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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Why There is a Shortage of SharePoint Experts

Copied from here : SharePoint expert are we on the right path ? :D


This post started out as a short reply to a discussion on LinkedIn about this post: Why there is a shortage of SharePoint Experts. Once I hit the fourth paragraph I decided it made a better blog post then a comment. :)

There is a shortage of SharePoint experts because the learning curve for the base technologies is large and the learning curve for the breadth of SharePoint functionality is even larger.

Consider SharePoint 2010 Server Enterprise edition. You can deploy the platform as a public facing site with heavy customization and branding, as a team collaboration portal, as a business intelligence and information delivery, as a stand-alone or connected enterprise content management system, as a search appliance, as a business process automation (workflow) platform, and as a basis for custom applications. There are even more uses, but hopefully you get the basic idea – you can use it for lots of unrelated things.

To call yourself an expert, you should understand most or all of these core uses and the related tools used by end users, developers, and administrators. The SharePoint learning curve is honestly measured in years - assuming that you have a few years' experience building either Windows applications or building and administering complex server systems.

Fortunately, most organizations do not need a full-time SharePoint expert to be successful. Most deployments involve a small subset of the functionality. Most people who work in a corporate setting will use a subset of the tools and fulfill a role in a larger team. If you are looking to implement SharePoint, my advice is to spend the money on a good consultant(s) who is an actual SharePoint expert to create a good foundation and focus on hiring or training full time staff to participate in the build-out and maintain the completed system. Once you are up and running, say goodbye for now to the experts and use them on an ongoing basis only as needed.

The multi-year learning curve plus the sharp upward demand curve means that the supply of experts will be well short of demand for several more years. The supply of people who have serious SharePoint experience will obviously increase along with adoption, but there is no reason you should expect someone who worked in a large heavily controlled collaboration environment where the focus was to maximize stability and minimize risk through aggressive governance to know much about building high-quality public facing sites with significant branding and customization (or vice-versa). That's not to say the person could not make the switch, but it is to say that person is not an expert.

For those organizations looking to find a "SharePoint expert" on the cheap - don't hold your breath. If you are offering a rate that is comparable to that earned by a qualified Web developer in your area, ask yourself why someone who is already a qualified to do work that pays the Web developer rate as a Web developer is willing to provide the additional value of their additional 3+ years of learning in the SharePoint domain at no additional cost to work on SharePoint. Instead try to hire to the narrower skill set you actually need.

The pool of people who have solid experience in one of WCM, ECM, BPA, BI, information architecture, system administration, etc. who can be very productive in a SharePoint environment with the right training and mentoring is large. Build your team from this pool. Trying to build a team of SharePoint experts is much harder and more expensive. More importantly, it's probably an unnecessary and poor strategy.

Posted at 11:30 PM by Doug WareNo presence information | Category: Random Whatnot | Permalink | Email this Post | Comments (3)

great post

I started working with SharePoint back in 2004, was a member of the hosted SharePoint team at Microsoft (now called BPOS-Dedicated), and now work for a SharePoint ISV (echoTechnology, recently acquired by Axceler), and actively write and speak on SharePoitn solutions -- and yet I still feel like a newbie. I know several MVPs and MCMs who are "the" experts on the SharePoint platform who find themselves constantly learning as the platform growns and develops, and especially as partners and customers use it to create new solutions.
But here's my point for responding: If you're looking for SharePoint expertise, you really need to focus on the business problem you're trying to solve rather than find a generalist. Someone with deep vertical experience and some basic SharePoint training is probably a better bet than someone with years of SharePoint but new to your business.

@buckleyplanet at 8/6/2010 1:59 AM

Nice response

The idea that the competency takes years to achieve is an interesting angle I did not consider - I saw it as a skill set developers are not interested in.

Nadir Kamdar at 8/6/2010 11:39 AM

Lack of Investment

As a certified Master, I guess I am one of the *experts*, and I can attest to the enormous learning curve on SharePoint including not only the actual technical skills and APIs, but also the problem domains related to the solutions that SharePoint provides a platform for: Business Intelligence, Knowledge Management, Social Computing, Business Process Automation, etc. These all include significant learning burdens beyond just the technology.
My observations on the lack of SharePoint developers more firmly points a finger a broad problem within the IT industry: Organizations are no longer investing in employees who work in IT favoring to advocate hiring specialists that already have the skills to solve the problem at hand.
- the learning curve is steep and takes a lot of time
- organizations don't yet recognize the learning curve is steep
- organizations don't want to provide the required training
- organizations don't want to pay more for those skills
- organizations don't provide an environment where learning on the job is really tolerated anymore (how can you accurately estimate how long something will take or cost if you have never done it before)
There just isn't a lot of incentive for developers to absorb the learning costs for very little return. IT in general is already suffering from long hours, understaffed projects, and a new technology release cycle that makes it challenging just to keep your skills current, let alone learn significant chunks of new skills. I have seen very few IT organizations in recent years where the IT staff were not *just barely hanging on*.
To take advantage of the SharePoint platform and the considerable features it can provide for a Business Productivity platform, they are simply going to have to change their IT resource management strategies to make appropriate investments in skills development. Until they do, I see the shortage of qualified SharePoint Developers being in short supply for many years to come.

Chris Beckett / SharePoint Bits at 8/6/2010 8:30 PM