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Building The Right SharePoint Team For Your Organization

 
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Mark RackleyGuest Author: Mark Rackley
The SharePoint Hillbilly

I see the question posted fairly often asking what kind SharePoint team an organization should have. How many people do I need? What roles do I need to fill? What is best for my organization? Well, just like every other answer in SharePoint, the correct answer is “it depends”. Do you ever get sick of hearing that??? I know I do…

So, let me give you my thoughts and opinions based upon my experience and what I’ve seen and let you come to your own conclusions.

What are the possible SharePoint roles?

I guess the first thing you need to understand are the different roles that exist in SharePoint (and their are LOTS). Remember, SharePoint is a massive beast and you will NOT find one person who can do it all. If you are hoping to find that person you will be sorely disappointed. For the most part this is true in SharePoint 2007 and 2010. However, generally things are improved in 2010 and easier for junior individuals to grasp.

SharePoint Administrator

The absolutely positively only role that you should not be without no matter the size of your organization or SharePoint deployment is a SharePoint administrator. These guys are essential to keeping things running and figuring out what’s wrong when things aren’t running well. These unsung heroes do more before 10 am than I do all day. The bad thing is, when these guys are awesome, you don’t even know they exist because everything is running so smoothly.

You should definitely invest some time and money here to make sure you have some competent if not rockstar help. You need an admin who truly loves SharePoint and will go that extra mile when necessary. Let me give you a real world example of what I’m talking about:

We have a rockstar admin… and I’m sure she’s sick of my throwing her name around so she’ll just have to live with remaining anonymous in this post… sorry Lori… Anyway! A couple of weeks ago our Server teams came to us and said

Hi Lori,

I’m finalizing the MOSS servers and doing updates that require a restart; can I restart them?

Seems like a harmless request from your server team does it not? Sure, go ahead and apply the patches and reboot during our scheduled maintenance window. No problem? right? Sounded fair to me… but no…. not to our fearless SharePoint admin…

I need a complete list of patches that will be applied. There is an update that is out there that will break SharePoint… KB973917 is the patch that has been shown to cause issues.

What? You mean Microsoft released a patch that would actually adversely affect SharePoint? If we did NOT have a rockstar admin, our server team would have applied these patches and then when some problem occurred in SharePoint we’d have to go through the fun task of tracking down exactly what caused the issue and resolve it. How much time would that have taken? If you have a junior SharePoint admin or an admin who’s not out there staying on top of what’s going on you could have spent days tracking down something so simple as applying a patch you should not have applied.

I will even go as far to say the only SharePoint rockstar you NEED in your organization is a SharePoint admin. You can always outsource really complicated development projects or bring in a rockstar contractor every now and then to make sure you aren’t way off track in other areas. For your day-to-day sanity and to keep SharePoint running smoothly, you need an awesome Admin.

Some rockstars in this category are: Ben Curry, Mike Watson, Joel Oleson, Todd Klindt, Shane Young, John Ferringer, Sean McDonough, and of course Lori Gowin.

SharePoint Developer

Another essential role for your SharePoint deployment is a SharePoint developer. Things do start to get a little hazy here and there are many flavors of “developers”. Are you writing custom code? using SharePoint Designer? What about SharePoint Branding?  Are all of these considered developers? I would say yes. Are they interchangeable? I’d say no. Development in SharePoint is such a large beast in itself. I would say that it’s not so large that you can’t know it all well, but it is so large that there are many people who specialize in one particular category. If you are lucky enough to have someone on staff who knows it all well, you better make sure they are well taken care of because those guys are ready-made to move over to a consulting role and charge you 3 times what you are probably paying them. :)

Some of the all-around rockstars are Eric Shupps, Andrew Connell (go Razorbacks), Rob Foster, Paul Schaeflein, Todd Bleeker, and Christina Wheeler

SharePoint Power User/No-Code Solutions Developer

These SharePoint Swiss Army Knives are essential for quick wins in your organization. These people can twist the out-of-the-box functionality to make it do things you would not even imagine. Give these guys SharePoint Designer, jQuery, InfoPath, and a little time and they will create views, dashboards, and KPI’s that will blow your mind away and give your execs the “wow” they are looking for. Not only can they deliver that wow factor, but they can mashup, merge, and really help make your SharePoint application usable and deliver an overall better user experience.

