Slinger's Thoughts

November 5, 2010

SharePoint Roles Revisited. It got better, and worse.

Okay, first things first.  If you haven’t seen it or read it, go here and read my blog post about SharePoint Roles.  Read the comments too while you are at it. Okay now that you have done that, we’ll start with the good news.  SharePoint is super popular with companies now, and it is spreading faster than rumors did at my old high school.  (The only thing that spread faster than rumors at my old high school was contracting mono.) With SharePoint 2010 in the market place now, even more companies are signing on.  This is awesome wonderful fantastic news.  With more recognition of SharePoint in the marketplace, companies should have a better understanding of what the roles are related to SharePoint… right? Right?

If only with that were the case.  Recruiters are better at sorting out SharePoint talent, but the companies themselves are still making the same mistakes that they were making two years ago in asking for SharePoint people.  Only now, with how SharePoint has grown, there are more SharePoint roles that companies are actually looking for.  I got another one the other day.  They were asking for a SharePoint administrator in their job request.  (I’m not looking for new work, but that doesn’t stop them from asking me.) What they were actually looking for was someone who had used SharePoint and wasn’t afraid of it.  So I thought I would put it back out there, a list of what I think some SharePoint role definitions could be, and I’m hoping that at some point someone will pick up the idea of granting certifications for each of the roles.

  • SharePoint User
    My idea of a SharePoint user is someone who has come into contact with SharePoint and hasn’t issued forth a string of expletives because it didn’t look like Windows Explorer. I have honestly seen a user create a folder in Explorer to contain a single file and then a folder within that folder to contain previous versions of that same file.  I was tempted to slap the individual who had done so, especially since he had done it in a SharePoint document library in Explorer View.  A SharePoint user should know the basics of SharePoint such as how to add and modify items in a list or library, and should understand what metadata is.
  • SharePoint Power User
    A SharePoint Power user to me should be someone who has all of the skills of a regular SharePoint user, but is also capable of making minor changes to a SharePoint environment without totally mucking up the farm.  SharePoint Administrator’s wish that all SharePoint users were this skilled. It really would make our jobs so much easier.  This of course will lead to another SharePoint role that should at least exist at every SharePoint consulting firm, the trainer.  A SharePoint Power user should have no problems adding, modifying, or deleting items from lists or libraries in SharePoint. They should understand how views work, and be able to create at least personal views, if not Shared Views. A Power User should also be able to start and respond to SharePoint workflows, create alerts, and integrate SharePoint lists and libraries with their Outlook client. A Power user should also be able to tell the difference between a content type and a file type. (Adobe PDF is not a content type people!)
  • SharePoint Site Owner
    A Site Owner isn’t much removed from a Site Collection Owner, and I get that.  Smaller companies may want to wrap this into one position.  That also isn’t to say that a Site Owner couldn’t be a Site Collection Owner for vice versa.  I think as far as establishing responsibilities and abilities though, that they should be separate.  This holds true especially for large corporations, that may have some absurd number of SharePoint Farms, each containing an equally ridiculous number of Site Collections and Sites. In order to keep this hierarchy, some permission levels may need to be tweaked. For instance, the Create Subsite permission probably should not be granted to a Site Owner, depending on your company’s policies.
  • SharePoint Site Collection Owner
    Again, there probably isn’t much difference between a SharePoint Site Owner and a Site Collection owner. It all depends on the governance plan your company has. At the least a Site Collection administrator should be able to manage the permissions of the Site Collection.  The Site Collection Administrator should also be responsible for applying and enforcing any governance policies. (Records management anyone?)
  • SharePoint Administrator
    It’s not plagiarizing if I copy myself, right? These are almost the same as what I had listed in my previous post, with a few updates as appropriate for SharePoint 2010.  Basically, if you do anything with it through Central Administration, this should be the responsibility of the SharePoint Administrator. SharePoint 2010 went ahead and added the Service Applications to replace the SSP, which as a SharePoint Administrator, I am eternally grateful for. IT doesn’t mean that I can just push a button and everything will work though. (Yeah, there is that “Configure Farm” wizard but I see that more as a way to break a farm than to configure it. If you do click on that button, Todd Klindt and Shane Young will hunt you down in your sleep also.)
  • SharePoint Architect
    Well someone has to build all this SharePoint stuff right?  SharePoint administrators can do a lot of things, and I’m sure in a pinch a SharePoint Administrator could build a very basic SharePoint farm.  If you want your SharePoint farm to be super fast, ultra reliable, and extremely robust, you probably want to get someone who doesn’t have any problems building a SharePoint Farm with 30 Web Front Ends, A Server for Each Service Application, and actually follows SharePoint best practices, instead of just thinking they are a nice idea.  A SharePoint Architect will also be able to include some customizations as needed.
  • SharePoint Branding Specialist
    I don’t know if this needs a separate category or if it should be wrapped into the Architect role. If it is separate though, this would be the person in charge of making sure that your Out of the Box SharePoint installation doesn’t look like an Out of the Box SharePoint Installation. Want to see some awesome SharePoint sites that don’t look like SharePoint sites? Check out the list here.
    http://www.wssdemo.com/Pages/topwebsites.aspx
  • SharePoint Developer
    SharePoint Developers are like the superheroes of SharePoint. These are the guys who can make SharePoint do the following things; backflips, create the perfect mixed drink, file your taxes on time, and entertain your Mother-in-Law for a week. The last time I wrote something about roles, a few developers were a little upset that I didn’t do them any justice with my description of their responsibilities. I probably did the same thing again this time.
  • SharePoint Trainer
    You have a SharePoint site. Fantastic.  “How… Uhm… How do you use it?” Because you probably don’t have a Book or Armaments handy, don’t expect your users to suddenly be perfect little engines of productivity. (I will gladly award +1 internet for whoever gets the movie reference.)  Your trainer is the guy who will make your employees into SharePoint users, users into power users, and power users into your IT department’s nightmare fuel.
  • SharePoint Database Administrator
    Not so much a DBA Specific to SharePoint but a DBA who knows what the Database Requirements are for SharePoint and won’t go tinkering with things they shouldn’t poke. A SharePoint savvy DBA knows that you don’t tinker, tamper or otherwise futz or fidget with the SharePoint databases.  This is also the guy who will work with the SharePoint Architect, Developer and Admin to ensure that everyone is happy.
  • SharePoint Project Manager
    Well with all these people around SharePoint someone has to head them up and champion them. Any time you have a SharePoint installation, there will either be a project centered around it, or a project contained within it.  A PM who knows what SharePoint can and can’t do, and who knows which people know how to do what in SharePoint is a pretty handy resource to have.
  • Sean, Todd, Joel, Shane, Paul or any of the myriad SharePoint Gurus
    Of course there is also the ever popular all in one package that most companies are actually looking for. You could probably hire one of these guys for something like a winning lottery ticket a year. The upside is that they know everything there is to know about SharePoint.

