What is data synchronization? And why is it important?

Your employees often view the same set of data across different applications. 

Your marketers might view leads in a marketing automation platform while your sales reps view them in a CRM; your HR team might track employee information in an HRIS while IT stores it in an ITSM; your finance team might review sales orders in an ERP system while your customer-facing employees access them in a CRM—with the list of examples stretching on. 

Having record types appear across apps is clearly essential, but the process of re-entering data across them can also lead to a potential issue: data discrepancies. 

When the same records look different across systems, misalignment and friction emerges among functions. Individual teams are misled into making poor decisions. And business-critical reports are inaccurate. Given these consequences, it’s perhaps little surprise that poor data quality costs organizations millions of dollars every year.  

Data synchronization neatly addresses this issue, as it all but ensures that the data across your apps is consistent and accurate—assuming you’re working with an error-free source system.

To help you fully understand data synchronization, we’ll go on to define it, review common examples, explore its benefits, and share how it can be implemented.

What is data synchronization? 

It’s the continual process of keeping a record type identical between two or more systems. This can be done either in real time or in batches. 

Your synchronization process can work in one of two ways:

  • One-way data sync: when changes in the source system lead to changes in downstream systems, but not the other way around 
  • Two-way data sync: when changes in either the source system or a downstream system lead to changes in the other systems

Finally, while it’s hard to generalize, the type of data that’s synchronized typically lives in a master data set. It’s also data that usually changes less frequently and that gets managed through a lifecycle. 

Note: Data synchronization and data replication are often incorrectly treated as one and the same. However, unlike data syncing, data replication is often used to backup a full dataset, with the intention of maintaining a high-level of data availability.

Common data synchronizations

We’ll illustrate the points above by walking through a few real-word examples:

1. Syncing employee data

The process of adding a new hire into your systems typically starts by adding them into an HRIS; where information like the employee’s first and last name, their email address, job title, and hiring manager get added.

Let’s say that a CRM is one of the downstream apps that needs employee information. You can build a one-way sync where any time employee data changes in the data source (your HRIS), the corresponding changes take place in the CRM. Conversely, you can build a two-way data sync that behaves like the above AND allows for changes in your CRM to also lead to corresponding changes in your HRIS. 

2. Syncing incident data

When two companies have a product that’s closely intertwined, they’ll likely want to track issues in their respective incident management platform; that way, the teams at each organization can keep tabs on any issue and, when appropriate, work to resolve any.

You can create a sync that allows each company’s ITSM tool to be in line with the other. More specifically, you can build a two-way sync where any time one company creates an incident in their tool, the other company’s tool also receives it. This allows the two teams to coordinate and work on resolving the issue faster.

3. Syncing customer data

Once a new client and their info gets added to your CRM, that data will likely need to be made available in a variety of other apps. These include customer success apps, reporting and analytics tools, marketing platforms, finance systems, etc.

Though it often depends on the company and situation, customer data is often better suited for a two-way sync. Why? Because a variety of functions that perform activities in apps outside of a CRM might uncover information or run into issues that require visibility from those that work in their CRM.

For example, an employee in finance might have trouble with invoicing a client. Using a two-way sync, they’d be able to create a case in their ERP system (highlighting the issue) and have the case also populate in the CRM. There, the sales rep can become aware of the invoicing issue and take action quickly.

Related: What is an ETL tool? And how is it different from an iPaaS

Benefits of synchronizing data

Given these use cases, among countless others, it’s perhaps little surprise that synchronized data brings a wealth of benefits to the business.

  • Data silos are removed. Now that employees can access the data they need in the apps they work in, they can avoid the tedious process of requesting access to it—or worse, being unaware that the data even exists.
  • Extensive data entry can be prevented. The process of inputting data manually isn’t just unpleasant for employees. It can also lead to human errors that impact data quality, whether that means employees input incorrect information or forget to input it at all. In response, employees are forced to perform a substantial amount of rework, which takes them away from other business-critical tasks.

Data synchronization ensures that employees don’t have to re-enter data across apps, and in doing so, it allows them to avoid the negative consequences highlighted above.

  • Several data operations can be performed. These include creating records, updating them, and deleting any. 

By leveraging a combination of these operations across your apps, your data syncs can drive even greater value to your employees and the business.

  • Data can be synced in near real time. While syncing data in batches might suffice for certain situations, near real-time synchronization is often invaluable for executing business processes successfully. It allows sales and finance teams to collaborate more effectively in managing deals, it empowers product and customer support to resolve issues faster, etc.

Related: What is reverse ETL?

Use Workato to sync data with ease and in near real time 

Workato, the leader in integration-led automation, offers a low-code platform that allows your team to implement data syncs without the use of developer resources, giving them bandwidth to focus on other critical areas.

In addition, our platform can perform the syncs via triggers that use webhooks or polling; where the former allows you to perform syncs in near real-time when the trigger event takes place, while the latter allows you to perform it at predefined time cadences (e.g. every 5 minutes).

You can learn more about Workato and how it can help you keep your data consistent across apps by connecting with an automation expert.

About the author
Jon Gitlin Content Strategist @ Workato
Jon Gitlin is the managing editor of The Connector, where you can get the latest news on Workato and uncover tips and frameworks for implementing powerful integrations and automations. In his free time, he loves to run outside, watch soccer (er...football) matches, and explore local restaurants.