Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hard Truth #1: SharePoint Professionals are in High Demand!

As pretty much all of you already know, SharePoint professionals are not exactly a dime a dozen. There are tons of SharePoint jobs out there (particularly admins and even more so for developers), and not even close to the right amount of eligible candidates to fill those roles. This shortage becomes even more magnified in the market of SharePoint positions that require government security clearances.

Microsoft has done one hell of a job selling SharePoint to customers far and wide, in both private and public sectors, large and small businesses (small businesses are really beginning to latch onto Office 365 offerings). Microsoft has sold a wonderful product, creating more jobs than there are people to fill them, because most companies "ooooo!!!" and "aaaahhhh!!!" at SharePoint and buy it before they have anyone present in-house to support their large investment in the technology.

So... what does this mean for you as a recruiter for these positions?

While pay is not everything, it certainly helps. As with any job offer, the bottom line matters. The salary, benefits, cost of those benefits, other fringe perks, etc.

So your company may not have the greatest pay scale or benefits... what do you do? 

First, remember SharePoint is an acquirable skill. Anyone with any basic knowledge of logic and computer programming, queries, etc. can learn the ins and outs of SharePoint. Yes, you may have to send a member of your existing work force to training (expect at least a week of a typical SharePoint bootcamp, probably in the neighborhood of $3k per week), but many people will be willing to learn SharePoint if they are aware of the demand for the skillset and the job security it will ensure for the candidate. Use this scenario to train individuals at a less-than-premium salary if you have a little bit of time to ramp them up. An existing .net developer can learn the SharePoint framework and object model. An admin experienced in setup and configuration of an open-source content management system can be trained to be a SharePoint administrator. A person who understands queries and basic html, the concept of inheritance, and a little bit of OOP (though optional) can be trained to be a power user or site collection administrator.

In the case where you need an expert to come in, hit the ground running, and be a rockstar, I can only tell you to be ready to pay the piper. This includes power users / site collection administrators, farm administrators, and developers.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Definitions #5: SharePoint Solutions Architect

Whether you use the term "SharePoint Solutions Architect" or "SharePoint Architect", you'll start to run into some very blurry lines, but there are some common themes as I compare job descriptions of different companies for their Solutions Architect postings. This is a job title that I do not advise advertising to your candidates unless you have a VERY accurate and detailed description of duties to go along with it in your recruiting e-mails and phone calls.  Before I became a farm admin, I interviewed at the Indianapolis office of a major global consulting firm. As part of their interview process, I spoke with that organization's Solutions Architect. Very interestingly, he described himself as the man who "knows everything but does nothing." +John Ferringer  :-)

In general, the architect is responsible for the overall architecture of platforms, ensuring successful integration of systems, ensuring overall security, and ensuring adherence to enterprise standards and compliance requirements. The architect will work with both systems administrators and developers to ensure the integrity of all applications within the platform, ensure that applications and platforms are properly analyzed, maintained, and documented.

In many cases, the architect should have some project lead experience, having good soft skills, as they will be frequently interfacing and reporting to leads representing the client or customer. This person also needs to be able to positively interface with both internal and external partners, vendors, etc., and potentially even C-level leadership.

The architect should have a broad knowledge of systems architecture, operating systems, systems administration, particularly within the scope of SharePoint. While developer skills are not a must-have deal-breaker requirement of this position, the architect should at least know where the lines are drawn between out-of-the-box and custom developed and deployed, and should be able to make general recommendations with regards to choosing best approach for solutions to meet business needs. That said... an architect will be much more valuable to an organization if he or she has a solid experience as a developer.

Key Recruiting Take-Away: In short, the Solutions Architect is a problem-solver. This person should have proven ability to find solutions to complex business needs and processes, and be able to effectively coordinate teams to build and integrate solutions.

Resume Search Terms: SharePoint Architect, Solutions Architect, SharePoint Solutions Architect, Systems Architect.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Definitions #4: SharePoint Information Architect

The SharePoint Information Architect is a role that has really grown some wings since the release of SharePoint 2010. Yes, MOSS and SharePoint 2007 possessed some fledgling features that remotely resembled centrally managed information architecture, but SharePoint 2010 made these concepts an integral part of the way people and information are organized and processed in the enterprise SharePoint environment.

So... what does the Information Architect do?

