Thursday, November 8, 2012

SharePoint Careers


I maintain that there is a huge amount of opportunity in the SharePoint field, whether that be on premise or in the cloud. If it is SharePoint, then there is opportunity. If you are considering what options in the field maybe available to you here are some thoughts on the three major career paths open to you as I see it.
1. Infrastructure
If you are an IT Professional who likes fiddling around with servers, running them up, configuring them, installing drivers and so on then this is probably for you. SharePoint requires Windows Servers and SQL to operate. That means it also requires server hardware on which to run. Many larger organizations may prefer the flexibility of their own version of SharePoint to that hosted in the cloud. I would therefore expect plenty of opportunity to not only implement SharePoint but also maintain the infrastructure on which it operates.
However, I see that the skill set required here is going to demand enterprise grade experience. You are going to need to be comfortable with things such as multi-server environments, load balancing, advanced SharePoint configurations. From what I have seen, there are not a lot of people with the experience to be able to design and implement a SharePoint extranet (internal and external users) for a large user population (100+ users say). I certainly know that there is the demand, however I also appreciate that the experience and skill set required is unique.
If you have chosen to stick with the on premise side of IT I believe that for you to remain employable you need to look at skilling yourself up to the enterprise level. Dealing with a single server environment like SBS is simply not going to provide a decent living anymore. However, moving up to the enterprise can provide a real challenge for those that already get a kick out of working with physical machines.
2. Developer
If you are more into code cutting then SharePoint also has a bright future for you. There are in fact even more options available to SharePoint developers.
Firstly, you could use tools like Visual Studio and create web parts that plug into SharePoint. Now with the market place available in SharePoint 2013 (including SharePoint Online) and Office 2013 the opportunity to create a sell a solution to a world wide audience has never been easier.
Secondly, there is huge demand for the ability to brand SharePoint sites. That is, to add logos, create themes and generally make SharePoint look ‘pretty’ in the customers eyes. To achieve this you are going to need to know things like HTML, Javascript, CSS and so on. The good thing about these skills is that they will translate to many other web technologies.
The challenge with being a developer is that there is a lot of learning that is needed. In most cases you can’t really start obtaining revenue until you can produce something and for that you need not only skills but also experience. The good thing is that once you have all these they can be easily replicated. Thus, if you develop a web part and it proves popular you can resell it multiple times. So the rewards can be great (given the new Office marketplace) but there is fair amount of investment up front in knowledge that is required.
3. Business Intelligence
This career path is more for those who assist customers create processes and automate them using technology. They would analyse a customers business and then determine how to improve that using technology.
With SharePoint this could mean things like using document libraries to better manage files. It could mean interfacing SharePoint to desktop applications like to provide better collaboration. It could mean using SharePoint Designer to automate processes that are currently being done manually. It could also mean using a tool like InfoPath to help create ‘intelligent’ forms to remove the paper clutter within a business.
The big challenge here for many traditional IT resellers is that you will need to be skilled in business. You will need to be able to look at business and determine what is the best solution for them, not what is the ‘coolest’ technology out there. If the customer doesn’t use it then it doesn’t matter how cool it is does it? This means you are going to not only need to know all the abilities of SharePoint you are going to need experience in how to integrate them into a business. That means no more drivers, patches, updates, screwdrivers and like. It means being able to construct business processes and translate them into a tool like SharePoint.
My experience again is that there is huge demand for this. Most businesses do things so inefficiently that they are crying out for help. But here’s the catch with this opportunity, most businesses, even if they know they need help rarely see benefit in implementing it. It is so much easier for most to simply retain the old inefficient ways of doing things because that’s what ‘they know’. I see this so much these days. A small implementation of a SharePoint solution can make such a huge difference to a business but many are strongly resistant to any change, especially where it involves them having to learn something new.
The benefits again here are replicability. If you develop a solution for one business chances are that solution (or one very similar) will work in another business. Thus, the second time it is implemented the less time it takes. Once you build up a portfolio of solutions you can pretty much solve any business problem by plugging the pieces together.
Conclusion
As with anything in business there is opportunity but there are also challenges. I believe SharePoint offers at least three distinct paths for IT Professionals to choose from depending on where they want to take their careers. That is pretty unique in the technology field today. However, all paths have their challenges and all paths require work and development to not only learn the products but also understand how they can be implemented to solve customer ‘pain points’.
At the end of the day I believe the opportunities far outweigh the challenges and would encourage people who are looking to get more into SharePoint to pick one of the three paths above and go for it sooner rather than later. I say that because I believe you really can’t do all three, two maybe but definitely not all three.