If you recognize the title as the line being uttered in frustration by one of the Bob’s in Office Space, you have connected with me on a higher (ok, perhaps lower) level. Still, if you’re an in-house end-user or administrator, I have to say, I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to the consultants out there and I am hoping I can get a reasonable answer. What do you do with SharePoint, or what can you do for me. Please, restrain yourself and don’t say “everything” even if it is the case.
SharePoint is such an amorphous entity, that it is hard enough to describe what it is, let alone what people do who provide SharePoint consulting services. If I am looking for a consultant to help me with the rest of my IT infrastructure (by the way, I am NOT), I know what to look for and I know what questions to ask. SharePoint makes that landscape and those questions a little fuzzy. Let me try to break this down in terms of the kind of services I might want, and maybe you can help me understand what I would look for.
Infrastructure – I guess this would begin with or include installation, but with SharePoint, that is not the kind of skillset that lends itself to a checkbox on the page. Take our simple little world for example; we have an internal farm and an Internet facing farm. We are using Active Directory authentication, but we could be using forms-based or a mix of the two. Our internal farm is deployed across a few virtual servers. We are running SQL Server in support of SharePoint only, but we are supporting both farms from one database server. Can you handle all of this? How would I know if you could?
Development – This has got to be the official SharePoint OMG topic. Not only are there umpteen varieties of development that can be done on (or against) SharePoint, the SharePoint community can’t seem to agree on who should be able to call themselves a developer. What do you develop? What do you develop in? How big a job is too big, and how small a job is too small for you to be interested? Will you actually be doing the development? I ask this last question because I had a vendor talk to me about development, only to find out that he was a broker of sorts. He would define the application but he was farming the development activity out to another company in another country.
Training – You could almost take the above paragraph and substitute “training” for “development” and you would understand my quandary with this topic. What kind of training do you provide? If you say “End user training”, do you mean end users like the ones visiting EndUserSharePoint.com, or the ones who are simply using SharePoint because that’s where their stuff has been moved? Do you train developers? If you do, see the above paragraph and let me know what kind of developers you train.
Actually, I’m not sure I need answers to any of these questions, I have a pretty good line on the consultants I might engage, but should it be this hard? Should there be some kind of standard language for SharePoint vendors so we can figure out who to call when we need to call someone? In case you lost count, there are over 10 question marks in this post; somehow, I think that is too many. #infrastructure
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