How to create a PTO/vacation request form and approval process in SharePoint

I was recently asked to develop a PTO request form that accomplished the following:

  • Allowed users to submit PTO, Remote work, Training, and Other requests
  • Auto-lookup of the employee’s manager
  • Send confirmation to submitter
  • Notify manager and seek approval/rejection with comments
  • If approved, send notification with an iCal link users can save to their calendar, and add the PTO to our shared departmental calendar (minus any comments)

Note: This particular build was done on SharePoint Server 2016 and uses a SharePoint Designer workflow.

Create the PTO request form

Thanks to Gregory Zelfond for sharing the idea of using a Tasks web part for this as opposed to a list. Much of this first section is inspired by his post here, with some adjustments for my purposes and preferences.

  1. Add a tasks app and name it PTO Requests

  2. Go to List settings for the new tasks app
  3. Configure Versioning settings as follows

  4. Back under List settings, configure the following Advanced settings as seen here

      

  5. Under Views, keep All Tasks, My Tasks, Approve/reject Items, and Calendar. Delete the rest. Rename All Tasks and My Tasks to All Requests and My Requests.

  6. Back under List Settings, under Columns, create the columns shown in green here, and rename those in red. Duration should be the last column you create (number format), and its formula follows the screenshot. Category needs to be the types of “Out of Office” a person could request (like PTO, Remote, Training, Other).
    Click to enlarge

     

    =IF(AND((WEEKDAY([End Date],2))<(WEEKDAY([Start Date],2)),((WEEKDAY([Start Date],2))-(WEEKDAY([End Date],2)))>1),(((DATEDIF([Start Date],[End Date],"D")+1))-(FLOOR((DATEDIF([Start Date],[End Date],"D")+1)/7,1)*2)-2),(((DATEDIF([Start Date],[End Date],"D")+1))-(FLOOR((DATEDIF([Start Date],[End Date],"D")+1)/7,1)*2)))

    I like the Duration column because it will allow us to show how many weekdays (not including weekends) the PTO Request includes. So those multi-week or broken-week requests show an accurate number for management purposes.

  7. Back under List Settings, select “Task” from under Content Types. Configure each column (hide, make optional or require) as follows:
    Click to enlarge

     

  8. Your new form should resemble this now:
         
    Click to enlarge

     

  9. You might want to spend some time making your views a nice dashboard as well. Here’s what I did for “All Requests.” Notice I grouped by a different calculated column which determines whether the PTO is Upcoming, Current, or Past and then sub-grouped by category.

    Click to enlarge

Create the workflow for approval and calendar addition

In SharePoint Designer, add a new 2010 platform List Workflow for the PTORequests list.

  1. Go to Workflow Settings
  2. Check all “Start Options”
  3. Click “Edit workflow”

Here’s a preview of what we’re going to build:

Click to enlarge

Because this workflow has many steps, I’m only going to show some high-level tips for completing it. Build your workflow to suit your needs. If you have specific questions on how I built mine, please comment.

The approval request email

For the “then Email Current Item: Approver” step, here’s how I did the email:

The link for approving and rejecting is as follows, and you’ll need to replace the red text with a lookup to the current item’s ID. The easiest way to get this might be to do a test submission and copy the link to the approval page where the manager will choose Approved, Rejected, or Pending. You can find this page by viewing a submission, then clicking “Approve/Reject.”

Then just be sure to swap the specific ID with the lookup field for ID.

https://YOURSITE/sites/it/_layouts/15/approve.aspx?List=%7BLISTGUID%7D&ID=[%Current Item:ID%]&Source=%2Fsites%2Fit%2FLists%2FPTO%2520Requests

This will reduce the number of clicks your approvers/managers have to do significantly. Their process will be:

  1. Click big link in email
  2. Select decision and enter comments
  3. Save/Submit

If denied email

No bells and whistles here. You might even include a link to the dash suggesting they submit another request if they wish.

If approved, create calendar item

This is fairly straightforward. If approved, we create an item in a different list. I even edited the “Calendar” view of my PTO requests by adding an “app part” for the separate calendar instead of using the built-in calendar view the task list provides. I then just minimized and hid the chrome of the “Calendar” web part that was already on the view. This allowed me to keep some overlays and other processes related to the second calendar, but see if in context of PTO Requests.

Also, to protect the privacy of those submitting “Other (please explain)” requests (likely FMLA or something private) I have the workflow changing “Other” to just “Out of Office” for the purposes of adding to our shared calendar.

