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  • Writer's pictureTammy McKenzie

Effective Strategies for Managing a Large Zendesk Account

Zendesk is a popular support platform that is used by 100,000 companies to assist their customers. It is flexible and easy to use, but it can also be open-ended, which can make it difficult to manage for larger companies that may have multiple instances and hundreds of triggers. While Zendesk is easy to configure and helps companies scale, it can also create a high maintenance burden once they have reached a certain size. This can prevent companies from expanding further or launching more instances. To address these issues and improve reliability, it is important to implement a framework such as the application lifecycle to reduce errors, minimize configuration tech debt, and ensure that support is as reliable as possible.


Application Lifecycle Management Process

The complexity of business systems management can be difficult to navigate and often lacks the methodologies and tools found in software development. In software development, there are processes in place to plan and collaborate on changes, document work, test and deploy changes, and save past versions. These practices help to ensure the reliability of the software. However, in business systems such as Zendesk, it can be difficult to track and manage changes, particularly when working with triggers or sandboxes. Additionally, as a business grows and multiple Zendesk instances are needed, it becomes a challenge to keep them in sync and avoid managing multiple systems. Implementing an application lifecycle management process can help to address these challenges and improve the management of business systems.


To effectively manage your Zendesk configuration, it is recommended to follow a structured process that involves planning, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance. One way to do this is by using a project management tool like Jira, Asana, or Monday.com, where you can create a Kanban board to track the progress of each stage. Before deploying any changes, it is important to first develop and test them in the sandbox environment to ensure that they are functioning correctly. To further improve the process, you can use a tool like Salto's Zendesk adaptor, which allows you to store your configuration and metadata in a version control system like git, enabling you to easily compare and align different instances, understand dependencies, and quickly deploy configurations from the sandbox to production with a single click. Additionally, you can selectively sync pieces of different instances to keep the sandbox aligned with production while preserving unsaved work. By following these steps, you can effectively manage the full application lifecycle in Zendesk.

1. PLAN

Before making changes to your Zendesk instance, it is important to understand the potential effects of those changes. By having a complete record of all objects in the system, you can easily search and perform "find and replace" functions, and understand how objects interact, depend on each other, or are referred to. This information can be useful for planning and reviewing changes, and for involving others in the decision-making process. New hires can also benefit from this knowledge, as they can quickly understand what exists and why.

  • Create a comprehensive inventory of all the objects in your Zendesk instance, such as ticket forms, custom fields, automations, and triggers.

  • Identify the dependencies between different objects, and how they interact with each other. For example, if you make a change to a custom field, how will that affect any associated automations or triggers?

  • Use the built-in search and "find and replace" functions to quickly locate specific objects or values within your instance.

  • Review any proposed changes with key stakeholders, such as support team leads, developers, and business analysts, to ensure that they align with your overall business objectives.

  • Document all changes and the rationale behind them in a centralized location, such as a wiki or knowledge base. This can help new team members quickly get up to speed on your Zendesk configuration.

  • Consider using a tool like Jira, Asana, or Monday.com to manage your development pipeline, and create tasks or tickets for each change that needs to be made. This can help ensure that changes are planned and executed in a structured and organized way.

2. DEVELOP

Use outside tools to facilitate collaboration on changes and help you manage a development pipeline. By pulling your configuration into git, you can create branches and forks of different versions, review proposed changes with your team, and push those updates through the pipeline. This process can help ensure that changes are thoroughly tested and reviewed before being deployed to the production environment.

3. TEST

Push whatever you and the team have built into the full sandbox. Run tests, including with users, before you push it into production.

  • You can use a Kanban board in a project management tool like Jira, Asana, or Monday.com to track the progress of each stage in your Zendesk configuration changes, from planning to maintenance.

  • When developing and testing changes in Zendesk, you can pull your configuration into a version control system like git and create branches and forks of different versions, allowing for thorough testing and review before being deployed to the production environment.

  • After testing and reviewing changes in the development pipeline, you can push them to the production environment as updates, and easily revert to a previous version if any issues arise.

  • To maintain your customizations, you can use a system that tracks and alerts you of any changes made to your configurations, such as automations, triggers, or macros.

  • By following an application lifecycle management process, you can reduce errors, retire tech debt, and ensure that your support is as reliable as possible in Zendesk.


4. DEPLOY

After thoroughly testing and reviewing changes in the development pipeline, you can push them to the production environment as updates. If any issues arise, you can easily revert to a previous version by pushing it back into production. Remember to save each prior version, allowing you to easily switch back to a previous configuration if needed. Additionally, you can "back-promote" updates from production to the sandbox environments to keep them in sync.

5. MAINTAIN

To maintain your customizations, it is helpful to have a system in place to track and alert you of any changes made to your configurations, such as automations, triggers, or macros. This can help you stay informed of changes that may affect your work.

While Zendesk is a powerful and flexible tool that can help your business scale quickly, managing multiple instances at scale can be challenging, particularly when it is being used by customers and support teams. To improve reliability and avoid errors follow an application lifecycle management process when working with Zendesk. This will help you reduce errors, retire tech debt, and ensure that your support is as reliable as possible. By following a structured process, you can ensure that changes are carefully planned, developed, tested, deployed, and maintained, resulting in a more stable and efficient system.

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