Hire a SharePoint Consultant or SharePoint Consultancy Company

First, I need to shed some light on why your business needs to have a SharePoint consultant or need to acquired services of a SharePoint consultancy company. Then, I will explain what characteristic you should be looking for when hiring a SharePoint expert or approaching a SharePoint consultancy company.

Imagine you are a small group and you have acquired Office 365 and SharePoint Online subscription recently. Someone from IT configured OneDrive for business on employee’s commuters. Great start!

Now a person from management says, we need a central place where all company documents can reside. Again, someone from IT creates a brand-new SharePoint site and start dumping all the records from the company network drive or DropBox.This is when reality starts, as you expect SharePoint to behave in a specific way, but it does not work as expected.

At this point, you have three choices. You can keep trying yourself and see where it goes, or you can hire an independent SharePoint Expert, or you can approach a SharePoint Consultancy local to you.

Why do you need to Hire SharePoint Consultant?

Let me explain first why you need to hire SharePoint Expert or SharePoint consultancy for your business.

SharePoint is not a Company Network Drive or DropBox

People think that SharePoint document library and folder structure same as network file storage or Dropbox. Companies set up network drives, so everyone in the organisation has access to the documents. DropBox had a simple purpose, file sharing and syncing to multiple client devices and it does do the job well. 

SharePoint, on the other hand, was not designed to be a storage solution. SharePoint can be leveraged and could become a document management system. It is more about making document easily manageable, searchable, auditable and enhances collaboration at the enterprise level.

SharePoint was an Enterprise Product and not for Small Business

SharePoint was not originally designed to support small companies. It was more of a toolset for enterprises who can adapt and transform the behaviour according to the business needs. Back in 2003 till 2010, there was only SharePoint On-premises version available and to set it up you needed skilled people. Just in 2011 when Microsoft introduced Office 365 and SharePoint interest among small business has grown dramatically since then. It explains a bit the nature of this product, as it was not all about plug and plays or out of the box solution. It is instead a framework for collaboration and organisation effectiveness. It has the foundation, but one needs to invest time and money to tailor it according to their business needs.

You don’t want to Get wrong with SharePoint Implementation

You cannot just dump documents and folder into SharePoint, unlike DropBox. As a company, you need to think about and brainstorm the information architecture, site design, security model, governance and much more before you drop the first document to SharePoint site. SharePoint does require a long-term strategy which the whole organisation can take forward.

SharePoint is not a Part-time job

If someone thinks that he/she can only dump the documents and folders from network driver into SharePoint site, send the URL to everyone in the company and job done. They have achieved nothing. You are better off with Dropbox in this case and should not use SharePoint at all. Comparing DropBox with SharePoint is like comparing Car to an Airplane. Most people can drive a car, but not many people know how to fly an aeroplane. SharePoint consist of complicated pieces like site structure, Web parts, Workflows, Security, Governance etc. An expert in the field can write a book on each of these topics.

You will struggle to keep up with SharePoint Evolution

If you compare SharePoint version from MOSS 2007 days to more recent online version of SharePoint, there are massive upgrades happened in all areas. In terms of user interface, available site templates, the web part, connectivity to external systems and Integration with other Microsoft App, all have significant changes/upgrades in the recent past. For an organisation with no SharePoint expert on board, is hard to keep up with this ever-evolving product and you won’t have time to learn these things as they will require a lot of time and resources to learn and keep yourself up to date with latest updates. With SharePoint online, you won’t have a choice not to upgrade to the most recent changes, and this is not in your control. Microsoft team will push those changes your way on a more regular basis.

It is your call to decide whether to hire a SharePoint consultant or train your employee and do it yourself. Making SharePoint implementation successful depends on many factors and what I described above is just the tip of the iceberg.

What Makes a Good SharePoint Consultant?

Microsoft SharePoint widely considered among the best content management solution. Finding the right person to help you with your business needs can be difficult. It is crucial to hire a good SharePoint consultant to see the real benefits of the products and get the most out of it.

Prior Consulting Experience in Your or Similar Industry

You don’t want a SharePoint consultant with little experience in your industry. If they cannot prove their track record of some satisfied customers form the same sector, then you might need to look elsewhere.

