The Difference Between Integration and Sync

When your customer-facing systems work together seamlessly, you enable seamless, meaningful customer experiences. But when data from different systems is copied, pasted, overwritten, and thrown around between systems, you incur a huge amount of technical debt while also endangering the customer experience.

Business applications and the technology that houses valuable customer data tend to be in varying states of disarray. The primary culprit is the inability to connect systems in a way that keeps data accurately synced between the two or more applications. 

And that problem exists because most integrations do not actually sync data. While often used interchangeably, “integration” and “sync” represent distinct approaches to managing customer data within the GTM stack.

Understanding the distinction between integration and sync is crucial for unlocking the potential of customer data within the GTM stack. By embracing sync and unifying customer data, organizations can elevate their customer experiences, drive collaboration, and leverage data-driven insights. 

In this blog post, we will explore the differences between integration and sync, and highlight the crucial importance of syncing unified customer data. We will delve deeper into these concepts, exploring the reasons behind the oversight of sync and outlining a maturity model for achieving continuous decisioning and insights.

Let’s delve into the transformative power of syncing unified customer data in the GTM landscape.

Definition of “Integration” and “Sync”

In the world of data management, it’s essential to understand the distinction between integration and sync. Integration refers to the process of transferring data from a source system to a destination system. It enables collaboration and data accessibility, but it often operates as a one-way flow, without bidirectional synchronization.

Sync, on the other hand, goes beyond mere data transfer. Syncing unified customer data involves ensuring that all systems within the GTM stack are constantly updated and maintain consistent information. It enables real-time, bidirectional data flow, ensuring that every system has access to the most up-to-date and accurate customer data.

The Difference between Integration and Sync

The key difference between integration and sync lies in the depth of data management and the level of synchronization achieved. Integration focuses on moving data from one system to another, often as a one-time transfer or scheduled batch process. It serves the purpose of connecting systems and enabling basic data exchange.

On the other hand, sync goes beyond mere data transfer. It involves bidirectional synchronization, ensuring that data is not only transferred but also continuously and simultaneously updated across all systems in real-time. This bidirectional nature of sync fosters seamless collaboration and ensures that all teams have access to the most up-to-date and accurate customer information.

With sync, changes made in one system are immediately reflected in all connected systems, ensuring consistent and accurate data across the entire GTM stack. This real-time synchronization enables teams to work collaboratively and make data-driven decisions based on the most current information available. It also paves the way for providing personalized customer experiences, as every touchpoint has access to the latest customer data.

The bidirectional and real-time aspects of sync enable organizations to respond promptly to customer needs, market changes, and emerging opportunities, ultimately driving business success.

Importance of Syncing Unified Customer Data in the GTM Stack

Syncing unified customer data is crucial for several reasons. First and foremost, it enables a comprehensive view of customers across all touchpoints. When data is siloed and not synced, teams may have fragmented and incomplete information, hindering their ability to understand and engage with customers effectively.

By achieving synchronization, organizations can enhance collaboration between departments. Sales, marketing, customer service, and other teams can work together seamlessly, armed with accurate and consistent data. This leads to improved cross-functional communication, better alignment, and a more holistic approach to customer interactions.

Moreover, syncing customer data in the GTM stack unlocks the potential for advanced analytics and insights. Accurate and up-to-date data allows organizations to derive meaningful patterns, identify trends, and make data-driven decisions. This empowers teams to personalize marketing campaigns, identify upsell opportunities, mitigate churn risks, and optimize the customer journey.

Syncing unified customer data in the GTM stack is vital for holistic customer understanding, effective collaboration, and data-driven decision-making. The synchronization of customer data enables organizations to provide superior customer experiences, drive business growth, and stay ahead in today’s competitive landscape. 

Integration: Connecting Systems and Data

Examples of Integration in Action

Integration plays a crucial role in connecting systems and facilitating data exchange within the GTM stack. Let’s explore a few examples of how integration is commonly implemented:

  • Web form submissions
    • When a user fills out a web form on a company’s website, integration allows the data from that form to be transferred seamlessly to marketing automation platforms like Marketo, HubSpot, or Pardot. This enables the marketing team to capture leads and initiate automated follow-up actions.
  • Helpdesk ticket registration
    • Integration enables the registration of new help desk tickets with tools like Zendesk and Jira. When a customer submits a support ticket, the integration ensures that the ticket information is seamlessly transferred to the appropriate helpdesk platform, allowing customer service teams to respond promptly and track ticket resolution.
  • Data enrichment
    • Integration also facilitates the enrichment of contact information. For instance, a data enrichment tool can integrate with platforms like Salesforce, HubSpot, or other CRMs to provide updated and additional data about contacts. 