If approved email

Since I created a calendar item if approved, I’m including an iCal link in the approval email for users to open the .ics file and save it to their calendars. Here’s a post on how to structure iCal links. Just instead of creating a calculated column, construct the URL in SharePoint Designer:

Click to enlarge

Improve the look with script (optional)

The following script improves the look of both your views and your forms. It will:

  • Get rid of  “See also” items when viewing requests
  • Change “New task” to “New request” in your views
  • Make sure all fields are visible, and not hidden behind “Show More”

Just copy and save the following script as a separate .js file in your Site Assets and follow the instructions beneath the script to add it to your views and forms. 

Views

  1. Go to a view
  2. Settings –> Edit Page
  3. Insert/Add web part –> Media and Content –> Content Editor Web Part
  4. Add link to script saved on site
  5. Save and repeat for each view

Forms

Go to your list –> List –> Form web parts

Click to enlarge
  1. Select a web part
  2. Settings –> Edit Page
  3. Insert/Add web part –> Media and Content –> Content Editor Web Part
  4. Add link to script saved on site
  5. Save and repeat for each form

Good luck!

Solution: “The user who attempted to complete the task is not the user to whom the task is assigned”

You might run into this issue when running task processes in SharePoint Designer.

“Reason: The user who attempted to complete the task is not the user to whom the task is assigned.”

Assuming the person should actually be able to complete the task, check the following:

  • Make sure the user who was assigned the task does not have multiple accounts. If they do, the task could have been assigned to the account that the person isn’t currently signed in as when attempting to complete the task.
  • If it’s someone completing the task on behalf of another, make sure that individual is either:
    • A Site Owner (site settings, site permissions, people and groups, site owners) or
    • Task process owner (in SPD 2010 workflows, go to the properties for the task step and set task process owner. Click OK and republish workflow.):

Automatically open SharePoint 2013 workflow tasks in Edit mode for easy one-click approvals

one-click approval

On one of my recent projects, a client asked if it would be possible for the link to a task within a workflow notification email to open the task in “edit” mode instead of “display”. If you’re unfamiliar with SharePoint 2013 task processes built in SharePoint Designer, here’s what their process looked like prior to our change:

  1. Someone submits form
  2. Approval request sent to manager
  3. Manager clicks link in email to open task
  4. Manager clicks “Edit”
  5. Manager clicks “Approve”

They wanted to eliminate step 4 to make the process as easy as possible (one-click after opening link in email). Here’s what we ended up doing:

Continue reading “Automatically open SharePoint 2013 workflow tasks in Edit mode for easy one-click approvals”

Microsoft Flow vs SharePoint Designer (SPD) Approvals

WORKFLOWvs

Perhaps one of the most useful automated processes out there is the ability to do approval processes. We fortunately have two tools on-prem or online that allows us to perform this action. Microsoft Flow offers some incredible connectivity between services (like approve a Tweet and post it, approve something from Google Docs and have it moved to SharePoint, etc.), but the approval process itself is very simple at this point and doesn’t offer some of the more robust features and customization options we get in SharePoint Designer 2013 approval processes.

I also will use both tools in the same business process occasionally, because they both have unique strengths.

But which do you use for approvals?

The quick answer to the question is: Use Flow for simple approvals, or approvals that involve multiple sites or external services. Use SPD for more complicated processes and customization options for approvals that involve a single site.

Continue reading “Microsoft Flow vs SharePoint Designer (SPD) Approvals”

Microsoft Flow approval of Twitter tweet and Facebook post submissions via SharePoint list

This tutorial works for any Microsoft-Flow connected social media platform, but we’ll specifically go through the steps for setting up a Twitter tweet and Facebook post submission system. We’ll be utilizing Microsoft Flow’s new “Approval” feature. Here’s our (and maybe your) scenario.

  • We want to allow broader participation in social media content, while still maintaining a close grip on the quality and management of our platforms. This is more inclusive, increasing engagement and also giving you more eyes and ears throughout the organization while maintaining control
  • Individuals will submit their ideas (can be via direct email to a list, a form, PowerApp, etc. – we’ll use a list)
  • Social media manager or team will approve or reject submissions which will then be automatically posted to the applicable social media network if approved. See bottom of post for additional challenges to enhance this system.

Let’s get started!

Continue reading “Microsoft Flow approval of Twitter tweet and Facebook post submissions via SharePoint list”