Best Practices

How to choose the right data integration tool for RevOps: Top tips from Culture Amp | Census

Nicole Mitich
Nicole Mitich October 18, 2022

Nicole Mitich is the content marketing manager @ Census. She's carried a love for reading and writing since childhood, but her particular focus is on streamlining technical communication through writing. She loves seeing (and helping) technical folks share their wisdom. San Diego, California, United States

If you’re searching for a data integration tool to connect your business apps, you’ll probably narrow your search down to two tools: iPaaS and Reverse ETL. 

But what’s the difference? Can they coexist? How do you know what’s right for you?

Luckily, we covered this topic in our recent webinar, How to choose the right data integration tool for RevOps. It featured some experienced RevOps folks who know all the intricacies of data integration tools:

In this webinar, Ben and Syl discussed the pros and cons of Reverse ETL and iPaaS, and how to choose which tool is best for your business use case.

Think about how your data might be used

When you’re just starting to weigh your tool options, consider exactly how your data will be used throughout the business (and the implications that may arise from inaccuracies in that data). Like Culture Amp, dive deep to uncover the importance of choosing the right tool and the right data from the get-go.

“There's a lot of strategic planning on our side upfront because if you make one bad decision early on, you've got to live with it for many years. And the other big decision we made was how are we going to send product data to a business tool like Vitally? And it comes back to that spectrum, I think, where depending on how important or what are the stakes, what are bad outcomes that can happen here? Because in my mind, you can give people raw product data event streams into a tool like Vitally, but then you just don't know what's going to happen with that.”

What happens to that data once it’s out of your hands? Likely, someone will assume it’s correct,  run with the information you give them, start building reports and automation, and, ultimately, all this new information will end up in your customers’ hands. The threshold for errors in data is low, so if you’re presenting outdated or inaccurate data to your team and customers, their trust in your insights will fall – quickly.

The key difference between iPaaS and Reverse ETL

So, what’s the differentiating factor between iPaaS and Reverse ETL, anyway? At their core, iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) tools like Zapier, Workato, Tray, and Mulesoft integrate data by creating point-to-point connections. Meanwhile, Reverse ETL syncs a single source of truth (the data warehouse) to GTM tools via a hub-and-spoke method, making your data more reliable and accessible. What does that mean for you? Just take it from Ben. 

“As you get bigger, you're going to need to evolve your analytics warehouse. And I think the key difference between iPaaS and Reverse ETL is: With Reverse ETL, you can have the things that people look at day in and day out on BI dashboards also be the thing that powers your SaaS applications to create that source of truth because you're doing the same things. From that standpoint, I think you will evolve into that sophistication and your analytics layer will save you, as a RevOps professional, from complicating your Salesforce so much.”

The biggest benefit of Reverse ETL is standardizing on a single source of truth – your analytics warehouse. If you’re already running BI reports and dashboards from a warehouse like Snowflake, Redshift, or BigQuery, now you can keep those metrics standardized and up-to-date in every business tool.

Did you know that the number of connections grows by the square of the number of applications? That means that even eight apps could require as many as 64 distinct connections to keep your entire stack in sync. When you choose Reverse ETL over iPaaS, you leave room for your organization to grow – without the messiness of adding extra connections for every app.

Learn SQL. Your RevOps career will thank you.

Believe it or not, the most important business skill you can possess today isn’t expertise in a business tool like Asana or PowerPoint. It’s a comprehension of SQL. Though this was originally more of a “nice-to-have”, as companies become increasingly data-driven, SQL has evolved into a must-have, especially in RevOps roles. And Ben’s career is a testament to that.

“I think one of the biggest things that helped me in my career is learning basic SQL. So, just find somebody willing to give you that time at a company. It's no better to use it on your own, to learn it on your own data, but it will help you think about how you build systems strategically and intelligently for your entire revenue.”

People often (inaccurately) assume that SQL is something only data scientists and engineers need to know, but that’s simply not true in this day and age. For RevOps folks, SQL can help you work faster, make well-rounded business decisions, and mold a fulfilling career path. So, naturally, businesses that effectively leverage these SQL-minded RevOps professionals have a leg up on their competition.

Develop key “star” metrics to unify your team

If you’re a RevOps leader who’s struggling to nail down your roadmap for shipping new product features, you’re not alone. Ben struggled to iron out this process at Culture Amp, too, until the product team found a better way to build, manage, and release their products: A star metric.

“I've got to give credit to the product analytics team. We’ve come a long way. Now, a new feature or a new product is shipped and, more or less instinctively, our product managers know to collaborate with our product management and product analytics teams. So, they're creating the tracking plan; they're defining the important metric for adoption for this. And then very soon we have what's called a star metric. I don't know a lot about it, but how it's presented internally is pretty incredible because it's this one metric for this feature or this product that everybody can rally behind – both product managers and customer success.”

More teams than ever are dealing with the consequences of either A) not defining a product framework at all or B) defining it the wrong way and leading their team down an unintended path. With a star metric like the one Ben described, you can unify all your teams under a more focused, less reactive roadmap and address customer issues instead of just blindly churning out more features.

RevOps is the organization’s layer of defense

RevOps was founded under the vision of alignment. It was conceptualized to align sales, marketing, and customer success teams into a unified revenue-generation engine. So it makes sense that – at Culture Amp – RevOps leaders would act as the middlemen between departments.

“The RevOps team is in the middle there, I think, to help iterate and be that layer of defense. When the product team is thinking about something a certain way, you've got a RevOps layer that can engage with other teams, and then come back and iterate and give communication back and forth.”

Let’s face it: The disconnect between expectations and reality across teams can lead to disaster. Fortunately, RevOps leaders are the layer between GTM teams and data teams that keep the entire organization running smoothly. 

Don’t try to boil the ocean

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when starting any task is trying to do it all at once, David-and-Goliath style. And this is no different when we’re talking about how RevOps folks can deliver value to different teams across the organization. In fact, to support his advice, Ben referenced Tristan Handy’s article, The Startup Founder’s Guide to Analytics.

“What's going to happen when you're a company of 50 or 100 people is people have different experiences. They're coming from companies with different backgrounds, so there's an iteration here where you've got to start small and you've got to build towards it. And I think that would be my advice: Just take it one step at a time and don't go too crazy with advanced things. Don't bring in all these different technologies. Start at the bottom.”

Keep in mind: There’s a journey that needs to happen. Don’t be afraid to start small and be intentional with every step you take. As the organization scales, your analytics and your approach can evolve to become more sophisticated along with it.

Open communication across the organization

Ben’s parting piece of RevOps advice for us was solid: Take every team into account, then prioritize and communicate. But it’s not easy. In fact, it’s a constant struggle to juggle everything everyone wants all at the same time.

“You're never going to – with most companies – have a sales analytics team who can just service everything. And if you're in RevOps, your role is to be able to weigh the business impact ranking on all those projects and the urgency of all those items, and you need to work on the things that have the highest impact and have the highest urgency. By limiting yourself to one org, you're not going to have the impact you want to have on the business. And to do that you need so many prioritization matrices and all of those things are super hard to do. So, that's your role: To try to do that and work with senior leaders. But it is really hard if it's silent. Senior leaders like to get a chief sales officer to agree with the chief marketing officer that this one thing is more important. That's the tricky thing for RevOps professionals all the time.”

Cross-departmental communication, he stressed, is essential for getting everyone on the same page and driving impact (and, of course, revenue).

Want to hear more from Ben? Catch the full webinar below 👇

✨ Need help choosing the right data integration tool for RevOps? Book a demo with a Census product specialist!