The Information Architect is responsible for centralized management and syndication of enterprise metadata, content types, and associated information management policies (records management also falls into this domain). The SharePoint Information Architect leverages the new Managed Metadata service in SharePoint to create metadata taxonomies (known as Term Stores), or hierarchies of information structure. SharePoint 2010 also provides for a folksonomy, which is user-specified metadata that the Information Architect can choose to either add to the enterprise taxonomy, leave the metadata in the ad-hoc term store, or delete the unwanted user-defined terms. The Information Architect should always be involved in any discussions regarding enterprise SharePoint governance.

The initial setup and launch of the term stores can be a daunting, time-consuming task, depending on the scope of the metadata defined. The central cataloguing of content types and information management policies is also no small task as well. This is where someone with a working knowledge of records management, retention, disposition, and their associated legal requirements can be very useful to the enterprise.  This person can be delegated responsibility of the Managed Metadata Service Application on the farm. This is but one of several examples of the mid-tier administrator roles that came to being in SharePoint 2010.

This person is normally designated as a Site Collection Administrator on the site designated as the central Managed Metadata Syndication Hub and Content Type Syndication Hub.

Recruiting Take-Away: This person should be an experienced records manager, taxonomist, or site collection administrator. Some experience with any of these three will be helpful. Most likely, this role will be a portion of tasking of someone who is a full-time professional in one of the other two roles.

Resume Search Criteria: SharePoint Information Architect, Taxonomy, Managed Metadata, Content Types, Information Management Policies, Records Management (optional, but helpful)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Personal Touch...

Every person on the planet is unique, though we have commonalities with other people in our career fields.  SharePoint professionals are no exception. The biggest single key to success in recruiting (and not being seen by your candidates as just another recruiter later) is to build personal relationships with your potential candidates, get to know their interests outside of work, etc. Shadeed Eleazer has a great article on the subject here.

From personal experience, recruiters who follow up with me a few months or even a year down the road just to say hi and see what I'm up to always earn some extra bonus points. It let's me know that I am more than just another marketable commodity.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Definitions #3: Site Collection Administrator

The role of the SharePoint Site Collection Administrator (and equivalents listed below in the resume search terms section of this article) is to control all aspects of a Site Collection and all subsites, lists, and libraries contained therein. This person can control branding of a site collection, as well as layouts, master pages, style sheets, content types, site structure, content management, publishing of InfoPath forms (we'll cover InfoPath forms authors in another article), approval of submitted content, management of site columns, permissions, site collection search scopes, and creation of document libraries, lists, and associated workflows, both custom and out-of-the-box.

This role is one of the hardest to pinpoint and recruit. While no programming or previous administration skills are required, this skillset requires an immense amount of training, due to the massive number of features present in SharePoint. The Site Collection Administrator, of all the roles in SharePoint, is the one person who becomes intimately familiar with the out-of-the-box capabilities of SharePoint. This person is the power-user, and will usually also play the role of the business analyst within the scope of SharePoint.

Due to this familiarity with the application, the Site Collection Administrator also tends to become the first line of technical support and business analysis to the end users in the enterprise.  Sometimes this person is part of a small group that supports an entire enterprise, or this person is a point person for a particular business unit, with each business unit having one or two individuals responsible for administration of a SharePoint site collection. This person will build some of the closest connections / relationships possible in an entire enterprise and should also be very skilled at developing positive business relationships. A person who is good with both the technical and relational aspects is always worth their weight in gold.

The Site Collection Administrator is also responsible for learning how to use SharePoint Designer. SPD is used to edit style sheets, javascript, master pages, page layouts, (some) custom webparts, and custom rule-based workflows for automating business processes.

While not often recruited specifically, finding a person with a complete, robust skillset in Site Collection Administration can be very difficult to find. 

WARNING: the Site Collection Adminsitrator has the power to perform some devastating actions (most often times very inadvertently) that can take hours, days, and in rare cases, even WEEKS to overcome and restore. SENDING THIS PERSON TO TRAINING IS WORTH THE PRICE if they don't have previous experience.  A Site Collection Administrator can delete a list, library, subsite, and even their entire site collection. They can also put a custom workflow into an infinite loop. And, as I stated before, these actions usually happen completely by accident. Restoring deleted sites and site collections requires the intervention of the SharePoint Farm Administrator.

A note about Office 365 (O365, SharePoint Online, offered by Microsoft): Someone with Site Collection Admin experience is all you need to get started with using the SharePoint Online offerings through Microsoft. The highest level you will be allowed to administer is at the site collection level and provisioning site collections.

If a person is looking to become a full-time SharePoint professional, this is the place they should start, unless they are already .net programmer, in which case the person should look into becoming a SharePoint Developer.