Sometimes implementing SharePoint at your company can be done internally, sometimes you should hire a consulting firm.  I recommend that if you cannot fill the positions of at least the administrator, branding specialist, developer, and database administrator with experienced internal employees, then you should talk to one of the many consulting firms that are out there.  It will save you headache and nightmare in the long run.  An experienced SharePoint PM will bring experience with SharePoint projects, and has already learned from the mistakes you are about to make. It also may not be a bad idea to hire a consulting firm to get the temporary jobs completed correctly. You may not need an architect or trainer on your staff full time. Don’t hand one of your more competent employees a book titled “SharePoint in 3 easy steps” and tell them to go build you a SharePoint. Hire people who have already done it. More than once.  If you ask any administrator how many farms they have built before they got one right, they will readily admit they didn’t get it right the first time. I didn’t. I still have moments of profound surprise when I discover something new that I was doing wrong.

All of this really boils down to one thing, and this goes equally for employers, and recruiting agencies. Know what you are asking for before you ask for it. You will be happier with the results that you get, your candidates will be much better suited to your needs, and it will be much easier to find the employee you are looking for. Keep in mind that there is not a single individual who can manage your SharePoint installation if your SharePoint installation spans 24 servers, even if it was one of those Guru types. It doesn’t hurt to ask for help either, and don’t be afraid to ask what would be appropriate. There are so many SharePoint resources out there now, (SharePoint Discussions group on Yahoo, all the groups on LinkedIn, EndUserSharePoint, etc.) there really is no excuse for the mismatch that I keep seeing in SharePoint job requests. Of all of the people in the computer/software/programming/IT community, SharePoint people are the nicest, most helpful, and most sincere people you will meet. We won’t look down on you for asking questions, and in a "6 degrees of Kevin Bacon" kind of way, we all know each other.

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5 Comments »

  1. Hi Slinger,
    Great blog you’ve got here! I’ve learned a great deal by reading through your posts.

    I’m a college student currently doing some very basic SharePoint administration work, such as creating workflows in SPD, organizing document libraries, managing site permissions, and creating/customizing sites for a few departments. Since SharePoint is relatively new though, I can’t find much info relating to an SP career path. Which of the roles you mentioned above would be a good starting position for a new graduate, based on my limited experience? I have virtually no experience in coding, but will graduate with a degree in MIS. Any required reading or certifications out there you would recommend to someone looking to start a career in SharePoint?

    Comment by Sef — April 21, 2011 @ 9:46 pm

    • Depending on how much you want to do, my recommendation is to start with a basic SharePoint Certification. There are many classes that teach you everything you will need to know to get certified. I took my class at the C-Trec Hilton Academy in Houston, (but never took the certification exam, my fault.) Understanding how other people use SharePoint is also a great way to learn. (Thank you, I have an idea for another blog post now.) Become a member of SharePoint groups on LinkedIn, and the Yahoo Discussions group. There is no end to the books that are available that would be helpful on the subject also. As far as a role to start with, there really isn’t a right or wrong answer. I would suggest starting out as an administrator, and then move on from there if you want to be a developer or architect. It’s really up to you though. Watch for my next blog post, I will go into a lot of detail on the subject.

      Comment by Jay Strickland — April 27, 2011 @ 7:36 am

      • Thanks for the advice – I also happen to live in Houston, so I’ll look into that academy. Looking forward to your next post.

        Comment by Sef — May 5, 2011 @ 5:07 pm

  2. […] good starting position?” (I did paraphrase the question a bit. The blog post I am referring to is here.) What an awesome question. Where do you begin? When you are first branching out into the vast […]

    Pingback by Where do you get started? « Slinger's Thoughts — May 6, 2011 @ 7:38 am

  3. Hello

    I recently graduated from college with a fine arts degree, so I am jobless… I would like to have a career working with SharePoint, I worked for a temp firm and the company assignment allowed me to work with the sites it set up loved it and want to learn more, but how to start? I have no programming or techie knowledge other than the basics, help!

    Comment by Tracey — June 16, 2012 @ 6:09 pm


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