Digital Networks and the End of Single Source of Truth

Digital Networks and the End of Single Source of Truth

One of my ‘burning questions” for PLM in 2018 is about value of data. Check my article (here). What PLM company will provide data is a new oil? I stated it many times – data is the new oil and industries will be transformed. However, there is something missing. While all companies are talking about data-driven approach, data in the center, big data, machine learning and many other things, I cannot see the clear-cut winners in PLM industry that have utilized their data to transform the way they do business and destroy rivals. Every company wants to be data-first, but it’s unclear what firm delivers.

In the pre-digital age, data management platforms served one single function – to control data access and ensure right data is used by people. Although these systems not always succeeded and some of the deliveries were questionable, the goal was clear – to put bring right data to people at the right time. In simple words – give me right version of Part and Assembly and the job in almost done. These systems used as electronic vaults of data and some workflow systems around.

As company are moving towards their new digital horizons, many things are changing. First, we are swimming in the ocean of data and it is coming from everywhere. Customers, sales, services, engineering, manufacturing, contractors, suppliers… Companies are moving from linear traditional supply chain to a new type of so called “Digital Supply Networks”.

Networks are very much different from traditional siloed approach in data management. In the past, each step in the supply chain network was identified by its own system of record – engineering, manufacturing, sales, etc. PLM strategy in these days was set around the concept of single source of truth (SSoT). Some people called it Single Version of Truth. If you think, there is no difference between them, you might be wrong. One of my industry colleagues Lionel Grealou brings the following differentiation between them in his LinkedIn article – Single Source of Truth vs Single Version of Truth.

Single Source of Truth: A data storage principle to always source a particular piece of information from one place. Single Version of Truth: One view of data that everyone in a company agrees is the real, trusted number for some operating data.

The difference is interesting and can help us to move from old fashion siloed data management systems to a new modern approach. From what I can see, companies that specialized in data are already catching up such concepts.

Forbes article Single Version Of Truth: Why Your Company Must Speak The Same Data Language by Brent Dykes explains how important to establish single version (or view) on data that shared between people in the company. Here is my favorite passage:

The retailer’s leadership team decided they needed one version of truth to align their various strategic initiatives on the same metrics. Having one consistent view of the right metrics would also reduce the potential for each initiative leader to massage their team’s results. Consequently, the CEO mandated that all the information for the monthly meetings must be based on data that resided within its business intelligence platform (Domo). He outlawed data from random analytics tools as well as the creation of any supporting documents (slides, spreadsheets, reports). Instead, each initiative had its own real-time dashboard with a simple collection of charts and an agreed-upon set of leading and lagging indicators. With this new approach, they were able to get everyone speaking a common language as they evaluated the performance of their strategic initiatives, which fostered more data-driven conversations, greater collaboration and faster decision making. In addition, the leadership team found they were better aligned and more closely focused on achieving their strategic objectives.

When you introduce single version of truth, it is not about data accuracy first, but about agreement between people. I specially liked that point, it reminded me many PLM implementations in which people from different departments are trying to establish trust and communication, but failing to agree about data they want to share in PLM systems.This is a point where people say “don’t touch my BOM” or “don’t work my documents” are coming from.

Data networks are bringing a new reality in data management and communications. It is not possible anymore to isolate systems into silos and send Excel back and forth. The systems must be in the mode when data is linked between them and single version of truth is established based on links and information gleaned from these networks.

What is my conclusion? The era of single source of truth in PLM is coming to the end. It is not possible to establish single data source and store all data in a single database. It is too limited and it doesn’t scale from all standpoints. Data networks are coming to change it. Systems are becoming intertwined together. The value of data in these networks is increasing and it will lead to fundamental changes in business models that impact all players of manufacturing supply chain. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.



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