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Staffing is key to a successful SharePoint Server 2010 deployment

Ensuring that IT staffers are well-prepared for SharePoint Server 2010 deployments means enterprises can begin achieving a return on their investment the day the implementation goes live.

This article can also be found in the Premium Editorial Download: SharePoint Insider: Taking a closer look at SharePoint Server 2010 costs

Although SharePoint 2010 adoption continues at a feverish pace, many organizations are finding that the initial...

deployment process takes longer than expected. While delays hinder an organization’s ability to derive business value from SharePoint 2010 quickly, there are ways to ensure the platform is ready to go once integration, hardware and other technical issues have been solved.

The key is people. By making sure that the employees who will be working on SharePoint 2010 deployments are well-prepared, enterprises can start seeing returns on their investment as soon as they go live with the software.

Deploying other Microsoft server products typically requires sending a couple of staff members to a week-long training program. So while it might seem strange to consider specific SharePoint 2010 management staffing requirements, it’s important to keep in mind that the collaboration platform is completely different from other Microsoft server products. In fact, it is probably the most complex product that Microsoft offers and deploying anything beyond a standalone, single server requires expertise in a number of different areas.

The key to assessing SharePoint staffing needs rests with determining the kind of expertise required for deployment and its long-term administration, and then mapping those requirements to staff roles. Some of those roles can likely be filled by existing members of the IT staff, but organizations might have to make additional hires.

Every organization has different requirements, but the positions listed below illustrate some of the most commonly required job functions.

SharePoint architect
SharePoint 2010 is complex and deployments can grow to a massive scale. Because of that, it’s important someone has the responsibility for planning and managing the general SharePoint architecture. The person who fills the role typically acts as both an engineer and a manager. In addition to architectural planning, the SharePoint architect is usually responsible for establishing policies and procedures for the deployment.

SharePoint administrator
The SharePoint administrator is the person (or group of people) responsible for configuring and maintaining SharePoint. The SharePoint administrator handles patch management, server monitoring and other day-to-day management tasks.

SQL Server administrator
Another position that will likely need to be filled is that of a SQL Server administrator. SharePoint 2010 deployments are completely dependent on SQL Server. If the underlying databases drop offline, the entire SharePoint farm comes to a grinding halt. It is therefore critically important that the SQL Server administrator have a background in fault tolerance (usually clustering) and in disaster recovery for SQL Server.

Active Directory administrator
SharePoint 2010 does not require Active Directory schema updates, but it does depend heavily on having a healthy Active Directory environment. Because the Active Directory is such a critical infrastructure component (not only for SharePoint, but for nearly all Windows servers), many organizations employ full-time Active Directory administrators.

In the case of SharePoint 2010, the Active Directory administrator would probably be the person to manage the various service accounts used by SharePoint. Depending on how SharePoint 2010 is installed, numerous service accounts might be accessed and keeping track of them all can be a serious chore. The Active Directory administrator would also be the individual given responsibility for managing the site and organizational unit structures for the SharePoint environment.

Support staff
In any IT environment, there are going to be support issues that come up from time to time. Organizations deploying SharePoint need well-trained support technicians with the ability to diagnose and resolve problems as they occur.

SharePoint 2010 environments generally use two separate support tiers. The lower tier is charged with addressing user-related support issues. For instance, this might involve answering end-user questions in regard to things like site creation or getting access to a document library.

The higher-level support tier generally focuses on server support issues. For example, if a server within a SharePoint farm dropped offline, it would be up to the higher-level support staff to fix the problem. In the real world, however, there is often overlap between job responsibilities and troubleshooting server failures could fall to SharePoint administrators rather than a dedicated support staff.

Development staff
Although it is possible to run a SharePoint 2010 deployment right out of the box, the only way to really get the best possible benefit from SharePoint is to customize it. So unless the SharePoint administrators are well-versed in Web development, companies will need someone on staff who can tailor SharePoint to meet their organization’s specific needs.

If an organization only needs minor customization, it can usually outsource the development work to a consultant. However, many organizations find that SharePoint development to evolve into a full-time job thanks to changing business requirements.

Depending on the size of the organization, some (or even all) of these roles may be combined. Smaller organizations tend to have small numbers of SharePoint administrators who are responsible for overseeing the entire operation. Larger organizations naturally tend to take a more granular approach to management and might add a dedicated storage administrator and backup administrator to their SharePoint staffs.


In-house resources or outsourcing?

Deploying SharePoint 2010 effectively requires expertise in a number of different Microsoft technologies. As a result, most organizations must determine whether it is better to use existing IT staff for the project or hire consultants that specialize in SharePoint.

There are pros and cons with either choice. The main advantage to bringing in a consultant is expertise, yet there two major disadvantages as well. For starters, experienced SharePoint consultants don’t come cheap. More importantly, though, outsourcing the deployment means the in-house IT staff won’t develop the familiarity with the system it would otherwise. This can potentially lead to complications down the road, especially when it comes to troubleshooting problems.

If SharePoint 2010 is deployed internally, there will be IT staffers on hand who understand the setup. However, that almost certainly means investing in staff training. Of course, this would probably also be the case if a consultant sets up SharePoint.

Another potential disadvantage to an in-house deployment is that recently trained IT staff members won’t have SharePoint 2010 experience. While this might affect the SharePoint deployment design, it is often possible to make major architectural changes to SharePoint deployments as shortcomings become apparent. 

Brien M. Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP with two decades of IT experience. Before becoming a freelance technical writer, Posey worked as CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities and as a network administrator for insurance companies and for the Department of Defense.

This was last published in October 2011

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