“We’ve got the same data all over the place. I don’t know what to trust.”
I heard this all the time when working with customers at Zapier. If you have
fifteen Google Sheets with some of the same information duplicated in each
sheet, you’re not alone.
Most people in growing small businesses want to be the Usain Bolt of
productivity. But they’re trying to lug around backpacks full of to-do lists,
Google Sheets, and Slack messages.
Today I’m going to teach you something you know you already need: one single
source of truth (SSOT) for your data. You needed it yesterday.
When you successfully implement a SSOT, you’ll lighten your load and move
with efficiency that would put a smile on Usain Bolt’s face.
A SSOT is very simply taking things that are all over the place and bringing
them into one spot. The fewer places something lives the easier it is to
manage and the more reliable it is to use.
If you have customers, you need a SSOT to keep track of their email addresses
and who has contacted them from your team. If their information is in two
places, it’s a matter of one little update to an email address to throw the
whole thing out of whack.
Say goodbye to productivity.
You need a SSOT to make sure your data is accurate.
How do you handle your Google Sheets today? My bet is that you’re like one of
the following three people.
Speed. You have data in multiple places and you’re moving so quickly that no
one cares. You Slack each other asking, “is this the right data or is it over
here?” Inefficient, but you can still get the job done. The data is somewhat
Eventually you all might agree to just use a single Google Sheet. This works.
It just doesn’t scale.
You were Usain Bolt for some time but now you’ve grown so big that all the
Google Sheets have become a tangled, messy, digital hell. Your plan is to make
peace. Unite all the data.
You Google search, “how to sync data” and come across Airtable’s data sync or
some other solution. You try syncing all the data among the Google Sheets. It
feels magical at first.
But you still have a ridiculous number of Google Sheets.
Syncing is often just a bandaid for your operational wounds.
Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember
anything.” Stretch this over into data, and the saying still applies.
Your goal is one source of truth so that you can take the guesswork out of the
To go full-Twain on your data, you’ve got to have discipline. Anytime you feel
the enticing urge to type sheets.new in the URL bar and crack open another
cold Google Sheet, think twice. Ask yourself these questions about the data
you’re working with:
1. Does it live anywhere else?
2. How many people need to interact with it?
3. How long will the data stay relevant?
If the data lives somewhere else, multiple people need to interact with it,
and the data will stay relevant beyond this week, consider creating a single
source of truth.
Instead of using yet another Google Sheet for your SSOT, create an Airtable
base to store your data. Airtable is a relational database which means the
data is treated more like objects as opposed to simple cells in a spreadsheet.
If you’re manually entering your data in Airtable, you may not need Zapier.
But if you want the data to update as time goes on (and you likely do), then
use Zapier to pipe new data into the Airtable base along with ways to keep it
At Write of Passage, we used Zapier to add new students into a single Airtable
base. We referred to Airtable if we needed definitive answers to how each
student was engaging and interacting with our course.
We used Zapier to add attendance data, community engagement data, submitted
articles, survey responses, and more into Airtable.
It was our SSOT, and it saved us hours of time avoiding confusion, mismatched
data, and Slack messages.
Zapier Tables is quickly becoming the single
location where you can store your data. Your apps are already connected. Soon,
you won’t need Airtable for your SSOT. You’ll only need Zapier. We’re not
there, yet (Tables is still in beta).
So to recap:
That's all for this week!
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