Aberdeen Report Offers Insight on Obtaining 'One Version of Truth'

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When you talk about data integration, one of the oft-cited goals is the Quest for One Version of the Truth.

As a writer, I'm amused by the very phrase. You would think "the truth" would suffice, but, no, such is the state of information overload that we have to state we're looking for "one version of the truth."

The reasons for this quest are obvious. How can you improve a situation if you don't really know what it looks like now? You can't, and yet, this is exactly what most of us are doing, which is probably why, according to a recent Aberdeen Group report, the top reason given for pursuing one version of the truth is to "replace 'gut-feel' with 'fact-based' decisions."

Aberdeen's analyst David Hatch must've been feeling a bit humorous when he wrote the title on this one: "One Version of the Truth 2.0: Are Your Decisions Based on Reality?" It was written last month, but the research firm recently and temporarily unlocked it for public download, provided you're willing to hand over your e-mail address.

Aberdeen surveyed 200 professionals from 152 companies during August and September, so this data is recent. Basically, Aberdeen looked at how companies were trying to alleviate multiple versions of "the truth" and ranked the companies according to best-in-class performers, the industry average and laggards. One thing that really caught my eye here is four metrics used to determine best-in-class:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Employee productivity
  • Overtime incurred
  • Litigation costs

That last one amused me, because it was so unexpected.


I also didn't expect the extreme difference in litigation costs between best-in-class and industry laggards. According to the report, the best-in-class saw these costs decrease by a mean average of 9 percent during the past 24 months, while the laggards -- the bottom 30 percent -- saw their litigation costs increase by a mean average of 124 percent during the same period.


You know legal fees aren't cheap, so there's a big step on your ROI, with just one metric.


As you might suspect, there's a lot about integration and integration technologies in this report. Data integration problems were among the top three inhibitors to achieving a single version of the truth, with 53 percent of respondents citing this as a barrier, compared to 33 percent who cited lack of top management commitment to projects and the 26 percent who cited lack of IT resources/bandwidth.


Best-in-class companies tend to lead the pack in investing in integration-related technologies, too. While they invested more than the other two groups in all data management tools, the discrepancy was particularly noticeable when it came to investing in Master Data Management (MDM) tools, meta-data management tools and data quality/cleansing tools.


But as usual, the key difference between best-in-class companies and everybody else isn't the technology, but how the problem is addressed across the organization. The report lists the top five strategies practiced by best-in-class companies to obtain a single version of the truth, and the top reason was establishing a data-focused corporate culture around a "single version of the truth" and a "system of record." The report notes, "This single strategy is twice as likely as any other to be at the topmost of the Best-in-Class executives' minds."


Typically, IT organizations grump about spreadsheets as a major barrier to "one version of the truth." Interestingly, the strategy of removing spreadsheets was more widely practiced by the laggard and the industry-average groups than the best-in-class companies.


Once again, we're reminded you can't solve a business problem just by buying a technology solution.


Multiple versions of information is a pressing concern for most organizations and, as the report notes, this is a process many companies have just begun to address. There are a lot of good tips here, both in the report proper and the sidebar, and you'll find a list of recommendations for all groups -- laggards, industry average and best-in-class -- beginning in chapter three of this 27-page report.