How to Set up a Zendesk GitHub Integration: The Complete 2020 Guide

Zendesk Github Integration Guide

Tracking and storing information plays an important part in the course of a business’ performance. It is crucial to ensure that your data is accessible, consistent, and useful. It’s especially challenging for teams with unique or variable needs. And the right software integration solution, such as a Zendesk GitHub integration, can assist teams to have their needs met.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the need to set up a Zendesk GitHub integration and how to share information between these two platforms. We’ll also show you how to manage data and allow teams to use it according to their needs and roles

Note: In this tutorial, we will be using a software integration tool called Exalate to set up the integration. You will learn more about this throughout this guide.

Here is an overview of what we will cover:

  • Why Set Up A Zendesk GitHub Integration?
  • How to Choose the Right Technology to Integrate Zendesk and GitHub
  • How To Set Up A Zendesk GitHub Integration (a Step-by-Step Process)

Why Set Up a Zendesk GitHub Integration

What is Zendesk?

Zendesk is one of the major players in customer service, with its software used by over 100,000 customers around the world. Its typical users are service desk teams in mid to large-sized companies. These teams may also have other teams using different software, and the right integration solution is what can help them work together easily and in harmony.

Some of Zendesk’s high profile clients include big hitters like Airbnb, Squarespace, and Vimeo. Take a look at the Zendesk blog to learn more about the range of businesses that use it.

What is GitHub?

GitHub is an online source management and versioning platform allowing teams to share code easily. It is developer focussed and allows team managers to track all the changes made by team members, and make sure everyone’s changes work with everyone else’s. 

It also allows issue reporting, letting you keep track of what needs to be done. Issues have a lot in common with Zendesk’s tickets and the information they store will often overlap.

Why Integrate Zendesk and GitHub

Now, if you have different teams working on different platforms, they will need a convenient way to exchange data between themselves. For example, your customer service team might enter tickets into Zendesk, and your engineers might be copying this data over to issues on GitHub. This takes time and if done manually, can be prone to error. 

If you can automate the process, then things will happen more smoothly. You will also save money, as nobody is needed to perform the task of transferring information from one place to another.

Note: Learn how DPG Media had to assign a full-time task of copying data to one of their employees in Zendesk. And how they used synchronization to completely eliminate this task.  Learn more here.

As well as the tickets themselves, related information can also be shared. If both teams have access to all relevant information, they will be better equipped to do their jobs, saving you quite some time.

Teams get the benefit of using a tool they are already familiar with if they can update the same issues on their own platforms. They stay focussed on their area of expertise and are also provided with smooth, up-to-date communication with other departments. 

Doing this automatically means you don’t have to worry about that status of the issue, or that you are missing key pieces of information when you see what is available in either system.

How to Choose the Right Technology for Setting up your Zendesk GitHub Integration

There are a few things to take into consideration when selecting a suitable integration solution:

1. Reliability

The integration is supposed to save you work and make sure all your teams are working with consistent data. If it doesn’t work well, that means additional headaches. You want a system that keeps integration ON even when, for some reason, one side is not available.

2. Flexibility

As well as synchronizing two systems, we want flexibility to recognize different roles those systems play and to filter the data they store accordingly. Mapping attributes is just the first part. Tuning the data to the needs of different teams is a key part of using it effectively.

Plus, you’ll want the tool to be flexible enough to change with you, as your workflows and systems change. For example, you want the tool to support more integrations than just GitHub and Zendesk. Then you can use the tool to set up a similar synchronization with other parties or when your partner switches their tool.

3. Autonomy

The system should be robust enough to handle changes to either tracker. The trackers are able to exchange data and should be able to cope if this data is differently structured or contains additional information on either side.

In short, either side needs to be able to exchange data however they want to, independently from the other side.

For this guide, we’ll set up the integration using Exalate. Precisely because Exalate was built to fulfill the above requirements. 

And next, we get to the good part; setting up Exalate with Zendesk and GitHub, to enable a bidirectional integration. 

How to Set up a Zendesk Github Integration (A Step-by-Step Process)

Step 1: Install Exalate on Zendesk

The first thing you’ll need to do is set up the Exalate app. You can get it on the Zendesk marketplace.

exalate for linking zendesk github

There are a couple of things to do before installing, however.

You need to create a proxy user and access token so that exalate can communicate with Zendesk. The proxy user is a regular Zendesk user, so create a new user or use an existing one.

Then, to generate an access token, log in to Zendesk with your proxy user. Navigate to the API page in the Channels section of the left-hand menu.

Click on the grayed-out switch to enable Token Access (unless it is already enabled).

Then click on the plus button to create a new token.

Copy the long text string somewhere. Click save, so that your changes are kept.

zendesk api token

Next, find the Exalate app in the marketplace and install it.

You’ll see an installation screen where you can enter your proxy account email address, along with the token string you just generated.

Now an Exalate icon should appear in the left menu-bar. Click on that icon.

exalate for zendesk github integration

Now you are in the Exalate UI. Accept the EULA. Then you should navigate to the licensing page. And request the Free 30-day Trial.

exalate eula for zendesk

Enter your email address and then check your inbox for the key. Click the green ‘license key’ button and enter the key to activate your trial.

integration licensing

To learn more about the installation process, have a look at this Exalate documentation page.

