This post started out as a short reply to a discussion on LinkedIn about this post: Why there is a shortage of SharePoint Experts. Once I hit the fourth paragraph I decided it made a better blog post then a comment. 🙂
There is a shortage of SharePoint experts because the learning curve for the base technologies is large and the learning curve for the breadth of SharePoint functionality is even larger.
Consider SharePoint 2010 Server Enterprise edition. You can deploy the platform as a public facing site with heavy customization and branding, as a team collaboration portal, as a business intelligence and information delivery, as a stand-alone or connected enterprise content management system, as a search appliance, as a business process automation (workflow) platform, and as a basis for custom applications. There are even more uses, but hopefully you get the basic idea – you can use it for lots of unrelated things.
To call yourself an expert, you should understand most or all of these core uses and the related tools used by end users, developers, and administrators. The SharePoint learning curve is honestly measured in years – assuming that you have a few years’ experience building either Windows applications or building and administering complex server systems.
Fortunately, most organizations do not need a full-time SharePoint expert to be successful. Most deployments involve a small subset of the functionality. Most people who work in a corporate setting will use a subset of the tools and fulfill a role in a larger team. If you are looking to implement SharePoint, my advice is to spend the money on a good consultant(s) who is an actual SharePoint expert to create a good foundation and focus on hiring or training full time staff to participate in the build-out and maintain the completed system. Once you are up and running, say goodbye for now to the experts and use them on an ongoing basis only as needed.
The multi-year learning curve plus the sharp upward demand curve means that the supply of experts will be well short of demand for several more years. The supply of people who have serious SharePoint experience will obviously increase along with adoption, but there is no reason you should expect someone who worked in a large heavily controlled collaboration environment where the focus was to maximize stability and minimize risk through aggressive governance to know much about building high-quality public facing sites with significant branding and customization (or vice-versa). That’s not to say the person could not make the switch, but it is to say that person is not an expert.
For those organizations looking to find a "SharePoint expert" on the cheap – don’t hold your breath. If you are offering a rate that is comparable to that earned by a qualified Web developer in your area, ask yourself why someone who is already a qualified to do work that pays the Web developer rate as a Web developer is willing to provide the additional value of their additional 3+ years of learning in the SharePoint domain at no additional cost to work on SharePoint. Instead try to hire to the narrower skill set you actually need.
The pool of people who have solid experience in one of WCM, ECM, BPA, BI, information architecture, system administration, etc. who can be very productive in a SharePoint environment with the right training and mentoring is large. Build your team from this pool. Trying to build a team of SharePoint experts is much harder and more expensive. More importantly, it’s probably an unnecessary and poor strategy.
Author: Doug Ware