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A Document Control Specialist's guide to the Single Source of Truth

9 March, 2022

It's no secret: data and information is the lifeblood of project and client work, but only if it's well-organised, accessible, accurate and secure. All businesses can benefit from having a single place where all project and client information is stored so they can see the complete picture of any given project you're working on. After all, when your information is saved in one spot, it results in one single version of truth that everyone in your organisation can rely on, meaning teams can use their time, resources and knowledge to make the right decision at the right time. 

We were joined by Lauren Graden, Document Control Specialist and Founder of LGC Academy, on a recent webinar discussing the need for a Single Source of Truth and better information management for businesses around the world. Lauren, who prides herself in making document control easy, provides consulting services for prominent engineering companies in Alberta, Canada.

Technology has changed the face of information management

Given the increasingly connected nature of the world, we're collecting and handling more information than ever. Plus with the changing nature of how we work, more and more organisations are working remotely or in hybrid environments. This opens up immense levels of risk from typically unmanaged collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams chats. This can quickly become a chaotic and risky burden on your organisation, so you need a place where you can see the complete picture of any given project you're working on.

Lauren commented, "Gone are the good old days of paper-based systems where you could physically see your files. Whether they were on your desk in a box, a filing cabinet or in a binder somewhere that you knew exactly where they were because there was typically only one copy or version of each file. Now, we're presented with a new challenge which is managing digital documentation where one file could be good as invisible."

Lauren continued, "Creating copies of digital files is easier than ever and people have a natural tendency to copy files and save them in a new location that works best for them, just so they can quickly find ti again, especially if it was a difficult journey to find that document in the first place. So this immediately poses a risk in terms of document traceability and reliability, and it can end up costing your organisation tens of thousands of dollars in rework and lost man-hours. This is exactly why it's so critical to establish a system that harnesses information, instead of being consumed by it."

Introducing the concept of a Single Source of Truth

The Single Source of Truth is exactly what it sounds like. It's one single master repository of documents or records. It stores all of your business-critical information in one place so that you and your colleagues have access to the information you need when you need it. Plus, you no longer need to go searching through multiple programs, folders or locations to find what you're looking for.

A Single Source of Truth makes compliance and collaboration easier. Lauren explained, "This can be ideal for tracking amendments to an architectural process, product updates and scope changes in the construction industry, and ensuring all revisions are documented, stored and instantly accessible by everyone on the project team. Advanced programs can even remove the responsibility of storing and retaining data away from a single person or department. The system takes responsibility for keeping documentation updated, maintaining a repository and flagging any potential gaps in correspondence."

How all industries can benefit from a Single Source of Truth

As the world continues to change the way we work, one thing remains the same: proper information and document management processes are key to your business' survival. And the two easiest ways to secure a Single Source of Truth, regardless of industry, are removing manual processes and increasing visibility. By automating what you can, businesses save time and money by taking the grunt work out of managing their data, and by keeping information in a central location, everyone in a team can find the information they need, when they need it, removing silos.

Lauren added, "When companies use a common data environment to take care of capturing and filing information, it ensures that everyone can see and amend one single file, which is the source of truth. An electronic audit trail can be produced and ensures that any previous revisions are safely stored and can be accessed at a moment's notice if required."

"Take email for example. Majority of people use email for more than 80% of project correspondence and it's the preferred communication of 73% of business professionals. As a result, the average office worker receives 88 emails and sends 33 emails every single day. This adds up to roughly one email every 12-minutes. Finding specific data within this massive email communication is a difficult task that only increases in complexity upon project completion and as people move on from the company. Businesses need tools in place to enable them to discover and unlock information."

To summarise, all businesses in all industries can benefit from keeping one single version of information. Lauren summarised the key benefits as follows:

  1. Your data becomes discoverable

  2. Eliminate human error through automated workflows

  3. Establish version control

  4. Reduce man-hours wasted on searching for and recreating lost documents

  5. Increased transparency and traceability

  6. Comply with regulatory and legal requirements

"By committing to a Single Source of Truth and storing all business-critical information in one centralised location, you can have confidence in your information, knowing that it's always up-to-date. Not only that, but you'll save time wasted on onerous administrative tasks, be comfortable that you have all the information on hand, and ensure your team is fully quipped to make the best decisions."

Email management: The missing piece of the puzzle

As you can probably tell by now, there are countless benefits to all project and client-facing businesses to having a Single Source of Truth. As the world continues to move towards digital, everyone in an organisation is now a data person, and so, organisations need to ensure that their data and information are stored securely and easy to find.

One thing to keep in mind is that if your Single Source of Truth is not fully complete, it's not the whole truth. Email is often the missing piece of the information management puzzle. Plus, given the vast majority of correspondence for businesses is stored within email systems, from project agreements and scope changes, to complaints and contracts, it makes sense to establish email as the foundation of the Single Source of Truth.

By maintaining accurate records and ensuring emails are a part of your document and information management strategy, you can significantly reduce rework and project disputes, plus have the confidence that your projects have been completed following all safety protocols.

For more information on how you can implement a Single Source of Truth in your organisation, read our eBook or book in a bespoke demo with our team today. If you'd like to discuss document control with Lauren, you can find her on LinkedIn!