There are a number of FAQ's that cover the various methods and utilities/applications to sync (synchronise) Contacts and Calendar items from OpenCRM with third party applications including Google, Microsoft 365 (M365), and Outlook.
This FAQ is written specifically to remind you that the process to synchronise data from OpenCRM to your chosen device can be a sophisticated one. Even though the tools available from Software Add-ons and other third party providers will explain what needs to be done, as a warning please remember that what you are trying to achieve can have many quirks and kinks.
Whenever you integrate applications there are many elements that need to be fully understood.
It is ultimately your responsibility to configure these applications and tools which may have specific considerations depending on how your computers/servers are set up.
Always back up your data before you embark on this type of project and seek professional advice if you feel at all nervous about what is required.
Synchronising too much data, causing duplicates OR having an external application delete records can have a serious effect.
Speak to your OpenCRM account manager so that we can estimate the chargeable professional services time you might need for us to manage the integration with you.
Remember : If you make a mistake it can have serious and wide ranging ramifications on the data integrity within OpenCRM. Errors caused may not be easily reversed and could prove to be costly as any correction will be chargeable.
Consideration #1: General
Getting your Contacts and Calendar items synchronised between a third party tool like Google or M365 and OpenCRM offers a multitude of opportunities to share this valuable data with other systems and devices.
This FAQ outlines some of the considerations that you should be aware of, covering aspects that are less to do with the technical capability of your proposed solution and looks closer at Data Ownership and Best Practice.
Google Account Options
You have two key options available to you when you look at Google accounts, this includes the FREE Personal Account or Google Apps Business Account. (Whereas with Microsoft, you have to be using a Business Account to utilise the API functionality that makes our integration possible.)
It is very easy to sign up to a FREE Google account and start to distribute the data from your corporate systems, however you should consider 'who owns the data'.
Using your employees own personal accounts that may already be set up and working raises the question of ownership of data and accessibility to the Google account should you need to restrict access for a specific user.
For this reason we would suggest you either sign up and manage the personal account yourself - in other words sign up to the account but keep the management of the user details within your control, this is not always feasible, or sign up to a Business Account where you manage the corporate account details and can restrict specific users as an overall administrator.
Synchronised Mobile Devices
Once the data is within Google or Microsoft, many users will want to synchronise this information onto their smartphone, tablet or laptop. This process can offer real efficiencies when working off-line or in a disconnected environment, however you should think about how the mobile devices are used and the information that is stored on them.
By synchronising the data to an employees personal mobile device you should consider "who owns the data". You also need to consider how you would restrict access to this information if the need were to arise.
Many smartphones and tablets have a 'remote wipe' facility which can be triggered from a central administration control panel. If the device is owned and managed by your company this would be a wise option to set up to help manage the data when it is out in the field. This is useful if your device were to be stolen or lost as well as when you make changes to a persons employment.
Note : Be aware that a user could backup their device prior to your data wipe and the employee would be able to restore this data in the future, in most cases this backup is not accessible to you remotely. This is where your Employment Contract and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy offers a level of protection.
Contract of employment
It has been common practice to have a section in your Contract of Employment that gives details on acceptable use for data and company resources. Alternatively, you may have a dedicated BYOD Policy for employees to sign who wish to use their own mobile device to access company data.
There is also quite likely a Non Disclosure Section which will cover what should happen to any private information including data if the employment were to be terminated.
It is advisable to get some specialist advice on how best to manage this aspect of your contract but at the least should include a protection for your business and its clients with regards access to this information. Consider who is responsible for reporting any loss of the device and how secure the device should be (passwords etc..) that has your data available.
Third Party Applications
Synchronising your data into third party applications such as PIM's, Social Networks (Facebook, Skype, LinkedIn, Twitter) and other vertical applications (such as Tungle.me) requires you to think seriously about who will get access to these applications and how you will manage restricting access if this became a requirement. Some third party applications exist to give a wider community access to your information, remember that once distributed this can be very difficult to protect. Consider your company's responsibility to this data on behalf of your clients and prospects.
User Permissions once data is out of OpenCRM
You need to think about how the data that is synchronised will be visible once it is outside of OpenCRM. As an example, you could create a single Google account to manage ALL your users calendar items. You can create different Calendars in Google or Microsoft and synchronise these calendars with individual users. The synchronisation process takes account of the OpenCRM security model and therefore will only let your user synchronise items that the user can see in OpenCRM. If, however, you were to give access to a user to ALL of the Calendars you have set-up to synchronise, this would allow them to see other peoples calendars and might mean they can see items that would otherwise be protected in OpenCRM which Google (and Microsoft) does not have a way to secure.
The other area that needs a dedicated thought process is when should you synchronise to a general 'global' contacts list and have multiple user from OpenCRM synchronising into this 'pot', OpenCRM will faithfully support the security that you have set up within OpenCRM but once the Contacts are shared in a third party application, you may not have any of the granular OpenCRM security and therefore one user may be able to see all records which might include records that are private and protected in your OpenCRM system.
