Fibery is a platform that helps you create unique, fully customizable workspaces with little to no coding. This is a story of how our company has completely overhauled the systems of leave management and vacation planning by pushing the capabilities of this Space to the max.
Staff vacation planning: migration from spreadsheets
There was a time (from 2012 till the start of 2020, to be exact), when the staff of Bamboo Agile managed all of their leaves and vacations using a single spreadsheet.
In essence, when an employee wanted to book a vacation, they had to notify his Team Lead; then that Team Lead would check if it didn’t overlap with anyone else’s vacation, and update the spreadsheet in case everything was alright. If the plan did intersect with someone else’s vacation, things got a little complicated: the employee would have to consult their coworkers about a possible replacement or a change of plans.
It was a method of collaborative documentation that was not only functional, but almost completely free of charge. However, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the practice had its fair share of problems.
First of all, picture a table filled with dozens of dates and names. Now imagine having to manually go through those every time you needed to confirm whether a vacation was viable or not. The lack of visualisation made it difficult to check which calendar dates corresponded with which days of the week, which made the process somewhat less reliable and far more time-consuming.
No visualisation for the number of available specialists at any given time also hindered the task. While a feature like that would help the staff plan their leaves more appropriately and easily find temporary replacements, it was simply impossible to implement through an Excel-like spreadsheet.
Instant messengers had long become an integral part of Bamboo Agile’s workflow, so the inability to integrate any sort of notification system into the vacation planning process felt like missed potential. Every update had to be vocally confirmed and then manually written and sent to the administrative department.
The technical limitations don’t end there. While the spreadsheet allowed for basic automatization thanks to formulas, it required constant control from the staff. Reporting was particularly inconvenient, as there was no way to see how many days off were left from the previous year or to check the availability of resources per month. The calculations of days off being available to all employees until the very end of the year was also something that we couldn’t fix due to the nature of the application.
Finally, the process wasn’t very newcomer-friendly. Booking a leave meant reaching out to the administrative department, which could be intimidating for someone who just joined the team. A unified system would get rid of that stress factor, thus making vacation planning during the onboarding period much easier.
Naturally, we wanted a more efficient way of going about staff vacation planning. We’ve looked at many options, but none seemed worth reforming the whole leave management system for. Yet, it all changed when Fibery showed up on the horizon.
We signed up for a free trial of Fibery in early 2020. Our team wanted to test the platform as a project management tool, a sort of combination between Confluence and Jira. It turned out that Fibery offered a much broader range of features thanks to the many extra installable Spaces it had available. So, we’d like to share how we adjusted Fibery’s functionality to suit our leave management and vacation planning needs.
Harnessing the power of the Fibery Vacation Space
Since the point of the platform is workspace customization, Fibery required a fair bit of fine-tuning for us to build the perfect system for leave management and vacation planning. In short, here’s how we did it:
Sounds simple enough? Then let’s have a more in-depth look at the process.
Step 1: Inviting team members to Fibery
First, we invited all the team members to Fibery, added their job positions, and entered the start dates for when each respective employee joined the team. Everybody received their invitations to make an account through email, after which they gained full access to the system.
Everyone’s profiles have since been updated automatically - these can be checked at any time using the People tab.
Step 2: Setting up the Vacation Space
The Vacation Space is a Space that can be added to any Fibery workspace. After getting their profiles, the staff gained the ability to book the days during which they’ll be absent by using the timeline feature or the calendar of said Space.
No more running around looking for team leads to get your vacation plans approved - every team member can immediately see whether a certain vacation slot is available or not. Since everyone’s bookings are in plain sight, there’s less risk that someone will plan a leave at the same time as a colleague of a similar job function. Each booking is customizable, too - you can edit the details, comment on it, move it, and delete it.
"I think the table format is very convenient,” says Alexei Avramchik, our Solution Architect. “It’s nice to be able to check whether your vacation overlaps with others. The feature used to lag a bit, but I’m pretty sure it’s been fixed by now. Comments are also great, you can quickly reach an agreement about when you or the other person goes on leave!"
