Zendesk: An Interesting Approach To Localisation Strategy

by | Sep 14, 2022 | Localisation

In this article, we take a look at a recent piece by SmartCat, on how Zendesk, a global service-first CRM company, approaches its localisation strategy.

Founded in 2007, Zendesk now has over 6,000 employees and 111,000 customers in countries all over the world — this means that product localisation is one of the top priorities for its customers.

Matt Price, Senior VP of Global Marketing, states that ‘Zendesk was an international company from the get-go as they led with their web-first B2B product’.


What is Zendesk?


Zendesk is a cloud-based help desk management solution designed to improve communication between companies and their customers.

The company’s primary focus is on building software that enhances customer relationships, and as such, there is a strong emphasis on connection and communication.


How Zendesk manages a global workforce


Zendesk’s globalisation department is made up of two teams that work in tandem with each other to serve the needs of their international customers.

The internationalisation team deals with the engineering side of things, while the localisation team is responsible for delivering localised content.


Zendesk’s localisation strategy challenges


According to Ketty Tirrito (Localisation Team Lead) and Sirisha Neduri (Senior Localisation Quality Engineer), localisation awareness is a constant challenge. They attribute this to the tendency to de-prioritise localisation projects while the engineering teams work on other ‘higher-priority’ features.

Tirrito and Neduri also find that team growth can pose challenges, since taking on lots of new engineering teams results in ‘varying levels of understanding’ for Zendesk’s best practices or localisation workflows across teams. It can be difficult for their localisation teams to support such a wide range of schedules, project management approaches, and deployment schedules.

In addition, speeding up the development of products and features often causes such problems as:

  • Making it difficult to scale up to support all of the new products and features
  • Not being able to engage with the teams before new features are released
  • The fact that some products have more issues than others impacts the company’s product globalisation prospects

To learn more about localisation strategy challenges and the crucial role localisation project managers play in solving issues like these, check out this article.


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How Zendesk find localisation strategy success


Engagement with upper management


According to Tirrito and Neduri, one of the keys to success is engaging with the upper management team right from the start of product development. This allows them to identify where the globalisation team can support optimising localised content.


Working toward unifying teams


Zendesk’s globalisation team helps to onboard new engineers so that they quickly understand how their collaborations will work.

They also have ‘refreshers’ for new hires or individual scrum teams, which highlights their mission and how they work with various stakeholders in product development.


Keeping mission, strategy and goals in sight


Zendesk produces a bi-annual localisation globalisation newsletter that provides team updates, achievements and insights which is an effective way to remind key stakeholders of the company’s mission, strategy and goals.


An annual tech summit is some localisation strategy


During their annual tech summit for engineers and product managers, Zendesk’s globalisation team joins in to share knowledge and discuss collaboration.


A dedicated team to oversee global readiness


The internationalisation team is responsible for overseeing the global readiness of Zendesk’s products. They educate the engineers, maintain and manage translation tools, and handle issues relating to IT or international coding issues.


Maintaining open communication and teamwork


According to Tirrito and Neduri, being organised and communicative is key for working together globally.

Here’s how that looks in practice:

  • The internationalisation team maintains a centralised database containing all the English UI copy and translations, which makes it easy for the globalisation team to control the streams across all of their products.
  • They use a fixed localisation schedule, which allows for more regular and manageable translation projects, and reduces the number of last-minute requests.
  • They prioritise quality assurance, both internally and with vendors, with the aim of identifying issues in functionality, UI and language long before the product is released. They also help the engineering team to identify the most crucial bugs to fix.
  • They meticulously analyse data to identify recurring issues and put a plan in place to help prevent them in the future.
  • They take a ‘one team’ approach by having a localisation team embedded in every scrum team that they work with. They accomplish this by attending team meetings, planning meetings, and joint testing sessions. For example, you would have the English team working on testing the English UI, while the localization team tests the internationalized versions.
  • They engage in social and relationship-building activities to build stronger, better teams.


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Four key takeaways from Zendesk’s localisation strategy


So what can we learn from Zendesk’s approach?

Here are the four key takeaways that you can implement in your own localisation strategy:


1. Engage key stakeholders as early as possible


  • Start the localisation process early
  • Utilise data to help upper managers understand why localisation matters
  • Explain best practices to them


2. Provide team support

  • Support teams that need guidance
  • Participate in onboarding engineers and explain how you’ll collaborate across teams
  • Provide tools, training, and open communication channels to answer any questions


3. Create clear priorities at every stage of your localisation strategy


  • Ensure that best practices are upheld at each stage of a project
  • Identify critical points where the localisation team should jump in and review progress.


4. Invest in relationships

Tiritto and Neduri believe that successful localisation is rooted in great relationships and that the connections you forge and nurture are the most crucial investments you can make.

Now that you know what Zendesk’s localisation strategy looks like, what are your thoughts? Is your company approaching things like Zendesk?

Would their approaches work for you, or do yours work better?


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