Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The Key Skill Roles of SharePoint

This article is based on one we wrote and published a couple of years ago but has been reconsitituted and updated. We know that the original article was received well as it was used by 3rd parties when presenting at seminars (we have spies everywhere ;) ). We are publishing it again for those who didn't see the original SharePoint article.

Essentially, when looking at job boards and talking with generalist recruiters, three roles crop up time and time again, architect, developer and administrator. If one didn't know better, one would thing that encompassed all the core skills of SharePoint but in fact it is extremely misleading and doesn't come close to explaining the various skills that one may encounter or require when engaging with SharePoint. This is why it is essential to be talking to a specialist SharePoint recruitment organisation such as Campania Consulting (www.campaniaconsultinggroup.com).

Consider the following list of plausible SharePoint roles:

SharePoint Strategist
Currently not a term used in the market for recruitment though there are one or two partners now understanding that this role should/could exist. It is what we do here at Salem and incorporates enterprise business consulting for SharePoint with detailed roadmaps, approach, alignment with business strategy and IT strategy and conceptual business solutions that would use SharePoint and related Microsoft technologies. 

SharePoint Practice Lead

Primarily for partners though a large corporate may be looking for a similar role. Sometimes known as an SME or subject matter expert. Combines a range of technical, consulting and strategic skills and will own and lead the SharePoint practice for a partner firm. Generally a thought leader, involved in public facing blogs, literature, author of industry materials. These people will currently be primarily deeply technical SharePoint specialists but without in-depth business consulting skills, although preferable for this role. Would expect to have excelllent presenting skills. In the UK possibly no more than 30 to 40 people would fulfill all requirements presently.

SharePoint Solutions Architect

One of the most common titles for a top level SP role. Wide range of technical skills but does not need to be deeply technical or have developer skills (though often asked for by corner-cutting companies who wish to find a one-man-band). Full and wide understanding of all SharePoint technical services who can translate a business strategy or business solution request into a logical technical solution using SharePoint and related technologies. Not always a doer, but will be expected to present, consult and have a deep enough technical knolwedge to lead thhe technical team in delivering a custom SharePoint solution. This role often consults with business stakeholders, will manage QA and hold responsibility for the overall solution release.

SharePoint Technical Architect (senior)

Sitting alongside or just under the Solutions Architect is the person who has the deepest overall technical understanding of the SharePoint platform, some development skills but not a deeply technical developer. Will manage the actual solution design, creation and deployment and configuration. Often in charge of the documentation for clients if working for a partner and will also have a great deal of say in overall infrastructure and farm design and provisioning.
This person is a doer and will be very hands and will lead the technical team through design and delivery, understanding every element involved. 

SharePoint Architect

The jobbing technical SharePoint enginner with a wide range of technical and associated skills. Will not consult with the business usually and will be IT based. Does not have to have presentation skills and will be primarily focused on the design, build, and configuration of the SharePoint platform and solution. Will work alongside developers and may have deeper developer skills but may be a true developer themselves. Will have a deep technical understanding of the sharepoint landscape but may not be a specialist in all areas and will add them to their skill portfolio over time. Will certainly have platform design skills and a huge amount of configuration skills. Be careful with these people as we'd expect to see qualifying credentials to prove they are an architect and not an administrator. 

SharePoint Infrastructure Architect

You will not see this title too often as yet but is a focused skillset for enterprise deployments who knows exactly how to design and build multi farm enterprise deployments, often covering multiple continents. Will be well versed in federated search and SSP provisioning across multiple farms. This person will be building enterprise architectures in SharePoint based on the output from either the strategist or solution architect. May be asked to combine skills with AD and other infrastructure skillsets. Will understand virtualisation (VMWare or Microsoft Hyper-V) as well as physical design and have SQL skills to an extent. Will also know associated administration (eg Axceler), backup (eg AvePoint), archive (eg Symantec or Zantaz) and other toolsets and can advise accordingly. This is a very technical platform design role which may be viewed as specialist. There are so few people outside the partners who can do this well that FTE salaries will vary widely. These skills may also be found as part of a Senior Technical Architect or Solutions Architect role in the right person with acquired history and skills.

