Tracking employee time off?
August 21, 2006 9:49 PM   Subscribe

How can my company track employees' sick & vacation days in Outlook, with supervisor approval?

My company needs to track employees' time off (vacation, sick-day, personal time off, unpaid time off, etc). It needs to support different amounts of vacation time for each employee (so, database driven) and it needs an approval structure in place (so supervisors can approve or deny individual requests). Some Outlook integration is needed, so that people can see who's in / out of the office from their outlook calendar. It also (ideally) needs to support multiple locations (i.e. offices in several cities), and several departments within each location.

Technology-wise, it should either be an Outlook/Exchanged based system (so everything happens inside of Outlook, via Add-Ins perhaps) or an ASP.NET web system that we can host on the corporate intranet. Externally hosted solutions aren't my first choice, as the company wants control of the data and wants it integrated into our Intranet or Exchange.

Currently, we use an outdated, custom-developed web application written in ASP to track this stuff (complete with sketchy COM components that push upcoming sick/vacation days onto other people's calendars as meeting requests). I'm the lead programmer, but this system pre-dates me; I have to deal with it regularly and it’s not pretty. It's now being suggested that we (read: I) should rewrite it ... but I'm thinking, there has GOT to be something like this out there already. My Googling hasn't turned up anything that fits the bill, but maybe you all can give me the magic keyword or app name ...? What do other companies do to track sick / vacation days?
posted by ivarley to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Managing an enterprise HR system in Outlook strikes me as something to put under the "bad ideas" header.

This functionality is usually included in most packages. See if yours has it.
posted by SirStan at 9:51 PM on August 21, 2006

SirStan: Yeah, tell me about it. I recognize that Outlook's not the ideal place to do this, but you know how CTOs can be when they get something in their head. They'd actually be perfectly happy managing the data via web page in the Intranet, but they want to be able to see who in their department is in or out of the office at any given time in their Outlook calendar. That's "how it works now", and you know how people hate changes in their routine.

Unfortunately, there is no formal HR package at this company (which, yes, is shocking for a company this size). It's a "rollup" company that was originally 100 separate small businesses, and while they're in the process of rolling up HR functions with common software (mainly through my efforts), they're not there yet, and certainly don't have any other way to do time tracking built-in.
posted by ivarley at 9:59 PM on August 21, 2006

Why not look at one then. What are you using for tracking salaries, paying employees, etc? Maybe it is time to look at an ERP?

A few apps we are looking at can read/write to Outlook via MAPI (I think?).. They seemed to work fairly well in the demo we played with.

I would stay far away from Outllok integration. You could write something standalone that exported to .cal files and find a way to import those into Outlook, or have a webbased viewer of some sort.
posted by SirStan at 10:11 PM on August 21, 2006

A large-scale ERP implementation is out of the scope of this particular effort (there's a long, sordid history there, and in any event, that's not my decision.) But if you can suggest any systems that might post time off to Outlook cals via MAPI, I'd be interested to investigate. I tried the .cal thing, but Outlook 2003 requires an add-in to view those. :(

Outlook integration, at least for viewing time off in the calendar, is a pretty strong requirement. Like it or not (I don't, particularly), Outlook is the standard, and 100% of the people at my company live in it all day long.

I'm primarily trying to find a light-weight app that does this stuff. Or, at least, to find out that such a thing doesn't exist. :)
posted by ivarley at 10:28 PM on August 21, 2006

Heh.. SAP integrates with Outlook

Not to suggest a complete hack, but can't you customize a public folder view to display a webpage (http://hr/vacation), or make a custom toolbar shortcut button that loads a website in Outllok?

I couldn't find anything else.. I dont think a light weight app is going to have Outlook integration.. as much as it may seem to be the 'standard', it is really only used for basic email and calendaring. HR integration with Outlook is a VERY small nitch
posted by SirStan at 10:47 PM on August 21, 2006

Well, you can use Outlook Forms to manage the data input, but I'm not sure exactly how exchange handles the data aggregation and statistics tracking you're looking for with it's public folders.

However, just because it's possible doesn't mean it's a good idea.

And your CTO, who may have many wonderful ideas, shouldn't be micromanaging you this way. I've been there before, and you have two choices: You can hack something together and your work life will become a living hell until you quit, or you can tell him "no, bad idea, let's put something in place that's actually gonna work" ... and if he says no, do it the hacked way and start looking for a new job.

Trust me on this one, going on 7 years in IT. Got hired into this job to clean up from an employee who couldn't tell his boss no.
posted by SpecialK at 11:15 PM on August 21, 2006

Agreed ... although it's not the advice I was originally looking for, I think you're both right in asserting that a) Outlook isn't the best medium for this solution, and b) the company should consider solving this problem at a higher level (an enterprise-wide ERP). I appreciate the enlightenment that I'm trying to solve the wrong problem. :)
posted by ivarley at 5:12 PM on August 22, 2006

This is starting to delve into the HR or benefit administration arena of software. There are a ton of companies that provide hosted or ASP type solutions. that do this. Most of them allow some level of integration with intranets. Don't know about integrating with Exchange. Even big companies like ADP provide this service with payroll.
posted by bored at 6:22 PM on August 22, 2006

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