Certainly, a SharePoint Administrator or SharePoint Developer could be very well-versed on Site Collection Administrator skills, but many times the SharePoint Admins are Windows Systems Engineers and SharePoint Developers are .net cross-trainees, and neither of these ever really get experience solving business problems with out-of-the-box SharePoint solutions like the true Site Collection Administrator does. Please keep this in mind when evaluating the value (read "salary") of an experienced Site Collection Administrator.

Key Recruiter Take-Aways: An experienced SharePoint Site Collection Administrator is worth their weight in gold to the customer you place them with... be prepared to pay the piper. The experience that an experienced SCA has takes YEARS to accumulate and is constantly evolving. While a degree in Computer Science isn't necessary, a solid understanding of prepositional (boolean) logic is necessary to properly leverage things like custom views and filtering, and make modifications to pages that leverage javascript and other function calls. And finally, as mentioned in a previous post, an experienced Site Collection Administrator can and should strive to learn the back-end of SharePoint Administration. It is the next step in the natural career progression in the SharePoint ranks. If you are confident that a person can make the transition and they REALLY want to make the transition, you may be able to hire a trainable SharePoint Administrator at a discount if they have the necessary Site Collection Administrator experience.

Resume Search Terms: SharePoint Site Collection Administrator, SharePoint Analyst, SharePoint Business Analyst, SharePoint Specialist, SharePoint Designer (the tool, not the job title... we will cover the job title of SharePoint Designer later), SharePoint Knowledge Manager, SharePoint Content Administrator, SharePoint Content Manager, SharePoint Permissions, SharePoint Administrator (optional), SharePoint Application Administrator (optional).

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Problem with ITIL

ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library), as defined on WikiPedia, is a set of practices for IT service management (ITSM) that focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of business. ITIL also aims to create accountability within IT organizations. Sounds all fine and dandy, right?

Well, my experience with ITIL so far has put some problems in place that are nearly impossible to overcome, especially in a SharePoint environment... and I do mean PROBLEMS.

1. ITIL creates needlessly BLOATED IT organizations. There is a job description for nearly every role in the ITIL structure, and many companies and government enterprises feel the need to put a warm body in every seat defined by ITIL, just in the name of being ITIL-compliant, whether that warm body is genuinely needed by an organization or not.

2. ITIL draws lines between organizations that should be working side-by-side with each other and sharing certain responsibilities. Often times developers and systems administrators have both skillsets and responsibilities that overlap.  The strict demarcation that an ITIL-compliant enterprise places between developers and sysadmins can reduce teamwork and collaboration between the two, and worse yet, an atrophying of the skillset that the other possesses. Another unforeseen side effect is that SharePoint Administrators get divided into different levels, leading to expertise in one layer or another of the SharePoint administration hierarchy, but with this focus comes lack of use and loss of familiarity with the the layers above what that administrator has access to (ie. someone whose level of access only goes as high as the Web App or Site Collection).

And worst of all (and a problem my current organization is facing),

3. An team that controls one component of a SharePoint implementation can completely de-rail progress made by the other teams. For instance, the team that is responsible for physical or virtual servers chooses to not upgrade a server whose upgrade is needed to go to the next version of SharePoint... whether that be Windows Server versions or SQL Server versions. All it takes is ONE of the teams not cooperating and poo-pooing the progress of the others by saying "no, we're not going to do that" to bring mission-critical initiatives to a grinding halt. And no one holds the offending group accountable, which defeats the accountability portion of the primary goals of ITIL.

4. Virtualization snapshots are NOT a Disaster Recovery (DR) solution for SharePoint and Microsoft Premier Support does not support SharePoint farms that have been rolled back on VM's! Try telling this fact to the shop that controls all of the enterprise servers... 'Nuff said.

Many companies and government IT organizations are requiring ITIL certification for their administrators,developers, managers, and support personnel, and I think it is somewhat wise to be knowledgable about the intent of ITIL, but most take the concepts too far.

So, to those apologists and die-hards that think ITIL is absolutely the greatest thing, please please PLEASE make sure that you're implementing it in a way that avoids the pitfalls I've listed above.

Definitions #2: SharePoint Administrator

The SharePoint Administrator position, the role I currently fill, is quite possibly the most vague of them all, and this fact alone becomes even more true (or distorted, however you want to look at it) with the newer versions of SharePoint (2010, 2013) and cloud-hosted, multi-tenant SharePoint instances. However, the most common definition of this position is responsibility for any infrastructure components that make up a SharePoint farm (however, this usually excludes responsibility for the overall network/LAN/domain it is attached to). This includes standing up a new SharePoint farm, supporting existing farms, and migrating data from an old farm to a new one.

