The evolving nature of the SharePoint Professional 2


Premise

I sat back today after sending my final client email around midday thinking about all the stuff I did in 2014 in support of my profession and how much of what I did related to the previous year (CY2013) and what I envision the next year to be (CY2015) and I must say that where i was, where I am now, versus where I plan to be in just these three short years are so diametrically opposed it is quite shocking. I am writing this blog in part to see my thoughts on paper, as well as reflecting on tweets and blogs I have seen recently discussing 2014 in review and opinions on where do we go next as SharePoint professionals.   

Still living in an On-Premises World?

Did you see the pun?

So are you? How do you stack up? for me…

Professional Life

I am for the most part when it comes to projects that actually pay the bills. I work in the Federal Space and although I get a few projects that are Office 365/SharePoint Online focused, most of those projects are usually tied into a larger initiative of the customer moving other workloads into the Cloud, usually starting with Exchange and either CRM or Dynamics.  I spent most of my year as a billable resource working on Business Process Automation or Business Process Reengineering (BPA/BPR) with an emphasis on Workflows to wit  K2 Workflows, SharePoint Designer 2013 Workflows, and one Visual Studio Workflow.  I’ve done one, what can be considered an SharePoint Hybrid solution, but that’s about it, and I have done nine (9) projects across five (5) unique clients in calendar year 2014 as evidenced in my rolling CV that i keep posted. 

Community Life

However with that said, in my other life as a SharePoint Community evangelist and public speaker, I have made an effort to de-emphasized what I consider to be traditional On-Premises workloads such as Business Connectivity Services (BCS), Workflows where I usually spend most of my time to focusing on the SharePoint Hybrid space and in doing so it not only enhanced my knowledge of those areas where I had a keen interest but it also opened me up to more ITPro [I guess I should have qualified that I consider myself in the SharePoint Developer/Architect space as oppose to the End User, Business Analyst, Power User, IT Pro realm] interest and in doing so I became more proficient at PowerShell, manipulating Service Applications beyond the basic configurations, Certificates and Identity more than I wanted to 🙂 etc.  In fact, over the period of 2014, I have delivered over ten (10) sessions and/or webinars on SharePoint Hybrid between SharePoint Conference, TechEd, SharePoint Saturdays, Dev Connections, SharePoint Videos.com, Penton Media/Windows IT Pro. I often will jest that if Bill Baer cant make it, I am usually his backup.

My Free Time (What Free Time?)

There are times when I realize (and it sometimes scares me a little bit) that I have not built out a SharePoint 2013 Enterprise Farm in my Development Environment on my Laptop.  Traditionally I will keep a farm up to date for SharePoint 2010 and 2013 on my Laptop inside my Hyper-V system. What I have realized is, quite often for what I want to do, I don’t have the horse power anymore to do it effectively and I can easier do it in Azure. It may take the form of using the new portal to spin up a pre-configured Small Farm or HA Farm with a few clicks of a button within the wizard,or more often because I like the control and it gives me the ability to run my own scripts and keep practice, Ill set up my own boxes with just OS’s and then lay down my own bits for SQL and SharePoint. Alas, this is what it has come to.

Sold on Cloud First Mobile First?

I have made it no secret that I am doubling down on the whole #MobileFirstCloudFirst or #CloudFirstMobileFirst bit.  In my opinion, you cant avoid it, you can try to run from it, but all that means is that you will be left behind…eventually.  And it is not just because Microsoft says to do it, although it did take Microsoft to make me finally go all in; its largely because I believe that the momentum has finally shifted where (and I’m sure this next statement may make some people take issue)

“IT Departments have lost in the narrative of how previously they were the ones to dictate what devices you use to be consumptive or productive in your work life”

In today’s market we are seeing more adoption of BYOD, and in doing so, workers are more productive and that makes the bosses happy. So the bosses now are finding out that if you give your employees access to work product outside the office, they wittingly or unwittingly now have increased productivity and with that at times happier employees because they don’t feel like they are shackled to the desk. albeit they are now shackled to their mobile device ha ha.. but you didn’t hear that from me because i am not one to gossip

(In Living Color Reference)

I’ve heard it said before…”if you don’t listen to what your customers want…they become someone else’s customers”, and that is very true in today’s age, increasingly the market has become more and more impatient and demanding, and guess what, technology is the enabler. If you want to remain in this field you have two choices, do it better or faster or come up with a better mousetrap to slow down this trend, which one do you think will win out?