This integration ensures that customer records are enriched with relevant details, improving the accuracy and completeness of customer profiles.

Limitations of Integration-Only Approach

While integration is essential for connecting systems and enabling data transfer, it has some limitations that need to be considered:

  • Complexity
    • Creating multiple integrations can lead to a complex system with multiple points of failure. Each integration requires separate development, configuration, and maintenance efforts, making it expensive to manage and challenging to troubleshoot.
  • Scalability
    • An integration-only approach becomes less scalable as the number of systems and touchpoints increases. Adding new integrations becomes time-consuming and resource-intensive, limiting the organization’s ability to adapt and scale effectively.
  • Lack of Consistency
    • Integration-only approaches result in data silos, hindering a comprehensive view of customer data. This fragmentation leads to inconsistencies, duplication, and difficulties in deriving meaningful insights.
  • Limited Data Accessibility
    • Point-to-point integrations restrict data accessibility to specific systems or departments, hindering cross-functional collaboration and personalized experiences.

To overcome these limitations, organizations need to move beyond a purely integration-focused approach and embrace synchronization to achieve unified customer data across the GTM stack. 

Sync: Achieving Unified Customer Data

Examples of Sync in Action

Syncing unified customer data takes data management to the next level, ensuring real-time updates and consistency across the GTM stack. Here are a few examples of how sync is applied:

  • Unifying contacts and accounts across multiple systems
    • Syncing enables the unification of customer contacts and accounts across various platforms such as marketing automation, CRM, and sales automation. This ensures that all teams have access to the same customer information, eliminating data discrepancies and enabling a seamless customer experience.
  • Maintaining shared states for cross-system processes
    • Syncing shared states across systems is crucial for cross-system processes to run smoothly. For instance, syncing billing status and account type between marketing automation, CRM, sales automation, customer service, and ERP systems ensures that all teams have the latest information for effective collaboration and streamlined processes.
  • Synchronizing notes and notation fields
    • Notes and notation fields often contain valuable information about customer interactions and preferences. By syncing these fields across different systems, such as opportunities, accounts, and contacts, organizations can ensure that all relevant teams have access to comprehensive context, facilitating seamless onboarding handoffs and personalized customer interactions.
  • Matching user data to contacts and accounts
    • Syncing user data with contacts and accounts allows customer success and sales teams to have visibility into product usage, enabling them to identify upsell opportunities and proactively address customer needs. By matching user data to relevant contacts and accounts, organizations can leverage this information to drive targeted upsell and renewal strategies.

Advantages of Sync for Effective Customer Engagement

Syncing unified customer data offers several advantages for effective customer engagement and business success:

  • Holistic Customer Understanding
    • Syncing customer data provides a comprehensive view, breaking down data silos and ensuring consistent and up-to-date information for personalized experiences and targeted marketing campaigns.
  • Improved Collaboration and Alignment
    • Syncing customer data fosters collaboration between departments, enhancing cross-functional communication and delivering a unified customer experience.
  • Data-Driven Decision Making
    • Synced customer data enables data-driven decisions by deriving meaningful patterns and actionable insights for optimizing strategies and enhancing the customer journey.
  • Personalized Experiences
    • Syncing customer data allows for highly personalized experiences based on customer preferences, purchase history, and interactions, leading to increased satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Enhanced Efficiency and Agility
    • Synced customer data improves operational efficiency, reduces errors, and enables prompt response to customer needs and market changes.

Syncing unified customer data in the GTM stack enables organizations to gain a holistic understanding of customers, enhance collaboration, make data-driven decisions, deliver personalized experiences, and optimize operational efficiency. 

These advantages contribute to improved customer engagement, increased customer satisfaction, and overall business success.