Before you hand off a project to your SharePoint Custom Code developer, let one of these rockstars look at it and show you what they can do (in probably less time). I would say the second most important role you can fill in your organization is one of these guys.

Rockstars in this category are Laura Rogers, Jennifer Mason, and Mark Miller

SharePoint Developer – Custom Code

If you want to really integrate SharePoint into your legacy systems, or really twist it and make it bend to your will, you are going to have to open up Visual Studio and write some custom code.  Remember, SharePoint is essentially just a big, huge, ginormous .NET application, so you CAN write code to make it do ANYTHING, but do you really want to spend the time and effort to do so? At some point with every other form of SharePoint development you are going to run into SOME limitation (SPD Workflows is the big one that comes to mind). If you truly want to knock down all the walls then custom development is the way to go. PLEASE keep in mind when you are looking for a custom code developer that a .NET developer does NOT equal a SharePoint developer.

Just SOME of the things these guys write are:

  • Custom Workflows
  • Custom Web Parts
  • Web Service functionality
  • Import data from legacy systems
  • Export data to legacy systems
  • Custom Actions
  • Event Receivers
  • Service Applications (2010)

These guys are also the ones generally responsible for packaging everything up into solution packages (you are doing that, right?).

Rockstars in this category are Phil Wicklund, Geoff Varosky, and Brian Jackett.

SharePoint Branding

“But it LOOKS like SharePoint!” Somebody call the WAAAAAAAAAAAAHMbulance…   Themes, Master Pages, Page Layouts, Zones, and over 2000 styles in CSS.. these guys not only have to be comfortable with all of SharePoint’s quirks and pain points when branding, but they have to know it TWICE for publishing and non-publishing sites.  Not only that, but these guys really need to have an eye for graphic design and be able to translate the ramblings of business into something visually stunning. They also have to be comfortable with XSLT, XML, and be able to hand off what they do to your custom developers for them to package as solutions (which you are doing, right?).

These rockstars include Heather Waterman, Cathy Dew, and Marcy Kellar

SharePoint Architect

SharePoint Architects are generally SharePoint Admins or Developers who have moved into more of a BA role? Is that fair to say? These guys really have a grasp and understanding for what SharePoint IS and what it can do. These guys help you structure your farms to meet your needs and help you design your applications the correct way. It’s always a good idea to bring in a rockstar SharePoint Architect to do a sanity check and make sure you aren’t doing anything stupid.  Most organizations probably do not have a rockstar architect on staff. These guys are generally brought in at the deployment of a farm, upgrade of a farm, or for large development projects. I personally also find architects very useful for sitting down with the business to translate their needs into what SharePoint can do. A good architect will be able to pick out what can be done out-of-the-box and what has to be custom built and hand those requirements to the development Staff.

Architects can generally fill in as an admin or a developer when needed.

Some rockstar architects are Rick Taylor, Dan Usher, Bill English, Spence Harbar, Neil Hodgkins, Eric Harlan, and Bjørn Furuknap.

Other Roles / Specialties

On top of all these other roles you also get these people who specialize in things like Reporting, BDC (BCS in 2010), Search, Performance, Security, Project Management, etc... etc... etc... Again, most organizations will not have one of these gurus on staff, they’ll just pay out the nose for them when they need them. :)

SharePoint End User

Everyone else in your organization that touches SharePoint falls into this category. What they actually DO in SharePoint is determined by your governance and what permissions you give these guys. Hopefully you have these guys on a fairly short leash and are NOT giving them access to tools like SharePoint Designer. Sadly end users are the ones who truly make your deployment a success by using it, but are also your biggest enemy in breaking it.  :)  We love you guys… really!!!

