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My company (now 100 people in 4 countries) has used many vacation approval schemes in the past, ranging from trust & self-managing (in the very early days) to ad-hoc e-mails, signed paper, outlook add-ins with shared folders and now a sharepoint list with an approval form + sharepoint workflows which is unwieldy.

It's a new year, and we're looking for a better, faster, stronger system which is above all SIMPLE. I'm hoping that you guys can suggest something. I'm not against buying something in, but budget is small and we have the expertise to build in house, just not the time to design it.

We're primarily a MS shop - outlook 2003 & 2007, and in my ideal world we'd start with an outlook form submission so admins can track original requests, not worry about people fiddling with a sharepoint list after the event etc.

Basic requirements:

  1. Simple form submission of vacation timing including all-day / half-day options.
  2. Routing to line manager, then HR manager for approval (could be stored / picked from AD)
  3. Success response with Outlook calendar appointment back to originator and copy to public folder so everybody can easily see who's in / out on given day.
  4. Some way of tracking total vacation days vs vacation used (don't worry about this too much - we can code something)

What has worked well for you before?

Thanks

Update: I think we will stick with the sharepoint solution for now and see if we can improve it. Still keen to hear more suggestions though...

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Can you say what's wrong with the current sharepoint solution? I'm trying to wrap my head around what could possibly be less complicated. –  Jim B Jan 4 '10 at 14:20
    
It's not completely broken, but it is quite difficult to maintain (SP workflow designer etc). The template it was based on is not so working well (the responsibility adoption part seems to add hundreds of 'workflow' audit steps but do nothing). Also, it can't (currently) be started as easily as an outlook meeting request, and doesn't send back outlook appointments which would be nice. Admins can however connect to the SP list as a calendar for the overview. I was wondering if there was a simple, pre-baked system anyone knew of? –  doza Jan 4 '10 at 16:32
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2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I imagine that a simple Sharepoint approval workflow could handle this pretty easily. There is even an approval workflow template that you can start with. You would probably have to bake in the additional things like the calendar appointments.

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OP already stated they are currently using a Sharepoint work flow and do not want to use this - "and now a sharepoint list with an approval form + sharepoint workflows which is unwieldy" –  Sam Jan 4 '10 at 13:18
    
Oops, wow. I need to read closer apparently. My bad. –  jspru Jan 4 '10 at 15:34
    
Sharepoint seems like the obvious candidate, which is why we use it for the current system, but the workflows seem flaky (but maybe we just haven't set them up right). I'd still like a solution that can be started from an outlook form if possible - when we were 20 people we had a nice one which sent back calendar appointments, which is why I mention it - a solution that combined the best of both worlds would be ideal! –  doza Jan 4 '10 at 16:29
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Have you thought of just using two-party meeting requests?

Someone just sends their manager a meeting request called "Vacation" or whatever for the date/time-window they want, marks it as busy and makes the manager a mandatory invite. If the manager 'accepts' then they have an audit trail that it was accepted via the acceptence response email and the time is already booked out on their calendar. If they deny or ignore then it's inherently not accepted and the requester will have to remove the 'meeting' prior to the time.

This doesn't directly fix your total-day tracking but I bet someone out there could knock up a quick way of doing that assuming you used time categories.

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