The Neglected Need for Sync in GTM Stack

Historical Focus on BI and Analytics

For many years, the primary focus of organizations was on business intelligence (BI) and analytics. The data stack was primarily built to support data warehousing, ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) processes, and reporting dashboards. The goal was to gather data, analyze it, and generate insights for decision-making. However, this approach often overlooked the need for bidirectional data flow and synchronization across the GTM stack.

The Emergence of the “Return Pathway”

In recent times, the concept of the “return pathway” has gained prominence. Also known as reverse ETL, the return pathway acknowledges the importance of bidirectional data flow, where data not only moves from source systems to destination systems but also returns to the source systems in a synchronized manner. This recognition stems from the realization that customer data needs to be continuously updated and consistent across all systems to enable effective GTM strategies.

Insufficiency of BI Stack as a Syncing Solution

While the BI stack has been instrumental in providing insights and analytics, it falls short when it comes to data synchronization. A BI stack primarily focuses on data extraction, transformation, and visualization, often treating the destination system as the final endpoint. This approach overlooks the fact that customer-facing teams, such as sales, marketing, and customer service, rely on synchronized and up-to-date data in their day-to-day operations.

The limitations of the BI stack as a syncing solution have led organizations to adopt separate integration tools to connect various parts of their GTM stack. This has resulted in the proliferation of middleware solutions and increased complexity in managing data flows. Having both a BI stack and separate integration tools introduces additional layers of middleware, which require manual intervention and can be prone to errors.

To address these challenges and realize the full potential of unified customer data, organizations need to recognize that BI stack alone is not sufficient for syncing data across the GTM stack. Instead, they should prioritize the adoption of comprehensive syncing solutions that enable bidirectional data flow, real-time updates, and consistent information across all systems.

The Middleware Dilemma: BI Stack and Integration Tools

The Need for Both BI Stack and Integration Tools

In today’s data-driven business landscape, organizations rely heavily on business intelligence (BI) tools and integration tools to make informed decisions and optimize their operations. While BI stack focuses on data analysis, reporting, and visualization, integration tools play a crucial role in connecting various systems, applications, and databases to ensure seamless data flow.

Both BI stack and integration tools are essential components of a robust data infrastructure. BI tools allow businesses to extract valuable insights from their data and gain a comprehensive view of their operations. On the other hand, integration tools enable data to be shared and synchronized across different platforms and systems, facilitating real-time data updates and ensuring data consistency.

Managing Middleware with Human Resources

Implementing and managing middleware, which includes both BI stack and integration tools, requires a strategic allocation of human resources. Organizations need skilled professionals who are proficient in working with these tools, understanding data structures, and managing data integration processes.

A dedicated team or department is often responsible for maintaining and optimizing the middleware infrastructure. They collaborate closely with other teams, such as data analysts, IT specialists, and business stakeholders, to ensure smooth data flow, resolve issues, and continuously enhance the integration processes.

Challenges and Limitations of Multiple Middleware

While both BI stack and integration tools are indispensable, managing multiple middleware solutions can present challenges and limitations. Here are a few common issues organizations may face:

  • Complexity: Handling multiple middleware solutions can introduce complexity into the data infrastructure. Each tool may have its own learning curve, configuration requirements, and compatibility considerations, which can increase the complexity of system management.
  • Data inconsistency: Integrating data from various sources through multiple middleware tools can introduce the risk of data inconsistencies. It becomes crucial to establish data governance practices, data validation mechanisms, and data quality checks to ensure accurate and reliable insights.
  • Increased maintenance efforts: With multiple middleware tools, organizations need to allocate resources for maintaining and updating each tool individually. This can lead to higher maintenance efforts, especially when it comes to applying patches, upgrading versions, and addressing compatibility issues.
  • Integration overhead: Integrating multiple middleware tools may require additional effort to establish connections, set up data mappings, and maintain synchronization between systems. This can result in increased overhead, both in terms of time and resources.

To address these challenges, organizations should carefully evaluate their middleware requirements and consider solutions that offer comprehensive capabilities, seamless integration, and easy maintenance. Consolidating middleware tools, where feasible, can help simplify the infrastructure and reduce complexity.

The middleware dilemma of managing both BI stack and integration tools is a crucial aspect of building a robust data infrastructure. While BI stack empowers organizations to derive insights from data, integration tools ensure seamless data flow across platforms and systems. 

