Automated Workflows and the Single Source of Truth: What to Know

Woman looking at laptop, with arms thrown up in frustration.

In computer programming, there is an old saying that garbage in equals garbage out. In other words, if you feed a computer algorithm bad data, you’ll get bad (or untruthful) results.

The concept of a single source of truth comes from information technology, though it speaks to business results in many industries. A single source of truth ensures that everyone in an organization uses the same data for making business decisions. It also ensures that the datasets used are as complete, accurate, and up-to-date as possible.

The single source of truth, however, isn’t static and unchangeable for all time. After all, customer phone numbers change, prices change, and change in general permeates the business environment today. What it does mean is that to the best of the organization’s ability, everyone is using the “cleanest,” highest-quality data when making calculations and decisions.

Problems When There Is No Single Source of Truth

It’s easy to see how problems can arise and propagate when there is no single source of truth. If someone is reaching out to a client with a phone number that is no longer valid, it can mean the loss of a paying customer due to an easily corrected error. When one buyer is making purchases based on numbers from one month ago, and another buyer inadvertently uses numbers from two months ago, inventory problems can result.

Problems can also arise when different employees have different opinions on what the truest, most recent data is. It’s important for organizations to address data quality and to create policies that keep people on the same page in terms of which data to use to the greatest extent possible.

The Workflow Report as a Single Source of Truth

Companies can use reports generated from automated workflows to build their single source of truth. A report could, for example, show clearly that most orders arrive from a particular geographic region, or from a specific demographic niche. Automated workflows are capable of collecting vast amounts of data just from data entered by workflow users, and if the data is organized and presented as a report, then everyone is better informed about what the data actually says is going on in the organization.

Workflow reports are great for either confirming or upending expectations about a work process, because they collect data and report on it automatically, without the data having been “spun” by data users’ individual interests.

A Data Detox Workflow

Likewise, it is possible to create workflows specifically for maintaining high quality of single-source-of-truth data. Suppose your business depends on regular one-on-one contact with clients. If a client changes organizations or changes phone numbers, their contact person within your company may be informed of this, but there are no guarantees.

To guard against such problems, a company could create automated workflows for various departments to run at intervals specifically for the purpose of ensuring data truth and quality. A monthly workflow, for example, could distribute contact information to a number of team leaders to verify and then update databases with any changes entered by workflow users. This can help ensure that every team member uses data of the highest quality at all times.

In business, the single source of truth isn’t necessarily as fundamental as a constant like pi, which is unchanging and used in a variety of mathematical applications. Yet people in every position in an organization use data to perform their functions, and they need to be confident that the data they use is current, accurate, and complete.

Automated workflows, like those you can create with PerfectApps, give businesses many tools for ensuring the data they use to make products, contact customers, and make business decisions is of the highest quality. With PerfectApps, a convenient drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to create online forms and automated workflows that are perfectly customized to your needs. And its easy-to-use, powerful reporting capabilities make the creation of reports (which can serve as single sources of truth) practical and fast.

If you want to learn more, we encourage you to watch some of our training videos, including the one on “Reporting.” Automated workflows can help make sure your organization only uses the freshest, highest quality data.