Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Missing Pieces in Most SharePoint Server Administrators’ Skill Sets

Last year a four-year-old boy made national news when he took his mother’s SUV for a joyride. For a boy his age, he had some impressive driving skills. He managed to maneuver onto a busy Southern California street during rush hour, making his way through several turns and intersections.

Eventually, though, his lack of training caught up with him and he crashed into a fence after crossing into oncoming traffic. Fortunately, the daring lad wasn’t badly hurt, but his mom’s vehicle didn’t fare nearly as well. He had enough skill to get the car running down the street and to make a few panicky turns, but he didn’t have the training to control his speed, keep the SUV headed in the right direction or even stay in his lane.

I often hear students tell me, “I just want to learn to configure and administer SharePoint. I’m the Server Administrator and I’m not going to be involved in the day-to-day business use of it.” Or an IT Manager may tell me, “Kelly is going to be our new SharePoint Server Administrator. She just needs to know how to administer and configure the server—she doesn’t need all that end-user stuff.”

When I hear statements like these, I get an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. It’s similar to how I would feel if were asked to ride with someone who knew how to start a car and make some very basic maneuvers, but hadn’t been trained on how to really drive it or how to adjust to the different circumstances we may encounter in our journey.

Although it isn’t life-threatening if a SharePoint Admin doesn’t know how people are using SharePoint within the organization or what SharePoint offers for solving business problems, I feel it does pose a significant threat to the business. It’s possible for someone to administer a mail server, a file server, or a web server, without knowing much about how business users are using those things or knowing what business users want to do with them; in fact, this is extremely common.

That’s not the case with SharePoint, however. In my experience, the best SharePoint Server Administrators have a combination of three skill sets:
  • Business knowledge and experience. SharePoint integrates with every area of a business: sharing information, creating information, collaboration, information discovery, business intelligence, business process automation, and social interaction. The more a SharePoint Admin knows about your business (both generally, the specific day-to-day operations, and short-term and long-term goals) the better prepared she will be to configure SharePoint to support the needs of your business.
  • SharePoint knowledge and experience from a business perspective. SharePoint is more than just software; it’s a platform that supports the entire business. The more a SharePoint Admin knows about what SharePoint offers for the business, and how employees can best make use of those features, the better prepared she will be to configure those SharePoint features so your employees can best take advantage of them.
  • How to configure and administer SharePoint. Obviously. It’s why we call them SharePoint Server Administrators. :-)
If your SharePoint Server Administrator is lacking in one of these three areas, she’s a lot like the young boy who managed to get the vehicle on a road but didn’t really know how to drive it. That’s scary. If your SharePoint Server Administrator doesn’t have knowledge and experience in the business side of your business, I recommend that you begin teaching her about the business: let her shadow employees in a variety of areas of the business; provide opportunities for her to hang out with managers throughout the business who will share about the business from their perspective; and make her aware of what the company goals are, why they are important, and how you plan to achieve them.

We can help with building the other two skill sets. The first day of our Introduction to SharePoint 2010 for Server Administrators class focuses on how end users can use SharePoint for sharing information. SharePoint is capable of much more than just sharing information; for this reason, many Server administrators also take our Introduction to SharePoint 2010 – Using SharePoint Server 2010 to get a good overall understanding of how business users can use SharePoint on a day-to-day basis. Once they have this information, they are better prepared to return to work and configure SharePoint so the users in their businesses can make the best use of everything that’s available in SharePoint.

We want to be your partner in preparing your SharePoint Server Administrators to help drive your business where it wants to go.