We know, it’s a dramatic term. Still, a single source of truth (SSOT) is a valuable practice for content organization. It demands strategy and a different content development approach, but will ultimately save you time.
Let’s start with some food for thought. If you’ve ever heard the term mise en place, it means everything in its place.
It originated in French kitchens and refers to being fully prepared for cooking. Everything needed to cook what’s on the menu, from paring knives to parsley, would have to be arranged in preparation for dinner service. Mise en place. Everything in its place.
Born in French culinary tradition, mise en place is an idea broadly applicable as a physical organizational practice as well as a state of mind. The physical and philosophical applications of mise en place are important for content organization in your business, too. Your tools and processes are different from those of a chef in a kitchen, but knowing how to go about putting everything in its place is vital to successfully organize your content repository.
A single source of truth and mise en place work beautifully together.
Ok, What’s a Single Source of Truth?
Simply, it means all your information comes from one place. A single source of truth (SSOT) is a state of being for your knowledge. It might sound strange but bear with me.
In order for a business to make consistent decisions, it has to base those decisions on consistent data. If each department in a business gathers, stores, and interprets data differently, making meaningful use of that data gets messy.
When we apply this idea to your company’s content repository, the same is true. If there are multiple inconsistent sources and processes for content creation and storage across an organization, finding and making meaningful use of that content is a difficult task. A task that only gets more difficult as your organization grows. These inconsistencies make content management a major issue. But, when everything’s in its place, content creation, management, and dissemination are orderly.
SSOT takes away that disorganization by keeping your company’s content consistent across the organization. This way, anyone can find what they need, when they need it because it’s in its place. Just like a well-run kitchen, it doesn’t happen at the snap of a finger. Some elements of standardization help lay the groundwork SSOT needs to succeed.
That One Time Being Normal Is a Good Thing
A single source of truth needs standardization to work. A DITA XML standard has built-in structural characteristics meant for keeping vast content libraries ordered, no matter how large they grow with an organization.
The process of normalization is how it’s possible for companies to achieve an SSOT. Normalization calls for a few things to make an SSOT work, all of which DITA XML is capable of fostering in your content repository:
- Componentizing content: Content is usually developed in a linear fashion, like this blog post. Ideas and details are interconnected as the story continues onward from start to end. Component content is built in a way that allows individuals components to exist on their own. This way, each component of content can be arranged, edited, and reused without affecting the other components in a library. Components are content building blocks, each is a block on its own that can be stacked on others to create a piece of larger content.
- Eradicating redundancy: Having copies of the same content is a waste of writing time, a waste of space in your content repository, and an opportunity for unchecked errors to proliferate. That’s where components come in handy. If each piece of content can stand separate from others, redundancy can become a thing of the past and errors have nowhere to hide. One component, one subject, one use. That one use can then be reused anywhere.
- Restructuring content for reuse: Once you’ve parted ways with redundancy, reuse becomes your most formidable ally. Naturally, with SSOT content consolidation, you’ll begin to see holes that content redundancy previously masked. With component content and reuse, topics can be reused where needed, and those content gaps will inform what new components need to be created. That leaves your content creators able to work in specific places, not vague expanses that may overlap or repeat something else in a content library.
With content existing in individually viable components, an SSOT provides a systematic way to remove redundancy, encourage reuse, build content interconnectivity, and identify content gaps that need to be filled. The point is that your company’s content is centralized in one place, and only one place. A single source of truth.
It Won’t Work Without Commitment
After taking a quick look at normalizing your content, it shouldn’t be difficult to deduce that successfully implementing SSOT takes an understandable amount of committed investment. For your company’s knowledge to originate from a single source, the whole organization needs to commit to it as a practice.
This takes a substantial amount of control and ongoing maintenance. However, the initial effort is worth the long term returns. You’ll see time saved and headaches avoided by not having to slog through a vast knowledge mess.
Once you’re there, everything’s in its place.
This article takes a quick look, but if you’re trying to go further in-depth on SSOT, check out our aptly named explainer video and blog post named What is a Single Source of Truth (SSOT).
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