Managing multiple middleware solutions requires careful resource allocation and consideration of challenges such as complexity, data inconsistency, maintenance efforts, and integration overhead. 

By evaluating their middleware needs and seeking comprehensive solutions, organizations can overcome these challenges and create a streamlined and efficient data infrastructure to support their business goals.

The Maturity Model: Advancing Towards Sync

As organizations evolve in their data management and analytics journey, they go through various stages of maturity. Understanding these stages can help businesses assess their current state and identify areas for improvement. In this section, we will explore the maturity model for data management and analytics, focusing on the progression towards achieving synchronization and data-driven decision-making.

  • Level 1: Manual Processing
    • At the initial stage, many organizations rely on manual processes and spreadsheets to manage their data. This level is characterized by disparate data sources, manual data entry, and limited data visibility. Insights are derived through basic calculations and analysis performed by individuals, leading to time-consuming and error-prone processes.
  • Level 2: Siloed Automation with Connectors
    • As businesses realize the limitations of manual processes, they start to automate certain data-related tasks. This level involves implementing connectors and integration tools to enable data flow between different systems and applications. However, data remains siloed, with limited integration and coordination between various data sources. While automation improves efficiency, insights are still derived from individual datasets rather than a holistic view of the data.
  • Level 3: Unified Reporting and Unreliable Data
    • In this stage, organizations focus on unifying their reporting processes by centralizing data from different sources. Data warehouses and data lakes are implemented to consolidate data, providing a more comprehensive view of the organization’s operations. However, data quality and reliability become significant challenges, as inconsistencies, duplications, and inaccuracies persist due to the lack of proper data governance and cleansing processes.
  • Level 4: Signals Activation and Distributed Metrics
    • At this level, organizations adopt advanced techniques such as signals activation and distributed metrics. Signals activation involves leveraging automation and machine learning algorithms to identify patterns and anomalies in the data, providing actionable insights. Distributed metrics allow different teams and stakeholders to have access to relevant data and metrics specific to their roles. This level emphasizes collaboration and ensures that insights are shared across the organization to drive informed decision-making.
  • Level 5: Continuous Decisioning and Insights
    • The highest level of maturity is characterized by continuous decisioning and insights. Real-time data processing, advanced analytics, and predictive modeling are utilized to enable proactive decision-making. Data becomes the foundation for continuous improvement and innovation, driving strategic initiatives and delivering a competitive edge. Organizations at this stage leverage technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate data analysis and generate actionable insights in real-time.

Advancing through the maturity model of data management and analytics is a journey that requires a strategic approach and continuous improvement. From manual spreadsheet processing to achieving synchronization and data-driven decision-making, organizations evolve through different stages. 

By embracing automation, unifying data, ensuring data quality, activating signals, and fostering a culture of continuous decision-making, businesses can leverage their data assets to drive growth, efficiency, and innovation.


The effective management of customer data within the GTM stack is essential for driving successful go-to-market strategies. Understanding the distinction between integration and sync is key to unleashing the true potential of customer data. Integration focuses on data transfer, while sync goes beyond by ensuring bidirectional data flow and real-time updates.

Syncing unified customer data brings several advantages. It provides a comprehensive view of customers, enhances collaboration between teams, and enables data-driven decision-making. By syncing data, organizations can improve customer engagement, identify upsell and renewal opportunities, and optimize the customer journey.

The need for sync in the GTM stack has often been overlooked due to historical emphasis on BI and analytics. However, as organizations realize the importance of bidirectional data flow, the concept of the “return pathway” has emerged. The limitations of the BI stack as a syncing solution necessitate the adoption of comprehensive syncing tools to achieve synchronized and accurate customer data.

By understanding the maturity model of data management and analytics, organizations can assess their current state and strive towards continuous decision-making and insights. Advancing through the levels of data maturity involves automation, unification of data, ensuring data quality, activating signals, and leveraging advanced analytics.

Syncing unified customer data in the GTM stack is vital for effective go-to-market strategies. By embracing sync and leveraging comprehensive syncing solutions, organizations can unlock the full potential of their customer data, drive collaboration, and make data-driven decisions to achieve success in today’s competitive landscape.

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