Okay, all that’s fine and dandy, but what should MY SharePoint team look like?

It depends! Okay… Are you just doing out of the box team sites with no custom development? Then you are probably fine with a great Admin team and a great No-Code Solution Development team. How many people do you need? Depends on how busy you can keep them. Sorry, can’t answer the question about numbers without knowing your specific needs. I can just tell you who you MIGHT need and what they will do for you.

I’ll leave you with what my ideal SharePoint Team would look like for a particular scenario:

Farm / Organization Structure

  • Dev, QA, and 2 Production Farms.
  • 5000 – 10000 Users
  • Custom Development and Integration with legacy systems
  • Team Sites, My Sites, Intranet, Document libraries and overall company collaboration

Team

  • Rockstar SharePoint Administrator
  • 2-3 junior SharePoint Administrators
  • SharePoint Architect / Lead Developer
  • 2 Power User / No-Code Solution Developers
  • 2-3 Custom Code developers
  • Branding expert

With a team of that size and skill set, they should be able to keep a substantial SharePoint deployment running smoothly and meet your business needs. This does NOT mean that you would not need to bring in contract help from time to time when you need an uber specialist in one area. Also, this team assumes there will be ongoing development for the life of your SharePoint farm. If you are just going to be doing sporadic custom development, it might make sense to partner with an awesome firm that specializes in that sort of work (I can give you the name of a couple if you are interested).  Again though, the size of your team depends on the number of requests you are receiving and how much active development you are doing. So, don’t bring in a team that looks like this and then yell at me because they are sitting around with nothing to do or are so overwhelmed that nothing is getting done.

I do URGE you to take the proper time to asses your needs and determine what team is BEST for your organization. Also, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not skimp on the talent. When it comes to SharePoint you really do get what you pay for when it comes to employees, contractors, and software.  SharePoint can become absolutely critical to your business and because you skimped on hiring a developer he created a web part that brings down the farm because he doesn’t know what he’s doing, or you hire an admin who thinks it’s fine to stick everything in the same Content Database and then can’t figure out why people are complaining. SharePoint can be an enormous blessing to an organization or it’s biggest curse. Spend the time and money to do it right, or be prepared to spending even more time and money later to fix it.

Mark RackleyGuest Author: Mark Rackley
The SharePoint Hillbilly

Mark has been developing software applications for over 15 years filling the roles of Project Manager, Business Analyst, Lead Developer, and Software Architect.  He has been involved in projects for such companies as Dell, Motorola, Intel and Agilent Technologies. He has worked in large corporate environments, small software start-ups, and as a consultant.  Mark currently works for UNFI where he was introduced to the world of SharePoint and has taken on a lead SharePoint architect role within his organization making key development, administration, and architecture decisions.  Mark’s goal is to help ever new architect and developer avoid the frustrations and brick walls he ran into while learning SharePoint.

Blog:  http://www.sharepointhillbilly.com
Email: mrackley@gmail.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mrackley

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Comments

Veronique Palmer

Building The Right SharePoint Team For Your Organization

Very nicely done Mark.

Posted 18-Mar-2010 by Veronique Palmer
EndUserSharePoint

Building The Right SharePoint Team For Your Organization

> SharePoint Power User/No-Code Solutions Developer
> Rockstars in this category are Laura Rogers, Jennifer Mason, and Mark Miller

As much as I would love to be included in this group, I'll have to bow out. The solutions you are seeing here on the site were started by Paul Grenier with his 'jQuery for Everyone' series, followed by Christophe Humbert's 'Path to SharePoint'. Now you've got Marc Anderson in the mix with his web services library.

At this point, I'm nothing more than a conduit to expose the tremendous work these guys are doing. Thanks for including me, and implicitly including them, by inclusion in this group of Rockstars.

