Achieving a Single Source of Truth in Your Organization

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One team confused, the other all going in the same direction

Single source of truth (SSOT) is a concept used to ensure that everyone in an organization makes decisions based on the same data. In document management terms, it’s about centralizing all relevant and up-to-date documents about your company and projects so that they’re accessible from one place.

Why is it important? Because if your teams are storing important documents in personal inboxes or saving them to desktops and folders that no one else can access, they’re effectively hiding information from the rest of the team. This makes it very difficult if not impossible for everybody to be on the same page when they need to be. Cue mistakes and missed deadlines, not to mention version control issues on projects.

SSOT is how you avoid this. Instead of your employees clambering over a ton of wrong answers, outdated answers, and duplicated answers in your system, they’re able to find the right answer straight away – because it’s the only one that’s there.

SSOT: simple to understand, not so simple to implement

Although SSOT is a simple concept, it can be far from simple to implement. That’s because most organizations have a tangle of disparate pieces of software all over their business, which they’ve purchased over years to facilitate different tasks. And while many of these tools are great and do exactly what you need them to do, they’re likely part of a proprietary ecosystem. That means they’re capable of integrating with the other business tools in that ecosystem, but not outside it.

As a result, most businesses have bits of Microsoft, Google, Atlassian, and many more. These tools don’t all play well together because they’re not designed to, and because the tech companies really only want you using their tools, not their rivals’. The problem is, when development, sales, HR, admin, and other departments are all using different software, and these tools aren’t properly integrated and exchanging data, consolidating the company’s information becomes difficult and time-consuming. This in turn can result in poor data quality and accessibility capable of delaying decisions or leading to bad ones.

“Too many tools” in a remote working age

Sure, most organizations have been suffering from this “too many tools” syndrome and by and large coping with it for decades. However, the post-2020 working environment is a distributed one. That’s made getting everyone in your organization on the same page not just an ideal but a necessity. Gone are the water cooler moments when you’d be able to quickly update your colleague on a project. Now that teams are remote and in many cases spread across time zones, getting them all working off the same information takes a lot of discipline. Particularly if they’re in different software platforms.

Which is why they shouldn’t be. Document collaboration is much easier if everybody’s editing the same document, rather than a muddle of Word docs, Google docs, PDFs, spreadsheets, and emails. Attaining a single source of truth in your organization means getting as many users as possible to adopt a single platform, like Confluence.

Don’t take my Word docs!

Migrating everybody over to a single platform is easier said than done. First you have the issue of people being quite happy using the tools they’ve always used and are familiar with. Everybody balks at change, particularly if they see it as an “it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”-type situation. It’s your job to explain why it is broken and why everyone using a platform like Confluence can fix it.

However, offering up Confluence as a fix presents a second problem. While Confluence is widely regarded as an intuitive and user-friendly platform for document collaboration, there’s still a learning curve for those who have only ever used Microsoft Word to make a document. Really, Confluence has more in common with WordPress and other website builders than it does with conventional word processors. So unless you’ve built some websites, you’re going to be a bit lost when you first open up Confluence.

Therein lies your second barrier to adoption. If users see a new tool as being more complicated to use than the current one, they simply won’t use it. They’ll stick to what they know.

So, what you need to do is make Confluence a more attractive prospect. How do you do that? By making it easier to use for the newbie. And how do you do that? Marketplace add-ons.

Why the Atlassian Marketplace holds the key to greater adoption of Confluence

The Atlassian Marketplace is home to thousands of apps that allow you to tailor your Confluence instance to your needs. You may want to find ways of simplifying the tool or you may want to do the opposite. There are apps that make Confluence easier to use and apps that extend native Confluence’s functionality for teams that need it to do more. If you want to increase adoption, it’s the former you want to focus on.

The sheer volume of apps can make the Atlassian Marketplace hard to navigate when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. In order to not get lost in the weeds, our advice is to find out what tools your employees are currently using, and what features they need, and then have a look through the app categories for a match.

Let’s home in on one particular app you can find on the Atlassian Marketplace: Live Input Macros for Confluence. This is an app that is actually designed for both types of users mentioned above. The ones who want a simpler tool, and the ones who want Confluence to do more.

Live Input Macros Screenshot

For the ones who want Confluence to do more, and are Confluence-savvy, Live Input Macros is essentially a quick-edit plugin that allows you to create, edit, and update certain types of Confluence pages automatically and in bulk, without going in and editing each page manually. You can add checkboxes, radio buttons, dropdown lists, date pickers, and text input boxes to create page templates, narrow down searches, and manage/update multiple versions of your Confluence documentation. Long and short: it’s a massive time saver.

For Confluence beginners who need a simpler tool, and may not have used anything other than word processors to make documents, templates are the most important element of Live Input Macros. Once a template is created, it becomes a ready-made Confluence page in which all the user has to do is fill in the blanks.

For example, your user might want to create a contract of sale. You could build a template made up of macros such as checkboxes, text boxes, and date pickers, so that the user can automatically input things like parties, prices, quantities, and dates, and end up with a ready-made contract without having to start from scratch. Effectively they’re able to get their work done just as easily, if not more so, than they did before, rather than getting tangled up in Confluence capabilities they simply don’t want or need.

Conclusion

If you want to get as many users as possible to adopt a single platform like Confluence, the first thing to do is talk to the people you want to be using it. Find out what tools they’re using, whether they’re happy with them, and why. These conversations will reveal how much persuading and demonstrating you need to do. Then, once you’ve got their buy-in, supporting them during and after deployment is important, too. Lots of tools get dropped into employees’ laps with the expectation that they’ll just get on with it. If you don’t continue to engage with your employees post-deployment, they might decide the new tool’s a bit too much hassle and revert back to the old one.

Ultimately, though, it’s the tool itself that will win people over. Vital to the success of any deployment is a user interface that’s simple, familiar, and easy to use, because if it’s not, your employees simply won’t use it. So once you know about their current tools, and the features they’re relying on, search the Atlassian Marketplace for add-ons that will make the transition to Confluence less jarring. Try to make the learning curve as flat as it can be.

Live Input Macros is a great way to do that. If you utilize its features to create page templates, you enable everybody to make documents in Confluence with zero effort. At the same time, the Confluence expert benefits from the speeding up of tasks via some powerful on-page automation. As a result, both types of users are likely to use the platform more, helping to establish Confluence as the single source of truth your organization needs.

Christopher is a self-confessed nerd who’d probably take the cake on Mastermind if Star Trek: Voyager was his specialist subject. He writes fiction about time travel, conspiracies and aliens; loves roller coasters, hiking and Christmas; and hates carpet, rom-coms and anything with chilli in it. He’s written extensively for technology companies and Atlassian partners and specializes in translating complicated technical concepts, specs and jargon into readable, benefits-driven copy that casual readers will understand.