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).

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