Posted 18-Mar-2010 by EndUserSharePoint
Frank

Building The Right SharePoint Team For Your Organization

I hope I can say this without offending you or anyone else. This is good information but that is in the ‘corporate’ world. I work for a Department of Defense (DoD) military hospital and in ‘our’ world, I’m the only person that handles all that has to do with SharePoint. We live by “Do more with less’ we have a staff of over 4,000 employees, I’m the all of the above you mention (Administrator, Developer, Architect and Power User). The one added role is teaching I hold regular SharePoint classes from ‘Beginner to Advance’ users. On our IT SharePoint site I post all the ‘How-To’ PowerPoint slides. On one side it would be nice to have a staff as mention but it helps to make my days go ‘fast’ and I’m learning a lot more from this experience. My dream team would be having one or two more individuals to help with the ‘backend’ of SharePoint.

Posted 18-Mar-2010 by Frank
Richard Harbridge

Building The Right SharePoint Team For Your Organization

Loved it Mark!

It's interesting to see other perspectives on how many people are needed for the size of the organization.

Wanted to share my thoughts too (because it's such a fun topic!)
1. The way they are applying and using SharePoint has a huge impact on how many resources are necessary. Any guidance is better than no guidance but I wanted to echo your points on the fact proper planning and careful consideration is necessary. {Can't hurt to say it a couple time extra.}

2. The SharePoint BA isn't necessarily an Architect. (Though many are.) It is crucial in an organization to have (in my opinion) at least 1 BA focused individually who understands how to translate user needs into SharePoint. - To be fair I have been focused on this for a long while now so it's something I am biased and passionate about, but I definitely see it as often a separate role when we are dealing with large enterprise organizations.

The reason I separate it is that this person really needs to doLoved it Mark!

It's interesting to see other perspectives on how many people are needed for the size of the organization.

Here are the gaps I see though:
1. The way they are applying and using SharePoint has a huge impact on how many resources are necessary. Any guidance is better than no guidance but I wanted to echo your points on the fact proper planning and careful consideration is necessary.

2. The SharePoint BA isn't necessarily an Architect. (Though many are.) It is crucial in an organization to have (in my opinion) at least 1 BA focused individually who understands how to translate user needs into SharePoint. - To be fair I have been focused on this for a long while now so it's something I am biased and passionate about, but I definitely see it as often a separate role when we are dealing with large enterprise organizations.

The reason: There is TONS of new work and possibilities that spin up from a good SharePoint implementation and this is where you need people who understand how to properly gather and translate requirements more so than the people who understand the technical infrastructure (though understanding how to apply and architect SharePoint is also important to these sorts of roles).

3. A SharePoint, Intranet, Extranet, or Internet Champion, Director, Leader, etc is NECESSARY. Not one that is external either. This is a very real role. This person is responsible for maintaining the vision, objectives, strategy, and managing priorities for a SharePoint implementation. This person needs to ensure everyone has a Shared Understanding of where the Intranet, Portal, or SharePoint implementation is going, what real issues its solving, what it's business value is, etc etc.

This person might also be an architect, or a BA, or something else, but it's a role that is necessary in ANY SharePoint environment. This person often also may not be focused on just SharePoint (depending on the size of the organization and it's usage) but certainly the role would take up/require a significant amount of say a director of communication's time and energy (as an example).

4. Sometimes you want your people to have more than one role. No one person can be all things, but that flexibility is key, and invaluable in smaller organizations (which probably still includes ones in the low thousands of users). So that combination of multiple roles (which many users are) while it may seem is a bad thing, can sometimes be a great benefit. If the roles can be separated great, but even for smaller sizes (such as 4000 as mentioned above) it's not crazy to think one person really can manage multiple roles (you outline this, but I just wanted to add a bit to it. Especially when we deal with the case of succession planning, or covering for a resource when they are away etc.

