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Is SharePoint WSS dangerous to SharePoint contractors?

Firing Up Internal Opportunity

It was true last year, but even more so now; SharePoint is very important for corporate IT, both strategically (medium- and long-term) and tactically (short-term). Sure, it’s a terrific way to iterate on collaboration, internal portals, document management, etc. – “enabling innovation” in every buzzword-compliant sense. But there is solid benefit for even short-sighted, plodding, tactical IT – and it’s all about staff retention.

SharePoint WSS represents a nice opportunity for folks in IT to get some hands-on experience, building relevant (if small) applications with some cutting edge technology. Staying “cutting edge” is important for most IT folks, but let’s face it – most of us don’t work in software development houses. The typical manufacturing company spends <3% of revenue on IT; on top of that, the current economy has everyone focused on cash flow. I was speaking with a vendor yesterday evening, who told of his interactions with IT management in multiple companies over the past few weeks – and the primary concerns all had to do with system availability and cost cutting.

This nuclear winter environment, freezing spend on training & tools, would typically drive all your best IT talent away – we all want to work on latest and greatest, and experience non-trivial growth in our skills. So, how might you feed this “edge mentality”, with little or no cash?

SharePoint provides both sizzle and steak ** – it’s got market hype, it looks and feels significantly different than your current, boring green screen stuff, and it’s fast twitch (small projects, lower priority, low risk if something messes up). With all that going for it, it should be easy to get internal folks to work on the new, quick and dirty stuff that the business wants.

    ** Ok, maybe not Morton’s, but it’s not Steak and Shake, either!

Drying Up External Demand

Unfortunately, I think this leaves SharePoint consulting houses bereft of good opportunities. Cash-hoarding businesses turn inward for their development needs – and this time, they can get good-looking results!

I remember when .Net came out a few years ago – had a very enlightening conversation with a typical small-firm rep. Microsoft’s new technology platform was great for sales, the story went, because the projects all took 30% less time than before (such a deal!) Unfortunately, the other shoe soon dropped, and the sales team had to generate 30% more business just to keep the pipeline full and billable hours flat to the previous year. The downward pressure on rates wasn’t a help, either.

Stable [end-user] companies may not fear large turnover in the current economic client, but the good ones will continue to stress internal training and new technology skills. I see plenty of SharePoint interest (and resulting bandwidth) from internal IT – where will this leave the contractors?

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