SharePoint’s Hot! How Do I Get a Slice?

I got an email today from someone I didn’t know through my blog. Here’s the gist of it, edited a bit to remove a few details:

I work in sales and marketing for a company that develops software for government agencies. A lot of our potential customers are moving to SharePoint 2010 in the future. My colleague and I have been looking at what it would take to move/redevelop our solutions in SharePoint but have had trouble finding definitive information.

I imagine you may be able to shed some more light on a number of areas for me (even if this is just pointing me at some web pages). these areas specifically are:

  • What is involved in moving applications from existing Microsoft stacks to SharePoint 2010 (time and costs)?
  • Is there a way to do this that you would recommend, given we are a small company with limited resources?
  • Do you have any demonstrable "success stories" that you’ve seen?
  • What are the major pros and cons of developing applications in SharePoint over .Net, SQL Server apps like ours?

And my reply…

Those are big questions! To me, it’s a bit too much of a "SharePoint’s hot! How do I get a slice?" question. The real question ought to be whether the applications which you develop even make sense on top of SharePoint.

On the surface, it would seem that at least some of your products (based on a *very* superficial look at your Web site) might make sense to build on top of SharePoint. The fact that you already sit on the Microsoft stack may or may not be a big help, but at least you’re familiar with the development tools. However, the fact that SharePoint sits on top of .NET doesn’t guarantee anything. Some of the people I’ve seen struggle the most with SharePoint are dyed-in-the-wool .NET developers.

The other consideration is that you’d need to be deploying your solutions in most cases on existing SharePoint installations, which can run the gamut on the spectrum of reliability, maturity, and maintainability. You’d need to get up to speed on *all* aspects of SharePoint mighty quickly to be able to support your own stuff, as SharePoint is a complicated beast.

As a consultant myself, your best bet is to probably partner with an experienced SharePoint shop to explore the possibilities. Be forewarned: just because someone claims to be a SharePoint expert doesn’t mean that they are! There are an awful lot of outfits like yours interested in jumping into SharePoint, and that doesn’t mean that they know shite from shinola about what they are doing.

This particular set of questions seemed pretty well thought out, and after a little more email traffic, I think that these guys have the right intentions, at least on the surface. However I expect that we’ll see a *lot* more of the "SharePoint’s hot! How do I get a slice?" stuff.

At the USPJ Academy, we’re tooled up to help train some of the many, many people we expect to go into the SharePoint biz in the next few years. Face it, skilled workers are going to be in high demand, and there just aren’t enough out there right now to meet the expected needs.  We all need to keep training ourselves and others.

I also expect that we’ll start to see companies slapping SharePoint bumper stickers on the company van just to try to get some of the business out there. This was going on during the SharePoint 2007 product arc, but I expect it’ll get even worse pretty soon as SharePoint 2010 continues to gain traction.

What does this mean for you?

Well, if you’re already in the SharePoint business, you know that it’s impossible to know everything about SharePoint. Keep learning, and don’t take work that you aren’t capable of. That’s bad for everyone in the SharePoint ecosystem.

If you’re thinking about getting into the SharePoint business, for God’s sake, do your homework. SharePoint is not just technology. If implemented correctly, with all of the business processes, incentive structures, cultural shifts, and alignment with strategic goals in place (a *mighty* rare alignment, I can tell you!) SharePoint can fundamentally change the way people work, for the better. If done wrong, it’s an expensive disaster.

So look for those learning opportunities, find those partnerships, and jump in the water. It’s nice in here, but don’t forget your water wings.

Have a thought or opinion?