5. In many situations the needs change based on the activities going on (upgrades, patches, performance issues etc all might highlight a need for more administrators as an example). So this means you need to carefully consider your needs over time before hiring. If you hire an extra developer (for example), and then realize you aren't doing as much custom development because your team learns more about SharePoint's capabilities/can leverage more than before all the sudden the new hire isn't such a good idea. So again stressing it's a - does this meet my needs over time?

Anyways I could ramble about this stuff forever, and you already explained many of the important points :)

Thanks for sharing and I can't wait to see what other people might share about their own thoughts around resourcing for an effective SharePoint environment. The more people who share the better pictures we can paint, and the more evidence we can use to ensure SharePoint teams internally have the resources they need to be successful.

Richard Harbridge

Posted 18-Mar-2010 by Richard Harbridge
Richard Harbridge

Building The Right SharePoint Team For Your Organization

Hah, I mixed up two drafts of the comment. Its messy, but the points I guess still are there - Ignore the word GAPS as I didn't mean it in that sense.

Posted 18-Mar-2010 by Richard Harbridge
Tony Stanley

Building The Right SharePoint Team For Your Organization

I've found that Information Architects should be work alongside a BA when working with SharePoint. Or due to most organisations reducing the number of staff then hopefully the BA is the IA. Without understanding the business processes and the business data - SharePoint can become a very expensive white elephant or at best, a glorified file server. Ultimately SharePoint is just a platform to display data and in order to display data you need to understand it both in a technical and business sense.

Posted 19-Mar-2010 by Tony Stanley
Ruven Gotz

Building The Right SharePoint Team For Your Organization

Richard beat me to the punch here: I also think that there is a role that's missing from the main article: The people who understand how to apply SharePoint to business problems.

It's a unique position, because this person needs to be a great listener, hearing what the underlying business issues are while understanding organizational strategies and politics at multiple levels.

This person also needs to know what SharePoint is capable of, both out-of-the-box and with custom dev, and be able to translate between the business and the technical teams.

Another area that these people need to understand and apply is the organization of information within a business. They guide owners of content towards building structures (taxonomies) that help them find/access/use/share their information & knowledge in an efficient way.

There isn't a great name for these people, but BA/IA comes closest.

If you're looking for superstars here: Erica Toelle, Richard Harbridge, Dux Sy, Susan Hanley, are the people that I know directly.

-Ruven

Posted 19-Mar-2010 by Ruven Gotz
Richard Harbridge

Building The Right SharePoint Team For Your Organization

Ruven also forgot to include himself in that.

Posted 20-Mar-2010 by Richard Harbridge
Jason MacKenzie

Building The Right SharePoint Team For Your Organization

Great article although I have yet to see an organization, other than a bank, that would have 9 people (excluding no code solution developers) focused on 10,000 users. But I agree with Richard in that how SharePoint is being used is obviously a major driver of appropriate staffing levels.

I would also suggest that there is likely an inverse relationship between the rockstarishness of your architect and no-code solution developers and how many custom code developers you need.

I do struggle with the idea of a BA focused only on SharePoint - as Richard can attest to first-hand as a former colleague. I'm still not sure how to balance the need for deep SharePoint expertise with the need for Business Analysts focused on your specific functional areas. In other words a tech-savvy mechanical engineer to deal with the Engineering group for example In my view those Business Analysts should own the customer relationships and use a SharePoint BA as an expert resource when delivering solutions to their customers. The risk is the SharePoint BA thinks in terms of SharePoint (obviously) where the traditional BA thinks typically in a more technologically agnostic way. However, sometimes the SharePoint BA can deliver some very quick and visible wins but in what context should they be dealing with customers directly? I'm not sure.