Farms can be hosted entirely on a single server (they all start out as a single server, or with the only component separated being the SQL back-end), or they can be expanded to include the following: 1-to-many SharePoint Web Front End (WFE) servers, typically an application server (which can include a search function), an indexing server for search, and the SQL Server back-end.

The SharePoint admin is also responsible for databases that store configuration, content, and access lists/user profiles, though the databases typically reside on a larger, shared database server that is under the control and responsibility of a SQL Server database administrator, who usually administers backups of the SharePoint-dependent databases.

The SharePoint admin sees to it that the servers and databases are backed up on a frequent basis, and will be responsible for disaster recovery (DR) should the SharePoint farm crash.

The admin is also responsible for configuring URL's through SharePoint Web Apps and through alternate access mappings, if necessary. Each Web App can be configured for consuming different services, such as search, Excel services, etc. and ensures that those who need access to these services have them.

The admin is responsible for configuring and monitoring search crawls, a key component of SharePoint that users rely upon heavily.

Another admin responsibility is creating new site collections. The newly-created site collections are usually handed over to site collection administrators, who are who are often mis-recruited for SharePoint administrator positions. However, it should be noted that in some cases, the SharePoint admin will also serve as a SharePoint Site Collection Administrator as I do in my current position. But please, please do not confuse these two roles, as they are often separate within the enterprise. If a position you are recruiting for is not a farm admin and is at the Site Collection level only (no server responsibility), please make sure your position is appropriately titled as a Site Collection Administrator and not as a SharePoint Administrator or Developer.  Many candidates will use this in their search criteria when seeking new positions. I will more clearly define the Site Collection Administrator role in a different article.

Another dimension to add is the fact that cloud tenant hosting providers are now coming to the forefront. This adds another middleware layer to the picture. The SharePoint Administrator could be the infrastructure person at the cloud hosting provider, or they could be the tenant company's person who runs the Web Apps. The person will oversee user licenses, Site Collections, storage quotas and usage, as well as resource quotas and usage. This person could be generically (and appropriately) titled as a SharePoint Administrator, though a hiring manager needs to be VERY SPECIFIC about the nature of the environment and which layer(s) the hired candidate will be responsible for when brought on-board.

What the candidate needs to have:

1. Ideally, the candidate should have a solid background (read "degree") in computer sciences, and be Microsoft Certified (MCTS or higher) in the technology he or she is being hired for if they do not have much on-the-job experience prior to the position you are hiring them for. Certifications aren't 100% necessary, but they do demonstrate at least a good portion of the working knowledge necessary for the position.

2. The candidate should be knowledgable on Windows Server operating systems and experience examining server logs for troubleshooting purposes.

3. The candidate needs some working knowledge of SQL server and associated roles. This is necessary for properly securing the SharePoint farm.

4. The candidate should have a solid, working understanding of SharePoint architecture, service architecture, and network concepts.

And, pay close attention to this one...

5. The candidate should have some knowledge of how SharePoint is utilized by the end users. Here is where a unique opportunity may present itself to you in the form of an experienced Site Collection Administrator. An experienced Site Collection Administrator can be up-trained to become a SharePoint farm admin, and you, as the recruiter can use the person's lack of farm admin experience as a bargaining chip to discount their salary in exchange for giving the person valuable experience as a farm admin. That said, the salary will still need to be greater than what they were making as a Site Collection Admin, and the person will need to be sent to a week of training for SharePoint Administration and possibly Windows Server Administration.

6. Experience in programming isn't necessary and is only minimally helpful for a pure SharePoint Admin position... that is why you have developers, though, a developer can be of assistance in administration tasks at times.

7. While not necessary at first, a solid understanding of command-line tools STSADM (for SharePoint 2007) and PowerShell 2.0 (for SharePoint 2010 and beyond) should be learned and maintained.

Your Recruiting Take-Away: Even though SharePoint Administators and SharePoint Developers may have overlapping skills, please make sure that a) the two roles are NOT CONFUSED with each other, b) the job descriptions are accurate about what the position actually entails, and c) that the resumes are actually read prior to matching the resumes to the positions.

Recommended Resume Search Criteria: "SharePoint Administrator" + farm + WFE + "SQL Server" (optional) + "MCTS: SharePoint" (optional) + stsadm + PowerShell

Monday, January 21, 2013

Definitions #1: SharePoint Developer

Today, I would like to define for you what a SharePoint Developer does. Simply stated, a SharePoint developer performs actions that involve writing code to meet custom needs of the enterprise. These actions extend the capabilities of SharePoint above and beyond what can be done out-of-the-box, with InfoPath, or with SharePoint Designer. Within the realm of browser-based applications, there are two ways to present interactivity between the user and the web in which he or she is interacting: Client-Side and Server-Side.