Step 2: Install Exalate on GitHub

With Exalate, you’ll need to install the app on each side of the connection. This is to keep autonomy for both sides. After installing Exalate for Zendesk, we can do the same for GitHub.

Log in to your GitHub account and click on the marketplace.

From there, enter Exalate into the search box, or click here. As with Zendesk, Exalate has a free trial.

Click on the green “set up a plan” box, then the “Install it for free box” to get started.

exalate for github issue sync

After you confirm your installation, you’ll need to grant Exalate permission to access your GitHub account. By default, it has access to all your repositories, but you can limit access to specific ones if you prefer. In either case, Exalate only needs access to metadata, issues and pull requests, not the code itself.

exalate github sync installation permission

Next, you’re directed to Exalate’s own site, where you need to accept the user agreement to continue.

After that, you need to select how Exalate will access your GitHub account. You can use your username and password, or create an OAuth token.

The username/password method will likely be phased out at some point, so be aware that you might have to change it later if you pick that option.

After this, you’ll need to request an evaluation license for GitHub, similarly like you’ve done for Zendesk.

Note: If you do not request an evaluation license, you will not be able to synchronize issues later.

Step 3: Connect Zendesk and GitHub

1. Send an invitation code

Now that you’ve installed Exalate on both sides, it’s time to set up a connection between GitHub and Zendesk. Let’s take a look at how to do this.

We want tickets on one platform to show up in the other, and we want to create some rules to decide which ones are shared.

After setting up GitHub in the Exalate app, you should be redirected to a welcome screen:

github exalate sync

Click on the connections text on the left-hand menu. From there, click on “initiate connection”. 

Next, you have to choose an instance type. You can choose to connect using another instance, which is accessible, or one which you can’t access from your side.

connection type for zednesk github integration

Once you’ve chosen that, you’ll need to enter the details of your other connection. In this case that will be your Zendesk account URL. Then you can choose whether to sync a single project or create a template for working with multiple projects.

github zendesk connection details

Let’s choose to start with a single project. In the next step, choose from one of your repos, using the drop-down list.

Give your new connection a name and an optional description. A meaningful name and detailed description will make these easier to work with later, especially if you set up several connections.

zendesk github connection name

Finally, click on the green “initiate connection” button. This screen will pop up:  

invitation code for zendesk github integration

Copy the invitation code somewhere. We’re done with GitHub for now, but if you look at the connections area, you can see our newly set up connection listed there.

2. Accept the invitation to complete the connection

Now go back to Zendesk and take a look in the Zendesk app tab. Click to accept the EULA license if you haven’t already. You should see a screen such as this: 

accepting github zendesk sync invitation

Click on the light gray “accept invitation” button and paste the code you just generated into the “invitation code” area. Click “next”.

On the next screen, you can choose a sync rules template, but we only have one option at this stage, so just accept it and choose “next” again.

Step 4: Configure your Connection to Determine What Information Gets Shared

Now you’ll see a list of the automatically generated integration rules. You don’t need to change these yet, but if you want to configure things more precisely you can do so.

zendesk github advanced sync rules

Take a look at this guide to configure the rules as you need.

If you’re happy with the rules and don’t want to change anything at this point, click on the “Confirm” button to set up the connection.

linking github zednesk with exalate

You’ll now see the connection listed, just like in GitHub. Now let’s see what we can do with it. Let’s set the rules, so tickets created in Zendesk are sent to GitHub.

Step 5: Set up Automated Synchronization Triggers

In the Zendesk Exalate app, click on “Triggers”, then on the green “Create Trigger” button.

zendesk github integration trigger

Here you can specify rules to decide when synchronization should happen automatically. We’re going to share all open tickets, by typing “status: open” in the box.

We also choose the connection to share with from the dropdown, selecting what we created earlier

If needed, we can leave notes here, too.

After creating the trigger, click where it says status to ensure the mark is green. Tickets added to Zendesk should now be sent to GitHub.

Note: When your tools are exchanging information, you may get lots of extra notification messages, so if you get too many, have a look at the settings and turn some of them off.

With our platforms connected together, information is shared consistently, but teams can still tune it to their needs.

Our new software makes our business more efficient and lets us focus on getting things done, without getting bogged down by communication issues.

Conclusion

There are many software platforms around today that help you organize projects and make planning much easier. Linking them all together can be a chore, so automating the process of synchronization can help you improve productivity.

Moving information around isn’t enough. You also need to filter it, which means you need a system that can be tuned according to your needs.

A compatible system needs to combine reliability, flexibility, and autonomy. To achieve this, it needs to give teams choice over what data is shared, as well as letting them work without having to worry about changes to the software other teams are using. It also needs to work consistently without the need to be micromanaged.

That’s it for now. In this guide, we’ve set up the integration using Exalate. And we’ve described the step-by-step process on how to complete this integration to bridge the gap between systems, different teams, and companies. 

Click here to learn how to integrate ServiceNow with Jira, or here to link Jira and Zendesk.

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