Allie Beazell is director of developer marketing @ Census. She loves getting to connect with data practitioners about their day-to-day work, helping technical folks communicate their expertise through writing, and bringing people together to learn from each other. Don't be shy, say hi. 👋

This is part one of our series on evaluating reverse ETL tools. We recommend grabbing our companion guide, The ultimate guide for evaluating reverse ETL tools, to complete the set. 📚

In this installment, you’ll learn why you should invest in reverse ETL, and, more importantly, why you should invest it now. We’ll focus on:

  • Why reverse ETL now ⏱️, including:
  • How business teams have contributed to this need 👩‍💼
  • How data engineers have contributed to this need 📊
  • How the push toward more personalized contributed to this need ❤️
  • The new era of data for business and data teams made possible by reverse ETL right now 🙌

Every day, your customers get up in the morning, make some coffee, go to their computer, and start a conversation with you.

No, they aren’t using words. They’re communicating with data.

If you’re like most modern, data-minded companies, you’ve invested a ton of money to figure out how to listen to these conversation points (about $467 billion globally in 2020, according to Gartner) with new data pipelines. But you still haven’t cracked that final piece: How do you turn all that data into a two-way conversation? After all, while every solid relationship should be mostly listening, you need to show you understand your partner’s needs, too.

Reverse ETL can drive personalization and growth like never before while unlocking the data team’s ability to do their best and brightest work to operationalize analytics across the company. This means happier data teams, and stronger, more communicative dialogue with customers. But only if the new generation of data leaders and RevOps experts know how to evaluate and implement these tools successfully.

That’s why we’ve created our reverse ETL evaluation content series. This collection of resources (starting with the installment you’re reading right now and culminating in The Ultimate guide to evaluating reverse ETL tools) are designed to help you parse why reverse ETL is so important, examine the trade-offs of build vs. buy, and understand the key things to look for when partnering with a reverse ETL vendor.

Why reverse ETL (and why reverse ETL now)? ⏱️

Reverse ETL is a doorway that allows you and your company to step into the new era of Data Everywhere™ (powered by your data warehouse). Instead of just using data for business intelligence to look in the rearview mirror and identify trends for long-term strategy, you can instead shift to leveraging real-time data insights and take actions in day-to-day operations.

But why reverse ETL now? Well, that comes down to three things:

1. Business teams use more SaaS apps than ever 👩‍💼

According to the 2020 SaaS reports, companies have an average of 137 unique apps! 🤯 Every day, teams need to buy more and more specialized software to stay competitive and serve customers. But they can’t get the value out of all these specialized (read: expensive) apps without live, trustworthy data access. Instead, data teams are often saddled with building custom connections to and from these apps that cause more issues than they fix.

2. Data engineers are too valuable to be number fetchers 📊

The increasing number of applications used by business teams has only meant more support tickets and custom requests from business teams that leave in-house engineers and analysts scrambling to keep up.

Without a dedicated reverse ETL tool, data teams waste their skills buried under error messages and custom API integration maintenance. Companies should instead leverage their high-value data folks to transform datasets and unlock new value for the business, while simultaneously enabling business teams to be more self-service.

3. Companies need better data pipelines to drive personalization and engagement ❤️

Customer journeys (and the relationships you build with each user) are longer and more complex than ever before. Sales, marketing, and success teams need a way to action data from each touchpoint with a customer to ensure they convert and get the most out of the product. Reverse ETL enables you to automate personalization at scale and ensures the data you’re collecting and ingesting makes it back to the front-line teams that need it most.

It’s time for a new era for the data team with reverse ETL 🙌

This workflow probably sounds familiar to everyone reading this: The business team gets a shiny new tool. They hack together as much functionality as they can in self-serve mode before pushing the remaining work over to the data team. The data team, overloaded with similar requests from every stakeholder in the business, churns out as good of a data integration solution as they can as quickly as possible. Three months later, the connection breaks. Rinse and repeat.

We’re not doing that era of data anymore.

See this? ☝️ This is how we’re not going to operate anymore thanks to reverse ETL and operational analytics.

The flow of data from the warehouse into operational systems is no longer a nice-to-have stream of information, but an integral part of the modern company’s critical path, with data teams and tooling the shepherds that move data safely.

This new responsibility of the data team shouldn’t be taken lightly. Bad data today isn’t just a matter of an erroneous report, but a liability that can dramatically impact operations and profit margins (not to mention eroded confidence and trust in the actions based on that data). Investment in quality reverse ETL tooling is the difference between a well-engineered data boat along the critical path and an error-laden ship that’ll sink the business.

Ready to learn what’s next? Check out part two of our series on evaluating reverse ETL vendors where we cover the infamous build vs buy debate. Or, if you’re already ready to start shopping around for reverse ETL tools, grab a copy of The ultimate guide to evaluating reverse ETL tools to make sure you find the best tool for your use case.