Here is how i see it playing out… Industry for a while had major players in this space going Cloud First, think of your IBM, Google, Amazon, and we can argue about approaches till the cows come home but what Microsoft had and used to turn the “Enterprise” market in this direction was its software and licensing.  When Microsoft decided to invest in Azure, move products to services [and in doing so also set up completion with their vendors and partners] it disrupted the industry enough to create other business models, other opportunities, other spaces for vendors and partners to compete in, and in doing so, customers were more inclined to try out this “cloud thing”. Now I am not saying that is all it took, but this way you can see that everybody wins, and yes… even the customer. Microsoft gets what it wants, Partners and Vendors can hold out and maintain their existing market share for a while, and in that time, explore other avenues of revenue.  And in all seriousness, what customers get is a lower barrier to entry for smaller businesses, and agility for larger enterprises, the services model allows you to cherry pick and not invest in all that human cost, hardware cost, and software cost. So… I’m in.

How to remain relevant and grow your skill set

This section could be written in many different ways, and I guess based on your own career path, this may look completely different.  I am writing this based on where I am now professionally, against where I want to be, and how I think I will get there. That said,it will have a developers bent to it, but I have tried to be conversational so far in the blog, and I encourage you to add your comments to keep the dialog going, this by no means is a sermon or edict.

If you are a Developer

This is the camp I attribute myself to, and I believe that there is great potential for Developers to grow beyond whatever subset of development you were in before.  I considered myself a Back End / Middleware Developer because I spent most of my time in BPA/BPR whether it is in SharePoint (as it is currently) or previously BizTalk and before that just plain old SQL Server.  As a result of spending so much time in that space, I stuck to only knowing managed code & working with API’s. JavaScript initially scared the crap out of me because I didn’t feel comfortable thinking in code that way, then when I tried to learn it, i moved from scared to just frustrated. However with the aid of Google, Bing, PluralSight, and my fellow community speakers, colleagues, associates, I have bridged the gap and can now think in JavaScript, I still suck at writing it from my head, but I can read it and understand it, and with enough help aids, i can crank out some good work in it.

What about Mobile? You keep talking about Mobile…

Well I am glad you ask, as I previously mentioned, #CloudFirstMobileFirst or vice/versa and my statement about consumers driving the conversation, and by consumers I mean B2C, B2B, and even employees. Consider it, if you want the brightest minds now coming out of college, you need to cater to how they learn, how they function and it is the way of the mobile experience. Adapt or Die. We can look at any research and see that mobile leads the way, and in that space, iOS and Android are the leaders, its to the point where Microsoft is shut out of some of the popular apps because of the investment in the market share that is there already. That said, Microsoft is making a very pronounced effort in changing that and under Satya Nadella who came from that side of the company, I believe for the first time that Microsoft will gain market share and with the power of Azure behind it, will eat away at what iOS and Android have.  Consider this, in the world of Mobile and Distributed Workforce, Identity is Key.  Active Directory with WAAD, ADAL, OAuth and all the other ways to authenticate into corporate infrastructure.. Microsoft is already there; Microsoft is brining an enterprise game to a space that was largely consumer driven, not only that, with all the investments in REST API, Azure Mobile Services and tools such as Xamarin and Cordova, this makes the barrier to entry for the developer very low. I have decided not to throw away my investments in SharePoint BUT to surround it with other “enabling” technologies such as Azure and Office 365. You will also find yourself learning SWIFT and XCode in the off hours 🙂 as you can see from my GitHub & here on my device, I spend a lot of my time learning and trying stuff out