SharePoint Search Architect

With the advent of FAST there is certainly a requirement for FAST search engine skills in terms of design, configuration and deployment. Will also combine skills in standard SharePoint search and Entertpise SharePoint search services. Plausible to find these skills in senior architect roles but is becoming more highly specialist and may link to searching other respositories such as SAP etc. Requires a full understanding of taxonomies, folksonomies, tagging, content types, user search experience, best bets, keywords, multi farm federated search and search design and customisation. You will rarely if ever see this role advertised as titled but this is thought leadership so we should be advising as such. Large globals may recognise this role if advised correctly. There is a link between this role and an information architect to a small degree.

SharePoint Information Architect

More often a general information architect usually with a variety of backgrounds but we would strongly advise any client to find one with detailed sharepoint understanding. Knows how to build logical information frameworks for a wide range of sectors and industries down to business units and departments. Good ones will also know how to handle multi languages information architectures. Understands and can advise on classification, taxonomies, folksonomies and how information should be split and provisioned within SharePoint. May/should also have expertise in document mangement, version control techniques, data returntion polices, publication and archiving practices. Often an ex librarian and sometimes guilty of over complicating a solution (taxonomy). May also have expertise in internal communication techniques and compliancy and leghislation requirements. Specialist and good ones are hard to find. 

SharePoint Farm Administrator

The person who day to day manages the servers that run sharepoint, manages, installs and configures the operating system, sharepoint software, patches, service packs, configures the back end, links to content databases, and may work with other farm admin tools like Axceler. may well have SQL DBA skills also. Generally an FTE role that is often combined with the front end administrator role below or other server infrastructure environments (maybe Exchange, Lync, OCS etc etc). Will configure and manage virtualisation, performance, run reports, upkeep the core services and diagnose and troubleshoot when things go wrong. With multiple farm deployments for a global company there may be a local farm adminsitrator in each location. We've most often seen this role combined with people who are also managing other infrastructure such as AD but for larger environments may be deemed a full time role. This role may also be combined with other roles in SME companies.

SharePoint Administrator

The front facing support and configuration role day to day that should exit in all SharePoint environments. For global companies there may be a lead administrator and then local administrators. This role manages and provides front-end services such as creation of site collections, quotas, some 2nd and 3rd level support, security, site administration, template creation and management, some solution creation when part of business as usual activities. Will also manage change control tasks, documentation and even advise business customers day to day onsite. The most important customer facing role of all the roles on an ongoing basis and one of the most common roles requested. 

SharePoint Developer

The most misunderstood of all the SharePoint roles and one requested most often by end clients who think SharePoint is purely a development platform. A range of developer skills including .NET, C#, C++, Jquery and a wide range of other languages. Hoqwever sharepoint development is rather different from pure .Net development even though SharePoint is built on .NET. On other words the .Net developer needs to know how to specifically develop for SharePoint and must know how to develop custom webparts. Strategically a developer should not be required in the early stages of SharePoint provisioning but many companies think differently and will use developers from the start which is why they customise too early and then fail as they cannot support what they have created. Basically these guys code services in SharePoint that do not exist out of the box. However beware, development requirements are often nothing more than 'custom configuration' which is a lesser skillset than a true developer.

Infopath and Workflow Designer/Administrator

Using Microsoft Designer and Microsoft Infopath, a company can create electronic forms and then write workflows. these are custom, bespoke and will need to be backed up with good BPM business analysis to create the required business solutions. To a degree this is a customer facing role where there is no intervening business analyst. The workflows will need to be amended, recoded and supported periodically and this role could be for the duration of a project or an ongoing role. Either way as companies increase the number of workflows, so this role can take up more and more time. In the beginning it may be a role shared with other tasks and later can become dedicated. Here we are not suggesting that the skills involve other workflow products such as K2, Global 360 or Biztalk or even Metastorm but this may happen as the company advances its workflow strategy. See below for another workflow role. 

SharePoint User Interface Designer

Basically a graphic designer for SharePoint who can create the user interface designs and may work with a user adoption expert as well as the business stakeholders in interpreting brand and style guidelines. Partners  want Ui people and can't get them as the partners aren't attractive as they are not design agencies. In an ideal world this person can code html, silverlight etc and can actually create the designs and implement them with the technical architect and developers. However some Ui designers are nothing more than digital graphic artists so it depends what is being asked for. 

