A constant theme of discussion in our country is the unemployment rate.
There are no jobs.
There are no skills.
The government needs to do more to develop the youth.
This might hold some weight in certain sectors, but in the ICT one, specifically that of consulting I believe there are a number of forces at play that simply make it difficult for companies and prospective employees to connect.
The key challenges that we face in the SharePoint arena specifically are:
- Lack of experience
- Lack of formal training
- Exorbitant salary expectations
- Number of recruiters vs. recruits
Lack of Experience
This is obviously a double-edged sword as you cannot get experience without someone giving you and internship or a chance to start at the bottom and grow. The experience that I’m referring to is however quite specific to the SharePoint space. Let me explain – I interview many candidates with 2-3 “years” worth of SharePoint experience. Although the experience in time is accurate, the exposure is only 1/10th of the SharePoint wheel hence the “value” of the experience is diminished.
Consultants’ experience is molded by the type of organization they work for, but the onus still resides with the consultant themselves. Rectifying this problem requires the consultants to get involved in the SharePoint community and attend events. This exposure will allow the consultants to have more ammunition available for that next workshop. Without this, the consultants will continue to work in the same way and never expand their knowledge.
For more information on how to get involved in the SA SharePoint community, please visit this website – http://www.informationworker.co.za/Pages/default.aspx. Read more on the twitter hashtag – #IWSA and follow them on Twitter – @SharePointSA. In terms of events, the easier one to get started on would be SharePoint Saturday. For more information, check out the website – http://www.sharepointsaturday.org/johannesburg/default.aspx, http://www.sharepointsaturday.org/capetown/default.aspx and follow the hashtags – #SPSJHB, #SPSCPT. More information exists on facebook also – http://www.facebook.com/SPSJHB, http://www.facebook.com/SPSCPT.
On a side note, I blogged this about the age of consultants a while ago – http://technicallead.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/are-sharepoint-consultants-too-young/.
Lack of Formal Training
As the years have gone by Microsoft have made SharePoint, the platform, easier and easier to use, administer, sell and customize. Although this has opened up many doors, it has also introduced a lot of, with all due respect, “wannabees” into the consulting pool. Candidates that have created 1 intranet, dragged on a couple of web parts and googled their way into getting a CQWP working, now call themselves consultants. In some companies, they are able to survive, but quickly get found out if interviewed. This ties in perfectly with what I noted above re: experience. The business user has ZERO technical knowledge of what is possible and looks to the SharePoint “consultant” for guidance on what is possible and what is not. Now if the “consultant” only knows 1 way of doing things, the business user will take this as gospel and so the cycle spirals on.
See the problem?
Without the “consultant” getting more exposure, they will never recommend different approaches to business and before you know it, the “consultant” has spent 2 yrs dragging web parts onto pages and are now ready to take on the world – “Or so they think.”
Entering into the SharePoint consulting arena is not difficult. You don’t need a qualification, piece of paper or special introduction, you simply crack open SharePoint Designer and start hacking away. I sincerely wish that this will change in the future and have seen pockets of it, but still, I’ve come across too many individuals that are at the wheel without their “learners” so to speak. Perhaps my concept of a SharePoint drivers license is not too far fetched, read more here – http://technicallead.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/do-you-have-your-sharepoint-drivers-license/.
So, how can this be addressed? Companies that pay for SharePoint services need to (A) do their homework and (B) educate themselves on some of the basics of the product. On the other hand, individuals need to put in the time to educate themselves via formal training to advance their careers. Get to know, not only SharePoint as a platform, but also look into supplementary courses to give business a more rounded consulting experience. For example, if you specialize in the taxonomy, search and information architecture arena, look into an AIIM knowledge management qualification. For more information, have a look at the AIIM website – http://www.aiim.org/.
The challenge with the above mentioned ideological view is that there are still too many people who ”get by” knowing very little.
Exorbitant Salary Expectations
Taking all the above mentioned points into consideration, its easy to deduce that an individual could build up quite a profile in ONE particular organization. During the course of employment at said organization, the individual could be seen as the “go to consultant” and demand radical increases. This is all fair and dandy, but the challenge only comes in when this person wants to move on. Sadly, they might find themselves grossly overpaid and unable to find a spot at one of the top partners in the country.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for getting your piece of the pie, but when the industry is flooded with consultants commanding salaries above their pay grade, you start having a situation where their CVs are available, but you can’t employ them.
I guess solving this is slightly trickier than some of the previous points. Employees will always squeeze the most out of their employers, and they should, so basically, “Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.” In this case, the onus rides on the employer to pay fair value all the while staying relevant and attracting talent throughout.
I won’t elaborate further on this point in this post, but in my practical experience of hiring SharePoint consultants and developers in the past couple of years, I find that the industry is flooded with low end consultants or super highly paid consultants. A middle tier of skilled, well paid consultants seems to be absent, which is sad.
Numbers of Recruiters vs. Recruits
I love and hate recruiters. A necessary evil in the game, but a game that is constantly changing. PNET, Career Junction, LinkedIn are all eating into the market share of traditional recruits, but hey, “it’s all business baby!”
So, what is my point here? Well, I don’t know the recruitment industry that well, but as an employer that engages with a couple of select recruiters, I get the feeling that the barrier to entry for recruiters to start-up is not tough enough. As more and more recruiters start-up to make a couple of Randelas, so the amount of duplication that hits my desk starts to pile up. I will literally get the same CV from 3 different recruiters in one day. Now again, who do you blame? Surely you can’t blame the recruiters for (A) wanting to start a business and (B) trying to do business. You can’t blame the recruit for (A) wanted to find employment and (B) spamming his CV to 10 recruiters, so what is the problem here?
The challenge that exists and will continue to get worse is that as the amount of recruiters grow, the amount of CVs in the market don’t. What then happens when you run out of CVs? Well, you start placing the candidates that you have already placed, just somewhere else. In this process, the candidate gets a slight increase and so the cycle continues.
In Summary – More Education = Better Industry
Consultants in our industry need more formal training. Before this can become compulsory, the other cogs in the wheel need to start demanding it. Without companies and partners demanding better, employees will continue to get by with “just enough” knowledge. Companies need to complete introductory courses on SharePoint before embarking on projects, research the firms that are pitching for their work and follow-up on references before commencing work. With these couple of items in place, there will be less and less space for inadequate consultants to hide and the industry could stand a chance to correct itself.