Step 3: Creating a Notification System
Perhaps, the most valuable feature a vacation management system can have is quick notifications. Here, Fibery’s flexible integrations really came in handy. We’ve decided to use the platform’s potential to integrate with third-party solutions through Zapier to our advantage.
To create a simple notification system, we used the following Zapier formulas: 1. one that sends a notification to our Vacation chat;
2. one that marks the vacation on a Google Calendar (the invite includes the employee taking the vacation and an administrator, the latter of which gets an additional notification 5 days before the vacation starts).
Thanks to these, the communication speed between the administrative department and the rest of Bamboo Agile became instantaneous. Now, as soon as a team member books a leave, the administrative department and the management staff get an automatic Google Hangouts message notifying them about it. Each Hangouts notification bar includes the "Customize the Vacation" button allowing the Team Lead to open the Vacation tab in a browser, comment on the slot booked, and even decline it.
The leave is also immediately marked on a special Google Calendar.
Our Chief Operating Officer, Sergey Zubovich, is very content with the new features.
"I used to manage the vacation system: drew various charts, did lots of planning, was constantly updating the leave table; I had to manually edit the staff list, had to remind our administrators about the upcoming vacations, and had to remind the people going on said vacation to notify the rest of their colleagues. Now I don’t need to do any of that,” he says. “Everyone does the planning by themselves, and all notifications are completely automated. I simply check that everything’s in order. Granted, there are some nuances involved in adjusting the system of reports in Fibery, but it’s very convenient overall."
Alexey Shinkarev, our Technical Team Lead, is also satisfied with the changes.
"It’s a truly good leave management system. First of all, Fibery offers a useful display of all the staff members’ vacation plans. Secondly, this information is easily accessible to everyone, so any colleague can add, edit, or view details about a particular vacation,” says Alexey. “Integrations with things like Google Calendar are a huge benefit, too. Plus, the report functionality is very flexible - it’s nice to be able to see the number of vacation days you have to spare."
Step 4: Adding a Report Function
The next important function we took care of was reports; more specifically, monthly and yearly vacation reports. Here, precision was key - every day had to be accounted for, which is why we needed to tune our reporting very carefully. The spreadsheet we formerly used counted the days using a simple formula, and replicating the same functionality in Fibery proved to be rather tricky. But we figured it out!
The solution was a custom report that counted the number of remaining and used vacation days, the maximum number of vacation days in a year, as well as the difference between the number of maximum and planned vacation days. To achieve this, we’ve used the following Fibery-specific formula:
It should be noted that this formula does not account for national holidays and cannot count the total number of workdays, as Fibery doesn’t support such functions at the moment. We got around that problem by only marking workdays on the calendar. The timeline feature has a similar downside, that is, the absence of national holidays settings. This slightly complicaties the process of counting the leave days. Hopefully, a feature that accounts for said factors will be added soon.
Step 5: Expanding with Extra Features
We’ve implemented a number of other automatic tables and reports.
Vacations +/- month A table that lists leaves and vacations taken over the course of certain months.
Recent A tab that lists all leaves and vacations by date.
Upcoming A tab that lists all planned leaves and vacations.
Monthly Report A tab that shows the number of vacation days for every month.
Sick days A number of tables and calendars that function similarly to their vacation counterparts. These currently go unused, since most of the staff are working remotely. And who would ever get sick when there’s a gym at the office, anyways?
Ever since we’ve migrated our vacation planning system to Fibery, the speed and convenience of the process has increased dramatically. Vacation planning is now more transparent, faster, and easier to manage than ever before, thanks to the publicly accessible vacation timelines, reports, and, naturally, instant notifications. The system also became a lot more newcomer-friendly, which is a huge plus.
The process of vacation planning itself hasn’t changed too much for the majority of the team, but it’s been a world of a difference for our administrative staff in terms of accounting, reports, and automatization. As Yana Siadzelnik, our Administrative dept. Specialist, said, the Fibery system functions “brilliantly”.
The shift from one system to another was monumental. Thanks to Fibery’s robust customization options, we were able to boost the administrative department’s workflow, as well as make vacation planning more intuitive and accessible as a whole. While there are some features that we’d like to see added, the management process is more efficient than ever before. Naturally, our team is also looking forward to what the Fibery platform offers in the future!