IMG_0580

If you are a End User

Keep on truckin yes. It just gets better for you. All these investments means that those needs that you had previously where IT was the bottleneck is reduced. You are in the drivers seat now, you say to your boss “…hey, I could have gotten this work done if we had this… or If I had access from home, I could have knocked this out over the weekend…” comments like that will get to the CIO/CTO asking why we don’t have a strategy to allow employees to be more productive. provided its sold that way…

The tools to empower the end users are there now, it is the End Users game to loose now, it at times can be a distracting field, no doubt, but if you attend conferences, go to user groups, attend meet-ups, you can separate fact from fiction by actually talking to people who are doing this instead of just talking about it.

If you are a Business Analyst or Power User

Tremendous gains to be made here, in fact, you are taking opportunities from those Developers that are slipping.  When I said the barrier for entry is lower, this is what I meant, and I don’t mean its watered down, what I mean is that the tools are getting to a place where a lot of what professional developers had to build is now a widget, a web part, a plug-in, a snippet of “declarative code”.  But what I have seen, more often than not is… once a BA or a Power User gets the ‘bug’ of “pure creativity” – there is no going back.  The typical benefit that a BA may have over the traditional Dev is that they can communicate and extrapolate “true” business need quicker, historically they then take that to a Dev, now they can churn it out themselves. Now that doesn’t mean that the role of the Dev diminishes, far from it. Again, going back to the barriers to entry as well, & this is why I didn’t include it in the developer section, is because Devs also have a lower barrier to entry as well. Personally, I can now crank out for instance, Exchange Information, I can make my Apps more Mail Enabled, Interoperate between differing technologies all within one framework and at times one tooling mechanism. 

If you are an IT Pro

Now all of these goodness does not come with unicorns, rainbows, or magic pixie dust, so the role of the ITPro is still very present. In fact, you can go the other way as well in that NOT EVERYONE WILL GO CLOUD, they may as I espouse, elect to do Hybrid in lieu of full blown cloud for a variety of regulatory, investment, contractual reasons and in doing so, you still need ITPros to manage the On Premises environment and also the bridge to the cloud. I have also seen ITPros who master PowerShell in terms of its Object/Class Orientated nature and can stand up a bare metal box to a full fledge farm with certificates, sites, policies and the like simply from POSH scripts. I myself, have a few scripts that I have honed when I set up my SharePoint Hybrid topologies, I too wade into the ITPro waters from time to time.

In conclusion?

A telling tale will be to watch community events that focus or at least name their event with “SharePoint”; as Microsoft rebrands its own conferences and consolidate them e.g. Ignite, TechReady, Build, lets see what turnout will look like for the traditional SharePoint Saturdays.  If the numbers consistently decline, because the tracks remain true to the SharePoint only moniker, and not adapt to a more expansive model i.e. adopt Office 365 & Azure into the mix, is that an indicator of things to come? 

Open your mind up to all the possibilities as you enter CY 2015. My favorite mantra is “Quinon Proficit Defecit” and I do my best to live by it. I will continue to evangelize SharePoint as part of a larger story of Office 365, SharePoint Online and Azure and discuss how you can have a targeted experience using Mobile to hone in on specific issues/items/solutions and in that vein I will continue to promote the Hybrid story because when you look at offerings like Delve, Yammer, One Drive For Business you can see how it necessitates the bridging of both on premises and online. Let me know your thoughts please?

Brave new world out there, See you next at SPS Virginia Beach, Evo in London, and Ignite in Chicago

Cheers, and Have a Happy New Year in 2015 & while I am at it Congratulations to the New and Renewed Microsoft MVP’s that get honored every January 1st.


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