Contact Sync 101

By Andy Mowat | Updated: 04 Mar, 2014

Organizations and individual executives use a variety of platforms to manage contacts. However, core SaaS contact management tools (platforms like Salesforce, Google Contacts, Outlook or LinkedIn, for example) don't sync well with each other. That creates several issues, including:

  • Contacts aren’t synced across your team’s devices.
  • Updating contacts is often an arduous process.
  • When contacts move from one company to another, there is no way to automatically update your CRM accordingly.

While there are a couple of CRMs (i.e. Nimble) that have taken a progressive approach to integrations, most existing platforms have a closed approach to data. That limits off-the-shelf syncing. Hence the need for a contact sync solution.

Contact Management Platforms

Contact sync involves syncing contact information between multiple, separate platforms. These platforms are broken down as follows:

1. Traditional contact management platforms that are generally integrated with leading email/calendar programs. Examples include Google Contacts or Microsoft Outlook.

2. CRM software, which is often the core contact management platform for enterprises. Leading vendors include, SugarCRM and Microsoft Dynamics.

3. Social networks, which are increasingly becoming contact management platforms themselves. In the future, we could see some of these roll out their own CRM functionality. Social network contact management platforms include:

  • LinkedIn: The company recently launched "LinkedIn Contacts" based on its acquisition of Connected. Note: LinkedIn severely restricts its API, which limits its ability to integrate with other platforms.
  • Facebook: Facebook is increasingly becoming a contact hub, but its more personal nature makes it less of a central player for enterprise contact sync than the others we’ve identified here.

Enterprise Contact Sync Recommendations

The focus of our evaluation is on tools that allow 'managed' sync between two (or more) of these contact management platforms. The right tool for your company will vary, based on your specific platforms. Below are three recommended contact sync tools for enterprises. All of them

  • Sync with leading CRM programs;
  • Allow for central administration; and
  • Work well in a multi-user environment.

Cirrus Insight is a must-have tool for executives who use Salesforce and Google. It provides both intuitive and flexible 1-way syncing (from Salesforce to Google Contacts) and email/calendar syncing. Price: $17 per user per month

Appirio Cloud Sync is an app built by Appirio (a leading cloud integration firm) for their large consulting clients. Without a consulting contract, there is limited support or customization, but it does a good job syncing bi-directionally between CRM and Google Apps. Price: $4 per user per month

Riva syncs CRM data bi-directionally with Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Lotus Notes, and Novell GroupWise. The tool is highly customizable, but support can be a bit slow to respond. Price: ~$10-15 per user per month

A few other contact sync tools we are watching include: Yoxel and (their teaser has us intrigued!)

We also evaluated several of impressive personal contact sync solutions which didn’t integrate with Salesforce / other CRMs, including Full Contact. Their utilization is limited for most use cases, given the lack of CRM, but may be appropriate for smaller companies.

Whichever one you decide on, contact syncing is a pain point that will inevitably need to be addressed at your company sooner or later. Better to know your options now and be prepared to solve the problem when it arises.

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