by Thomas Wailgum

The Ugly Truth About “One Version of the Truth”

Nov 26, 20083 mins
Enterprise Applications

Just a guess: You’ve got a disconnected set of ERP software applications spread all over your enterprise. You’ve probably got a standalone SaaS CRM system for the sales folks. Perhaps you just bought a business intelligence package that’s supposed to deliver analytics and reporting data to managers and operations people. (You’re working on it now.) Throw in a data warehouse, under marketing’s domain, and maybe a supply chain or procurement system, and you know what you’ve really got? A mess.

For what seems like too long a time, most organizations have struggled to get a handle on all of the enterprise-wide data contained in their disparate systems.

Take your pick of the common problems: too many data sources; too many issues with “dirty” data; too many silos and no integration; too many questions about access rights—adding up to too many reasons why any sane person inside those companies would ever want to take ownership over the data. And unless someone does take ownership, an organization will never achieve the oft-discussed “One version of the truth” goal with its enterprise-wide data.

Compounding this timeless trouble: most companies have been growing and adding new enterprise applications and systems—not reducing the number of overall data sources. In other words, the 21st century technological expansion has piled even more data streams on top of an already vexing problem. The result: more fuel on an already out-of-control fire. (You might have noticed that master data management initiatives have grabbed a hold of the “one version of the truth” catchphrase.)

The newest attendee to the party is business intelligence, or BI. A recent report from Aberdeen Group, by research director David Hatch, examines why companies struggle with “one version of the truth” and how BI reporting and analytic tools fit into the picture. “Many organizations spend months and endure significant costs to obtain the reporting and analysis capabilities that BI promises,” Hatch writes, “only to find that different ‘versions of the truth’ still exist without any definite way of determining which one is real or accurate.”

As part of the report, Aberdeen surveyed more than 200 senior executives and operations management professionals from 152 companies in varying industries. The root causes of “multiple versions of the truth,” according to those surveyed, included: at the data source (“Our data is not clean or properly managed,” 74 percent); at the integration level (“Our data sources are not integrated properly,” 60 percent); and at the end-user information access and consumption level (“Users introduce error,” 49 percent).

The top reason behind the “one version of truth” quests for those surveyed was unsurprising: 36 percent wanted to replace “gut-feel” decisions with “fact-based” ones.

If enterprises don’t fix their multiple versions of the truth predicaments, Hatch notes, the end result won’t be pretty: No one inside the company will trust the information that is supposed to be aiding their decision making. And, most likely, they’ll go straight back to their guts.