Hence my confusion :)

Posted 22-Mar-2010 by Jason MacKenzie
Mark Justice

Building The Right SharePoint Team For Your Organization

Now this is a topic that involves everyone, enterprise-wide. Great ideas here: who builds it, who runs it? what talents are needed? I suppose the best responses out there are "it depends..." and what is the right balance for YOUR GROUP? I've found with my teams over the last four years that the primary driver is how does the tool solve the BUSINESS problem? First you have to put that business problem into focus, something like starting with the objective and deciding on the best strategy ant tactics. Also very influential is the reason for doing it all (I think it was Mark Miller or Bob Mixon who told me this one): make sure your solution is more than a TECHNICAL success; it must also be a solid BUSINESS success"--that has been the blend in the art and science of SharePoint that has worn a path out of the darkness. THX--Mark Justice

Posted 07-May-2010 by Mark Justice
Kat Weixel

Building The Right SharePoint Team For Your Organization

I'm chiming into this one way too late, but hopefully some of you will see this and reply. :)

I am at an association. We have about 250 employees. We are trying to use SharePoint for our intranet, including private team collaboration, and we use a separate install of it for a type of extranet for our boards and committees. I am the Intranet Manager and, by default, am also managing the extranet sites.

Mine is actually the only position dedicated to SharePoint. We have our IT guys who manage the servers, but SharePoint is only a small part of their overall daily focus. We have a knowledge manager who spends most of her time managing our web site search engine, but she also is responsible for managing our SharePoint search. Our helpdesk guys are getting up-to-speed to help out w/ more of the SharePoint-related errors and basic troubleshooting, so I am no longer responding to as many of those type of calls. But in the end, my name around here is synonymous w/ SharePoint. :P

My role is really to manage the day-to-day operations of the intranet and our overall strategy. I support our team site administrators and manage our training materials and one-on-one trainings. There are a lot of pieces to my job, and they certainly keep me busy full-time, so I agree with Richard and others that this role, whatever you want to call it, is essential to evangelize, educate, translate, problem-solve, and grow your intranet.

There is one issue that continuously comes up for us, and I'd love to get your help and perspective here. Our governance plan is lacking in the permissions management department. We have outlined the basics: where files should be saved, how the intranet should be used, what roles and responsibilities people have, how we manage our sites, etc. We have templates the we use and plenty of guidelines and recommendations for staff. In that sense, we have a general governance plan in place. BUT...

We have lots of individuals who have "full control" on sites. We also moved, with advice from a consultant, from a multi-site collection structure (one per unit/group/project/team) to one w/ only 4 main site collections (grouped all teams under one umbrella site collection, all projects, all service-oriented groups/sites under another, and of course, our portal site collection). This has made our design easier to implement and keep consistent, our search scopes, etc. But it has also made managing permissions and SharePoint Groups a big headache. Nearly every subsite breaks inheritance, and it is nearly impossible to keep track of who/how many people have been granted "full control" of the various subsites. I'm the only real site collection administrator nowadays.

We have a lot of site administrators/owners (i.e. have full control on a specific site and its subsites) as well as many folks w/ design permissions. Over the years, many people who were trained site administrators wound up granting others full control, and they didn't get training, and well... you can imagine. We also have lots of people who got training as site administrators who then failed to practice and keep their skills sharp. They need help w/ everything, or they try on their own and mess up a lot of stuff. Sounds a lot like what Mark was saying about the overall end user problem. :) Ours don't have SPD, but they still have managed to mess up a few things. More than anything, they aren't really providing guidance or direction to their teams or meeting their needs by building out solutions for them. The management of their sites has either gone crazy/messy or fallen flat and died.

So, I say all of this because I am looking to finally form a true group of power users here to train and keep engaged and give them the tools they need to stay sharp and active as designers and admins in SharePoint. What to do w/ all the others, though? And how do I go about cleaning up the permissions nightmare created over the years/upgrades? I don't want to remove permissions so much that I get a bottleneck of support requests for new subsites and lists or customizations. But I don't want to continue to grant scary powerful permissions to folks who won't be trained or stay trained in SharePoint. I would love to limit the power to those who have really committed to staying trained, staying active, and spending a good chunk of their time managing SharePoint sites.

Help?! Advice VERY welcome! :)

Posted 19-Jul-2010 by Kat Weixel

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