Saturday, August 20, 2011

How to find a “Good” SharePoint consulting company?

Looks like every organisation wants SharePoint these days.

I mentioned before, there is a big shortage of SharePoint skills out there, so hiring a good SharePoint resource has become a rather difficult task, especially when you realise that a good SharePoint deployment requires a range of specialised skills meaning that you need a specialised SharePoint team for a successful deployment. Where does one begin in getting this team?

The answer is in Outsourcing, i.e. hiring a consultant company that specialise in SharePoint deployment. That seems simple, but perform a search for SharePoint consultant companies in your area, I bet you there is a lot more than you expected. That’s a problem, because you now have to select the “best” consultant company and pray you don’t make a mistake as this will greatly affect the success of your SharePoint deployment and you’re ROI (return on Investment).

So what do you look for when selecting a “good” consulting company?




Before I answer that question, let me lay down the sad truth. There are many SharePoint consultant companies out there that are not good at what they claim to do. They claim to be SharePoint consultant companies because they see a lot of money in SharePoint, they understand that SharePoint is Microsoft’s most profitable product and they want a piece of that pie, they are relying on the fact that they can "learn" SharePoint by securing one good client and figuring it out. The lack of training and experience will not stop them from deploying a solution, but it will not be deployed using best practices, making it a unstable deployment.

There are also SharePoint consultant companies out there that may have the necessary training and experience in deploying a certain part of SharePoint but has no clue on how to deploy another component (SharePoint is just so big) and again, they plan to figure it out by securing a client.

There are also situations where consultant companies will not do any custom work, even thou SharePoint were designed for customisation, or they do too much customisation, making it difficult to maintain or expand the solution (these are typical situations of not following best practices).

Some SharePoint consultant companies may not have specific skills like SharePoint Architects or SharePoint Designers making it difficult for them to deliver a strong solution.

Some SharePoint consultant companies may not have a good post-deployment support structure, and thus cannot support your solution after deployment.

So there are a lot of bad apples that one has to go through in order to find that right Consultant Company. Where does one begin?

You can start off by checking out there relationship with Microsoft. Microsoft wants to assist you in selling their product because it is there business to sell licenses and you need SharePoint licenses in order to use SharePoint (unless you plan to use the free version of SharePoint, in which case, I’m not sure how much support you will actually get from Microsoft). Good Consultant Companies tries to maintain a good relationship with Microsoft; in fact, they go the extra mile in building a strong partnership with Microsoft. Microsoft has high demands when they enter into a partnership; they expect their partners to be:
  • Product Centric with proven competency
  • High level of performance
  • Loyalty
  • Perseverance
  • Results
  • Customer Focused
  • Sufficient staff members are Microsoft Certified
  • Sufficient customer references are submitted, proving customer satisfaction
So when you are looking for a good consultancy company, check who has a good relationship with Microsoft, the easiest way to spot this is to look for the silver or gold partner logo (obviously, the gold partner logo is preferred). Like I said, the consultant companies need to go the extra mile to establish this partnership, so when they do qualify for the gold partnership (for example) they usually like to advertise that, on their website, email signatures, business cards, letterheads, etc. so it is usually not that difficult to figure out what type of partnership (if any) the consultancy company has with Microsoft.
 


While the Microsoft partnership logo may separate the Mickey Mouse companies from the more established ones, this is not enough in finding a good consultancy company.

Some Consultant companies may not be good on what they do, but they managed to secure one big client through clever marketing, or being in the right place at the right time, or through some inside information or good networking – and they managed to use this relationship to for fill the necessary requirements to obtain the high Microsoft partnership status, so don’t be too reliant on that component alone.

So now you need to look beyond the surface of the consultant companies. Essentially, you want to determine their capability maturity. This will provide some insight on the company’s behaviour, practices and processes which will assist you in determining their reliability in producing the required output.

For example, a company with a low capability maturity level typically have undocumented processes and approaches and are in a constant state of dynamic change, they are driven in an ad-hoc, uncontrolled and reactive manner that usually provides a chaotic or unstable environment for the processes.

When the processes are defined, measured and documented, with standards and governance that is adaptable to different situations and are subject to improvement over time, the company is more mature, stable and reliable.

Now, this may not be easy to determine, asking the consultancy company to fill in a questionnaire will more than likely lead to a less than truthful response, even interviewing them will lead to the same result. So there is no easy way to get this information, one approach that I believe is more effective than others is to conduct an interview, but interview the staff that focus on delivery, i.e. not there sales division or the company director but the people that actually deliver the work, as everyone else has an objective to secure the sale, the delivery team has to deliver on what the sales division promised, so you may get a more honest answer from them, but that is not guaranteed – still, I’ll trust them over anyone else.

While you are interviewing the delivery team, try to determine how they will handle your particular project, are they using out-of-the-box SharePoint features as much as possible? Are they applying customisation only when needed? Are they actually saying “no” to some of your requests and recommending a SharePoint best practice approach instead, are they considering maintainability and stability with their approaches?


Also, apart from the delivery component, do they offer any complementary services? Do they have a product support structure? Do they have processes that can assist with user adoption like a training programme or change management process? Many companies focus too much on delivery that they fail to provide a good range of complementary services which is essential for proper ROI.

So, in a nutshell, good consultant companies has a strong partnership with Microsoft which means proven competency to deliver high level performance, the company also has a high capability maturity level and offer a good range of complementary services.


That’s a good start, but I don’t think that’s enough, if you can provide any more points, let me know.

8 comments:

Robert said...

Microsoft's "partner" model is broken, as evidenced by he Sharepoint situation. Sharepoint has been around long enough for MS to get this sorted out. We have a business to run, what are the alternatives to Sharepoint for a decent expandable shared server environment for a small engineering consultant company?

Sharepoint Consulting said...

SharePoint consulting is very helpful and cooperative in the business world today.

Binary Republik said...

Sharepoint Consulting is very important to content management systems. This content management system has enabled SharePoint consultants, allowing them to manage, plan, share and publish portal content.

Sharepoint Consultant said...

Hello,

I have gone through the post and you have mentioned some good tips which everyone should keep in their mind while selecting and SharePoint consultant.

Binary Republik said...

Microsoft sharepoint is a web application platform that facilitates document management. It is web content and portal that is made to centralize applications and information on a company or corporate network.

Bradley Chapman said...

Interesting post! I enjoyed reading it! Thanks for sharing this useful info.keep updating same way.

Lester Mcmillan said...

SharePoint consultants assume a lead part when coping with client engagements. These specialists further do a project independently.

Sharepoint Experts said...

I am so cheerful to read this post, the excellence work you v'e done, Thanks for sharing this use blog post for SharePoint, this tips is truly helpful, Keep updated your blog.
Hire a SharePoint Consultancy Company