One question you should always ask, what brands the SharePoint Consultant has worked with, what were the business challenges those companies were facing and how you addressed them. Ask for case studies with detail explanation of business challenges, the solution and approach and measurable benefits from those solutions. They are having experience working in your industry or a similar industry.

SharePoint Built-in Functionally/ Development Experience

Most of the time SharePoint consultants sue out of the box capabilities to meet the business need. But sometimes they need to customise SharePoint so that it can solve some specific business problems. And satisfied with unique requirements.

On the flip side, make sure that SharePoint consultant is not trying to push some customisation which you can get with out of the box available capabilities.

Understands the concept of Information Architecture

SharePoint is a great document management system. If you have decided to use SharePoint in your organisation, you most likely looking to manage all the information about your company. It is crucial to building the right information architecture, e.g. site structure, navigation structure, document metadata etc. If the SharePoint consultant does not have an idea about how to create useful information architecture or how to make a data hierarchy, you might not have the right fit.

Open for Suggestions and able to feedback through the Project Lifecycle

You want someone who walks into your business with an open mind and comfortable in making suggestions. They must put the project requirements forefront, but it should not stop them from providing input. A good SharePoint consultant always looks for a room for improvement and suggest other SharePoint capabilities which can enhance end-user experience.

Some Other core questions you should always ask when hiring a SharePoint consultant are:

Who will perform the work? Will it be subcontracted to another SharePoint consultants or SharePoint consultancy firm?

What are the primary skills and expertise of SharePoint consultants?

Do the SharePoint consultants have soft silks, e.g. SharePoint User Adoption and SharePoint Governance?

What is the project implementation methodology the SharePoint consultants will be using?

Hiring a SharePoint consultant can be an investment that provides a positive return on investment almost immediately. Hiring a SharePoint expert can be one of the best investments your company can make. Just sure you find the right persons and use them effectively to get better results.

How to spot a good SharePoint Consulting Company

SharePoint is used in many businesses across the globe for document management, as a collaboration platform (Intranet), automate business process and much more. More than 80% of the FTSE companies used the SharePoint platform to enhance their information architecture. If you are a big company, then the chances are you will prefer to hire services on a SharePoint consultancy company rather than hiring an independent consultant for many reasons.

Hiring a SharePoint consultancy company mean hiring a partner and work together to produce the best results. Here are a few things you should defiantly consider when looking for a SharePoint partner company.

What Kinds of Services/Solutions do they Offer?

Some SharePoint consultancies do offer readymade solutions based on existing capabilities.SharePoint Intranet, SharePoint Apps. These solutions are excellent and can deliver within budget and timeline. But, readymade solutions are not perfect for everyone. If you have a specific business need which Out of the box features are not enough to address them, you should hire a company and customise the solution. It means working with the experts to design and build a system that tailored to the precise requirements of your business.

How they do Requirement Gathering Process?

Your chosen consultancy company need to sit with stakeholders and to analyse your business need. Even if you go for a readymade solution, it cannot entirely address all the requirements. You should explore how they will collect information and how they can guide you throughout the implementation, as well as talking through the project management methodologies they will use.

Will they Focus on User Experience?

Many SharePoint projects failed in the past just because there was no work done in term of making the end user experience better. User experience should always be at the front. SharePoint offers a highly customizable user experience. If the user engagement is low, changes are the user experience designs are not suits the need of the people who actively use the system. 

Can they Deliver to your Expectations?

I think this is the question you should ask yourself at the start and repeat it at the very end of the hiring process. Do I believe that this company can deliver what is needed, and they can carry on time and within budget? You should ask for details of previous projects delivered and get a feel for the type of SharePoint expertise available.

SharePoint is a platform which opens a vast range of possibilities for businesses of any size or any industry. Getting the right people on the board is the key to SharePoint project success. You should not rush for it, take your time thing through the requirements upfront and evaluate individuals/consultancy companies to see if they have a solid track record and can deliver what they are promising. Here you are looking for a technology partner rather than one-off service.


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