SharePoint Business Analyst

Ordinary Project managers often become BAs and ordinary BAs often become project managers, and many swap between the two roles, so beware of that. A dedicated technical SharePoint business analyst combined consulting skills, business analysis skills and SharePoint administration skills so that they can interpret business requirements and offer a solutiion using the standard sharepoint services and features. This role is now increasingly understood and is being advertised more. This role should have a fundamental understanding of SharePoint services, be extremely customer facing, a good presenter and may have a technical background. The role needs to adjudge the best services to use in SharePoint and can advise the business sponsor accordingly. Whilst not all sharepoint BAs have good technical skills, the best ones certainly do and it would be these we would go for. General BAs have a place but cannot interpret a business requirement technically for SharePoint and will need to reply on the architects to interpret for them. 

SharePoint Programme/Project Manager

There are lots of Prince 2 certified people and lots of people who have seen a SharePoint team site. This does not create  a SharePoint PM. The role needs a fundamental technical understanding of SharePoint and how to quantify and cost solutions and timescales as well as adjudge resource levels etc. Only a PM with a good grasp of SharePoint can hope to deliver successfully as there are too many pitfalls otherwise. Therefore SharePoint PMs do exist and are advertised in the market. A SharePoint programme manager who should err on the side of deep understanding of SharePoint approach and strategy - there are hardly any good sharepoint programme managers in the market purely because SharePoint has been sold at a project level by partners for far too long. The vast majority of excellent SharePoint programme and project managers are ex-partner staff so check credentials carefully.

SharePoint DBA (SQL)

Rare and often unnecessary as a specific role in many implementations but someone somewhere needs to know how to manage the SharePoint SQL databases and as such there will need to be a SQL DBA skillset. The SharePoint farm administrator can manage the content databases through their standard tools but there may be a greater degree of SQL skills required for some architectures. 

Active Directory Administrator

SharePoint is driven by Active Directory and any SharePoint deployment requires AD administration skills as part of the ongoing support and configuration, particularly user profiles. Therefore where a company does not have good AD skills in place, they will need them. Few companies have no AD skills unless they are using an outsourced IT model.

SharePoint Workflow Specialist

Where SharePoint Designer (product) isn't enough and a company selects K2, Biztalk or some other 3rd party workflow product then these skills will be requested. 

SharePoint BI Analyst/Architect/Administrator

With the advent of PerformancePoint services in SharePoint 2010 there is a big uptake on BI services in SharePoint. This is specialist work and requires specialist SharePoint BI skills include cube analysis etc etc. Highly specialist, in demand and asking a premium. 

SharePoint Integrator

Again you will rarely see this title but there are a wide range of custom environments where SharePoint is integrated with other platforms such as Documentum, SAP, Peoplesoft etc. Therefore it will depend on what integration is required. Commonly this skillset will be requested in large implementations for global corporations on a project basis and therefore we'd expect this skill request to come through for a contract only. One may ask for someone who has deep understanding of integrating SAP and SharePoint in which case they would need to know iView or Duet and in this case its more about finding someone. If it also requires custom API development skills then you will be looking for a very specialist developer and as such again its more about supply and demand. These skills generally only currently exist within solution providers or SIs.

SharePoint Mobile Specialist

Deep knowledge of Groove (2007) and SharePoint workspaces (2010) including the management and relay servers. Very few people outside specialist partners have these skills and the best recommendation to any client is to seek out a specialist provider and not a contractor. It is highly unlikely there is anyone yet who can take this on as a dedicated FTE role though the requirement will be there in future. For making SharePoint accessible via a smartphone etc one should be talking to a SharePoint Solution Architect.

SharePoint Trainer/Instructor

For end clients then refer to the user adoption specialist first or the SharePoint Strategist. For training partners, MCTs (Microsoft certified Trainers) are typically required. For grey courses it will be open to negotiation. End user training is often managed via the business analyst and administrator using a variety of techniques including floorwalking.

SharePoint User Adoption Specialist

Only existing within a very few SharePoint partners such as Salem at present but the role deals with the strategy of how to get users to use the solutions in SharePoint. This should be dealt with at the beginning of the SharePoint cycle and throughout, but may be requested for clients who have failing SharePoint projects.

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