These data situations can be managed and supported with a proper data management strategy but it does need a considered view and some serious consideration for the bigger picture and who is responsible should a data leak occur.
These suggestions are provided as guidance only to help highlight the areas that you should be looking at when drafting your strategy and putting these data synchronisation features in place.
Consideration #2: Tips before your first sync
The following are some guidelines that we hope will help you attain a successful outcome.
Before you begin....
Back up your data - Make sure you have an easy route back to your starting point. Please do not underestimate how easily things can become challenging and mistakes can happen, being able to return to the vanilla state is a real psychological cushion.
Know your data.....
One of the most common problems with synchronising data is getting duplicate records. This can be caused by a number of problems, however what is also very common are users reporting duplicates within their systems when in fact the duplicates already existed. Because OpenCRM allows you to filter your data into an efficient working view you may lose sight of some of the records that are not always visible and therefore you don't fully appreciate what you will see in Google.
Turn off other Sync Tools
The best advice we can give is to let your synchronisation strategy evolve. Turn off all other synchronisation software, this includes Smartphones, Microsoft Active Sync & Third Party Sync tools - Google Sync add-ons etc....
Remember that you may have set up your smartphone to synchronise with your corporate systems using Active Sync (Exchange account) and this will quite likely be synchronising between your phone and Outlook/Exchange. Disable the synchronisation so that you do not get any unexpected behaviour, perhaps caused by an unknown loop within the synchronisation process (different applications carrying out the same job and creating duplicate records).
Your Android phone was probably set up with your Google account - be sure that you have the correct account details set-up and you do not have multiple Google accounts which are set to automatically synchronise data. Again, this can cause problems with duplicates and will just make your job tracking down any errors in the event you need to troubleshoot the process even harder.
On your phone or elsewhere on your different devices you may have set up synchronisation with Social Media accounts such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, & many others. You are advised to disable these synchronisation services. Once you have a successful synchronisation between OpenCRM and Google you can turn these back on one at a time to track if there are any unusual results.
Targets and Sources
Take a moment to think about the the terminology that is often used when discussing synchronisation. Particularly if you need to get assistance from someone else.
Source or Host is the originating location - this can be OpenCRM OR third party dependent on where the record was created.
Destination or Remote is the location where the data is being synchronised to.
The key here is to be aware that a record might be created in OpenCRM (The Source or Host) and saved into Google or Microsoft (Destination or Remote), this record may well then be synchronised into another device. When this second part of the synchronisation process takes place Google becomes the Source or Host and the third party application becomes the Destination or Remote. In this scenario you can see how your third party application has been both Destination and Host as the record passes through the full synchronisation process.
Consideration #3: Managing your Contact folders
Within a User record, there are a number of Sync settings which allow for better control of the contact synchronisation. The images below show our Google settings, but the Microsoft Integration is broadly similar...as are the considerations you need to make.
These settings can be accessed by clicking on the Google2OpenCRM (or Microsoft Sync) button from a User record
Contact folders to sync to OpenCRM (blank is all)
Here you can restrict which of your contact groups (folders) you wish to sync down into OpenCRM. If you do not select any folders then they synchronisation process will synchronise ALL folders.
OpenCRM contact folders to sync to Google/Microsoft (blank is all)
The reverse of the above. Restrict which OpenCRM contact folders to synchronise to only those selected. The values in the list of folders can be edited in the standard picklist editor.
Like above, if you choose no folders from this list, the synchronisation process will synchronise all contact folders.
Create contact folders to match OpenCRM
If you sync a contact from OpenCRM to Google or Microsoft and the contact is in an OpenCRM folder that does not have a matching folder (group), then ticking this box will cause the folder to be created as part of the synchronisation process, and the contact will appear in this new folder in Google or Microsoft. If you do not tick this then the contact will be placed in the default folder specified. This feature should not be turned on if the same contact records are being synced with multiple Google accounts
Default Contact folder
If a contact does not have a contact folder set in OpenCRM, or there is not a matching contact folder in Google or Microsoft and the previous setting is not enabled, the contact will be added to the folder specified here. If no folder is set here and there is no matching folder(group) in Google, then the contact will be added to Google with no folder (group) membership. This will cause the contact to appear in a pseudo group in Google called "Other Contacts". You may have difficulty in synchronising the "Other Contacts" group with other devices as technically the group does not exist.
!Important Note on Contacts in multiple folders!
As OpenCRM can only hold reference to a single contact folder, you should be careful when using these options if you have contacts in multiple contact folders, as when synced from OpenCRM, the contact will be placed in the folder specified from OpenCRM and folder/group membership to any other folder/group in Google or Microsoft will be removed.