth. You can do that by:
- Excluding random data, like that collected from the news
- Accounting for all information required by company department
- Filtering and combining all relevant data into a platform accessible by everyone in the company
- Ensuring that the information contained in the source system of truth is in line with compliance requirements
How Do You Construct a System of Record?
There are various factors to consider when creating a system of record.
1. Who needs the system of record?
The best way to get started is by diagraming the various processes and workflows relied upon by users. What is it that they’re looking for when completing a task? How does your software align with critical business processes? Typically, they shouldn’t be able to run without your platform.
2. What data does the system of record hold?
You should think about the kind of proprietary data housed within your SOR. For example, many companies use software like QuickBooks to function as their system of record for financial information. Therefore, any information coming from other sources must be checked against the data in that system to confirm validity.
3. Who’s going to use the platform consistently?
The next thing to consider is how many daily or weekly interactions your workers would have with the software. If your platform went down, how would it affect your regular workers? For example, your marketing team might rely on specific software to review analytics. However, if something happened, that wouldn’t affect the people working in operations or accounting.
Now think about what would happen if the time reporting system went down. Suddenly, no one in the company could accurately record their weekly hours worked. That has much broader impacts on the entire organization.
4. Does your software’s output drive business decisions?
What kind of information would your platform produce? Does it provide analytics or reports relied upon by business leaders? Make sure you’re not actually building a source of truth versus a system of record. The more individuals within your organization use information from your software to make decisions, the more likely it is to function like a system of record.
5. Are you translating human knowledge into system coding?
If your system requires a lot of human input, it is harder for someone else to step in and replicate what they do if something unexpected happens. Ideally, a system of record removes the need for human interaction as much as possible to execute essential company processes. That way, others can repeat the same functions without requiring special knowledge that only a few people have.
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