The SCA as a SharePoint Professional

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Editor’s note: Contributor Scott Shearer is a a SharePoint evangelist and developer with FlexPoint Technology. Follow him @ScottJShearer

It is my opinion that the SharePoint SCA (and, to a lesser extent, the Site Owner) is the most underappreciated person in the SharePoint world. In other words, the SCA gets no respect. Many in the SharePoint world consider the SCA to be no more than a power user with some extra permissions. That perception needs to be changed.

Consider the following list of skills that any good SCA should possess:

  • Knowledge of all list and library types and features
  • Ability to configure lists and libraries
  • Knowledge of managed metadata features and configuration
  • Ability to create custom content types
  • Knowledge of out of the box workflows
  • Ability to create workflows in SharePoint Designer
  • Expert knowledge of the SharePoint Security Model
  • Ability to create scripts using jQuery and JavaScript
  • Ability to configure SharePoint search features at the site level
  • Ability to provide training and demos for end users and management
  • General database knowledge (required to configure BCS)
  • And the list goes on…….

The body of knowledge that a good SCA should possess is significant and unique. It is a different skill set than a SharePoint “server side” or .Net developer, but there is some overlap. It’s also a different skill set than the SharePoint IT Pro – the guys who live in Central Admin. It is a unique IT skillset.

Traditionally, any training or content aimed at the SCA has been placed in the “End User” or “Information Worker” track. “Information workers” are not IT professionals. They use SharePoint as a tool. They know enough about SharePoint to get their jobs done and no more. It is unlikely that an “Information Worker” will possess the skillset outlined above.

Does it seem like a good idea to entrust the security of all you SharePoint sites to an “Information Worker” who happens to be a part time SCA? OK, then how about the IT Pro who lives in Central Admin? They don’t possess the right skill set either. The IT Pro needs to know how to “keep the lights on” – they keep SharePoint running, do backups and other administrative tasks. They don’t really need to know much about running a site collection in order to be a good IT Pro. They don’t need to understand the nuances of configuring lists and libraries. They don’t need to interact with end users (and probably prefer not to) and they don’t need to have an in depth knowledge of the SharePoint security model. Well, since the IT Pro isn’t the right choice, then let’s consider the SharePoint developer. While a SharePoint developer should have a better understanding of what it takes to run a site collection, it just isn’t their job on a daily basis – they write code. They don’t deal with end users. They don’t help create governance plans. They don’t do training and you certainly won’t find a “developer” in SharePoint Designer (at least when someone else is watching).

My experience has been that, while some “Information Workers” are SCAs, most large site collections are run by someone who has the full time job of administering one or more SharePoint site collections. These individuals have invested a significant amount of time and effort in achieving a high level of SharePoint knowledge. They are professionals. Without a qualified and motivated SCAs, the chances that a SharePoint deployment will be successful will be dramatically reduced. Poorly planned sites, poorly trained and indoctrinated users and a failure to leverage SharePoint out of the box features don’t add up to a SharePoint success story. An SCA with the skills outlined above can be the difference between success and failure.

There is such a thing as a professional SCA and a legitimate SCA skillset. It’s time for the SharePoint community to recognize the SCA as a SharePoint professional. Toward that end, I would like to make the following suggestions:

  • Microsoft should offer an SCA certification. There is no certification that relates in a meaningful way to the daily duties of an SCA. There is only one exam that comes close (77-886) is part of the MS Office certification series.
  • Events such as SharePoint Saturdays, user groups and official Microsoft events should start offering an SCA track.
  • Too many times, while attending conferences and SPUG meetings, I have heard the speaker say something to the effect that something is “so easy an SCA can do it”. There needs to be a recognition that the SCA skillset which is broad and deep. It takes time and effort to acquire the skills you need to be a good SCA.

Finally, to demonstrate your understanding and recognition of the work that the SCA does, hug your SCA the next time you see them.