Age of Awareness
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Age of Awareness

Building the product for your company… and others

This article tells the story of the award-winning design and development company Alty. After a desperate and fruitless search of the solution for our business, we decided that we’ll do the work ourselves and build the product we need. Here’s how it turned out.

Being a service company, Alty has always found accurate work hours logging to be paramount. Not only it facilitates customer billing, but it also has a lot of other perks. From the top of my head, I can name building customers’ trust, improving personal time management of the employees, and increasing transparency when it comes to the salary calculations.

As long as all of our projects and tasks are tracked in Jira, it made perfect sense to keep work logs in Jira, too. And four years ago, when we decided to migrate to the Jira Cloud, we started using Tempo Timesheets. This powerful Jira add-on significantly extends built-in time tracking capabilities. For us, the Tempo product’s killer feature was the timesheet approvals flow. The process is relatively straightforward: every employee submits his timesheet for review at the end of each month. Managers review and approve the work logs, and then the approved timesheets are used as a basis for customer invoicing.

Still, one of our pains remained unaddressed — employee’s leave management. We realized that Tempo was not providing comprehensive leave management tools, and using something outside of Jira would be a step back for us. We needed to have both our employees’ work logs and leave logs in one place — ideally, somewhere in Jira. We couldn't find anything that’d fit our needs perfectly. At that point, we said: “Great, looks like we’ll have to do it ourselves!”

We decided to create our custom solution — the Jira Cloud add-on for vacations and sick days management called Leave Tracker. It was designed to be simple and effective while fully compatible with native Jira work log manager or add-ons like Tempo Timesheets. Leave Tracker uses regular Jira issues to store the vacation and sick day logs. Therefore it does not conflict with Tempo approvals flow. With Leave Tracker, admins can see the employees’ work logs and their leave logs together on a single screen.

The development of Leave Tracker ended in 2018, and it was published on the Atlassian Marketplace right after. With this release, we didn’t only solve our internal pain, but we also made our product available for other Jira Cloud users. And this was one of the decisions we never regretted a single bit!

Since the release date, we have received tons of helpful feedback from the Atlassian Marketplace users. It made us figure that some of the suggested features may work great for our internal process, too. We iterated on Leave Tracker a couple of times, adding new features and extending its capabilities. We’ve dramatically reworked the settings options, added the ability to filter user lists by groups, and polished the app UI:

Feedback-inspired personal and all-team settings

We returned to the idea of further developing our product this year when the rapid growth of Alty has posted some new challenges and requirements for our leave management process. The biggest features that we are going to develop during 2021:

  • leave approvals: team managers and Jira admins will be able to approve the vacation requests right from the interface of the Leave Tracker;
  • custom leave types: apart from the default “vacation” and “sick day,” it will be possible to create some custom types like “unpaid leave,” “parental leave,” etc.;
  • radical architecture changes: we are going to completely rethink the architecture to significantly shorten the application load times, thus allowing us to handle more employees’ logs in less time;
  • further setup simplifications: we’ll automate the creation of the special Jira projects and nested issues, allowing for an even more straightforward initial setup of the Leave Tracker.

And more is coming, as there are many great ideas up our sleeve for future releases.

Here are the main takeaways that we’ve made from our product journey so far:

  • companies that rely on Jira — no matter big or small — often lack the comprehensive leave management solution;
  • some companies (like Alty!) resort to creating their own products to fulfill their internal need. And these products may grow from a simple tool to cover our needs into something bigger — products that are valued by others;
  • the market can adopt such products if they effectively solve the customers’ pains and occupy the right niche;
  • working with customer feedback helps the product strive in the long term;
  • some customer-suggested ideas may turn around how you look at your product and make you incorporate the change in your processes, too!

We encourage entrepreneurs to experiment and look out for the product opportunities that come from the inside of your already operating business. Sometimes, little things you build for yourself can resonate and change how other companies do their business. Dream big!

Artem Loktionov, COO — Alty.

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Alty Inc.

Alty Inc.

We create custom functional applications for big companies. https://alty.co

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