Some developers specialize in one or the other, but can do both. This is dependent upon several variables, such as business requirements, developer skillset, and access levels.

Client-Side development is handled at the browser level, meaning that most of this kind of work is done with HTML or javascript, and can involve technologies like JQuery, JCarousel, etc. For the most part, this can be done with only Site Owner or Site Collection Administrator permissions, or in some limited cases, contributor. Some of the tools required for this include SharePoint Designer, though some of the work can be done in a simple Content Editor Web Part and a library to store any resource files, such as JQuery. A client-side developer may also opt to take advantage of tools present in Microsoft InfoPath.

Server-Side development is handled, as the name suggests, at the server level. For these scenarios, the developer will need a solid foundation of .Net experience, as well as a solid understanding of SharePoint architecture, queries, workflows, and the SharePoint Object Model. Tools that the Server-Side developer requires include a development SharePoint environment (read farm, even if only a single server instance) for which he or she has administrative access to, as well as Microsoft Visual Studio, to develop, package, and deploy what are known as features. These individuals can have some experience (or at least some know-how) as a SharePoint administrator, but it isn't necessarily required.

Other duties that are typically required by developers include knowledge of version management, configuration management, and most importantly, the ability to compile quality documentation of their work.

The Important Recruiting Take-away: Many developers are knowledgable on both, but you, as the recruiter, need to know what you're hiring for and what that person will have access to at their job place. You do NOT want to place a candidate that only has client side experience for a job requiring Server-Side skills, or, on the other side of the coin, a person who has and wants to utilize server-side skills but will only have access to implement client-side methods when they arrive at their new job site. 

1. Make sure that the hiring manager has given you, the recruiter, an accurate job description for any development positions.

2. Take a close look at the resumes of your candidates. Do they possess use of Visual Studio in the context of a SharePoint environment? In my case, I did a brief stint as a .net developer long before I gained any experience with SharePoint. If a recruiter examines my resume, they will see that I have no .net experience during the jobs that I have used SharePoint. I also have in bold letters towards the top of my resume that I am only interested in SharePoint Administrator positions only... but somehow I still get reqs for SharePoint developer positions... to which I immediately delete, knowing that my current resume wasn't even opened by the recruiter.

3. An extra five minutes of looking at your resumes will yield you 5-10 times better candidate proposals to your hiring managers. The hiring managers employ you to present qualified candidates and to separate out the wheat from the chaffe so they don't have to. Read the resumes!


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Welcome to SharePoint Recruiter Central!

First order of business... Welcome to a blog dedicated to the competitive, lucrative, and highly misunderstood art of recruiting SharePoint professionals.

As a frequently-recruited MCTS in SharePoint technologies, I am perplexed at some of the recruiting I receive... Jobs I am qualified for (best case), jobs I am qualified for but don't pay market value, jobs I am not qualified for but the recruiter still tries like hell to submit me for an interview with the hiring managers, and most interestingly, jobs that I wasn't qualified for but accepted because I wanted to upgrade my skillset (this one is key if you find the right candidate to take a chance on at a discounted rate).

I have created this site to help all of the IT, and more specifically, SharePoint recruiters out there get the best bang for their buck and get the most out of their time spent recruiting professionals that are well-matched for the positions they are being recruited to fill.

In the beginning, I will differentiate between admins, power-users, developers, authors, designers, solutions architects, as well as other misunderstood analyst types. I will show you what to look for on their résumés, and, most importantly, WHICH QUESTIONS to ask your hiring managers in regards to the roles and responsibilities of the position being filled to ensure that you a) have an accurate position description so you can b) find the right candidate for the position.

I will also cover some nasty truths that none of you want to hear but need to hear. I will also try to give you the best guidance on how to turn these truths into advantages, give you hope (and maybe an edge over the competition!).
My goal is to stay on top of the technology trends, give you, the recruiter, overviews of emerging SharePoint-related trends and how to tailor your recruiting efforts toward them. Part of recruiting is using proper search criteria to identify the resumes that match the jobs.

I hope to publish useful material to help you earn more recruiting commissions with less hassle and less time spent! This includes providing you with websites specifically targeted to SharePoint professionals for optimum job board recruiting, at a fraction of the cost of LinkedIn, which many of you undoubtedly use in your efforts.

Your participation is very much welcome here. Share both your successes and your difficulties, as all who come to this site can benefit. Thanks for stopping by, and happy recruiting!