Anybody remember the A-Team? J/k, I’m not really here to talk about that A-Team. I’m here to talk about how and why you should create your own Corporate SharePoint A-Team. Spurred by Kristian Kalsing‘s post in regards to a need for SharePoint Functional Consultants, I’d like to comment on how you probably already have “Functional Consultants” within your organization but you just don’t know it yet.

Often times and I know we’ve all seen or heard about this very typical scenario:

A company Executive declares that SharePoint should be implemented to help with collaboration, document management, searching, and oh make sure we can use it for our intranet and extranet too. So the IT group sets up some servers, gets MOSS installed and configures some Site Collections and declares victory. They wipe their hands clean of their task and now it’s up to the business to make SharePoint “happen.” Especially true when SharePoint is supposed to promote self service and ease of use right? Muhahaha….

Unfortunately as we all know, if you put a business user or even an IT Pro down in front of anything new not much is going to happen. Especially if there isn’t a very experienced SharePoint Professional/Consultant that can lead the way. Sure you can send some people to trainings and have them come back as your organization’s uber-SharePoint geek but that is really not a replacement for more seasoned “Functional Consultants”. But what if you can’t afford to hire these SharePoint specialists?

Enter the age of SharePoint Business Analysts.

I think SharePoint-centric Business Analysts/Business Systems Analysts will become the most valuable pieces of the puzzle as SharePoint matures in your organization. They will be able to conjure up crafty out of box or custom solutions with minimal effort as they quickly identify and relate the tools that are available in solving business problems. And better yet, you can probably do this with your existing staff. So if I was tasked with creating a SharePoint task force with long term success in mind, it would look something like this…

SharePoint Architect/Senior SharePoint Technical Lead – This person should have as much of these skills as possible. This person will play the role of the overarching SharePoint evangelist for your organization. They will also help guide, mentor, coach, and recommend suitable solutions to business problems that the Analysts come up with.

SharePoint Developer – Good starting points for required skillsets are here and here. This person will work in tandem with the SharePoint Tech Lead in coordinating plans of attack. Especially since nowadays with Powershell in the game a lot of things can be handled by either/or. They will accomodate requests that can’t be done out of the box like custom web parts, LOB integrations, etc.

The Analysts – Much like “Functional Consultants” these people will be the glue between the business units and the SharePoint team over in IT. Together with the SharePoint Lead and Developer, this group could be considered your internal SharePoint Committee or User Group. Note that I’m not saying these Analysts should be dedicated fulltime to this role either. The amount of capacity that these resources should be contributing is totally dependent on the company and its goals in getting the most out of their SharePoint deployment. But, in my opinion, these people should exhibit the following traits at minimum:

  • Passion for process improvement.
  • Yearns for learning.
  • Enjoys showing others how to do new things.
  • Web and tech savvy.
  • Patience.

In my opinion these people can also originate from either the business or technology side. For example, you have a new Accounting Intern that’s trying to carve out a new career. Although this person has never heard of SharePoint before, being a Millennial this person is probably already more web and tech savvy than your whole accounting staff put together. And since you don’t have any ‘real’ work for them to do yet, you stick them on the SharePoint Committee. Now I see two benefits to this. One is that the Accounting Intern now has the ability to explore the interworkings of the Accounting Department, observing processes and what not. The second benefit is that by being on the SharePoint Committee, the Accounting Intern will now be able to take what she learns about SharePoint and directly apply it to cumbersome business processes that have probably been in place since before she was born! The Accounting Intern could for example use InfoPath to create electronic approval forms and have them kick off some workflows or help determine what thresholds should be used for the Accounting Director’s dashboard. Eventually this person will become an Accounting SharePoint user expert in no time with guidance from the SharePoint team.

The other example is of someone coming from the technology side. Say you have a veteran Systems Engineer, very experienced in SharePoint administration, but hasn’t really been happy lately. Not to mention he totally has a crush on the new HR Director. So he’s been expressing interest in being more involved with helping HR improve their business processes through the use of SharePoint. So he becomes the part time HR Analyst/representative. After some interviewing with the HR Director, right off the bat he realizes that he can help them set up some SharePoint Lists for managing incoming recruitment efforts! And then later on he shows them how to use Content Types to help manage their employee files within Document Libraries and yada yada… The list goes on. So after a while the Systems Engineer would probably know enough about Human Resourece to be an HR Generalist if he wanted to be.

So as you can see, you may already have SharePoint “Functional Consultants” from within your own organization by utilizing grassroots efforts and a little bit of time. If you can afford to champion the effort, just make it happen!! 🙂