The SharePoint Proveloper

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I am a SharePoint Proveloper, a new hybrid of a SharePoint Professional (aka Admin, Infrastructure/Systems Engineer) and a SharePoint Developer.  You may be one too.

Traditionally, someone working on a SharePoint system falls into one of the two distinct camps of Professional or Developer.  Yes, there are other SharePoint roles too, but the emphasis of the Proveloper is on these two areas.  When working in the SharePoint space, there is a lot of jest that ‘that is a system problem’ or ‘I am not a developer’ between the two sets of parties.  As an ‘infrastructure guy’ myself, I am guilty of having used some of these lines from time to time.

However, the more I work with SharePoint the more I see a blur between these divisions.  From a SharePoint IT Professional’s point of view, it is important to understand certain aspects of SharePoint development.  Understanding of these aspects can lead to better outcomes for the SharePoint IT Professional, and turn them into becoming a SharePoint Proveloper.

Although my perspective is one-sided, I imagine the converse also applies.  Usually a SharePoint Developer has little concern for the underlying platform supporting SharePoint.  With a deeper understanding of the infrastructure fundamentals, it can lead to better outcomes for the SharePoint Developer, and turn them too into a SharePoint Proveloper.

For the remainder of this post, I wish to focus on the SharePoint Professional, and look at why it is important to understand different aspects of SharePoint development.  This is heavily influenced by my own background.

Here are a few reasons why it is important to have these skills and know something about SharePoint development, from the viewpoint of a SharePoint IT Professional:

The SharePoint Proveloper: Conversations

Probably the most important advantage of being a SharePoint Proveloper is the ability to have informed conversations with others.  The advantage of knowing different aspects of development comes by having more knowledge around how SharePoint operates and how SharePoint can be extended. When talking to people within the organisation, the business users, a SharePoint Proveloper knows to some extent what may or may not be possible.  In turn, the SharePoint Proveloper can have conversations with the development team and explain business needs in an informal business analyst capacity.

The conversation continues between the SharePoint Proveloper and the developers.  The SharePoint Proveloper will need to understand how custom built solutions work when deploying them to the farm.  They also need to be able to discuss topics such as availability, security and capacity and understand the impact a custom solution may have to a SharePoint environment.

The SharePoint Proveloper: Deployments

In some organisations, custom solutions are deployed by the development team.  In other organisations, custom solutions are deployed by the infrastructure team.  The solution may be a third party product, requiring someone to deploy it into the SharePoint farm.  The SharePoint Proveloper needs to have skills to handle this process, and also how to handle it when things do not work.

When working with iherb promo and custom solutions, the SharePoint Proveloper is going to need to understand things like the Global Assembly Cache (GAC), a place where compiled code (.dll files, also referred to as binaries) is stored and registered for Windows and other applications like SharePoint to use.  This also ties in with understanding the relationship of web.config files and also artefacts that can be deployed to the SharePoint hive.

The SharePoint Proveloper: PowerShell

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For anyone working on SharePoint, PowerShell scripting is a mighty tool to know how to use.  The strength of PowerShell is to perform and automate tasks that are usually done in the GUI.  Every SharePoint Proveloper needs to know PowerShell.  It is not limited to just setting up and configuring a SharePoint farm, but also useful for performing site administration as well.

Sure, a lot of SharePoint Professionals may know some PowerShell.  To try and position the amount of PowerShell knowledge a person may have, I would say there are three levels of ability that someone may have when using PowerShell for SharePoint:

  1. Able to use cmdlets to achieve simple things.  Usually single lines and may compose simple scripts.
  2. Extends to use the SharePoint object model and generates functions within scripts.
  3. Utilises .NET classes and reflection.  Writing complex and well structured scripts.

Level 1 tasks are a great way to start.  With this knowledge, a person is able to manage services, web applications and farm configuration with one-line commands and this is extremely useful.  As knowledge grows, a person starts to understand the SharePoint object model (what SharePoint Developers use).  With increased understanding of how it works, a person is able to leverage it to achieve many everyday tasks.

With having this level of PowerShell knowledge   I’ve been able to create scripts that would otherwise require a developer to achieve tasks such as:

  • Manipulate simple branding elements across hundreds of sites in a farm
  • Upload documents via SharePoint web services
  • Apply permissions in a structured manner

If you are reaching level 2 status, this is a good thing and in the realms of being a SharePoint Proveloper.  Level 3 tasks require direct calling of .NET classes and using reflection.  I will not say I am there yet, but many of my Developer friends do on occasion call these object directly with PowerShell.

The SharePoint Proveloper: Troubleshooting Problems

Another reason why you might be a SharePoint Proveloper is if you have advanced troubleshooting skills.  Unfortunately no SharePoint environment is ever perfect, and problems will seemingly always present themselves somehow.  As a SharePoint Professional, you may already be familiar with the SharePoint ULS logs and the Windows event viewer.  These are quite useful places to identify a lot of issues.  However sometimes these do not capture everything that happens in a system.

In addition to SharePoint, other possible problems can occur with IIS, custom web services, the SQL database, and the client’s browser.  This is before you may need to investigate traditional IT infrastructure such as Active Directory, Exchange, the virtualisation platform, networking equipment and underlying hardware.  Being able to investigate all aspects of SharePoint certainly is useful for a SharePoint Proveloper.

Are you a SharePoint Proveloper?

Take a moment to think about what makes up a SharePoint Proveloper.  At its simplest form, it is someone who has key skills in either the area of SharePoint Professional Administration or SharePoint Development, and has a good understanding of the other.  I certainly feel I am a strong SharePoint Professional.  Even though I would struggle to develop a web part to say “Hello world”, I know enough that I can talk to Developers about custom solutions, perform deployments, write complex PowerShell scripts and diagnose issues with SharePoint.  I am a SharePoint Proveloper.

Reflect now on your own experiences.  Do you think you are a SharePoint Proveloper?  If you feel you are a SharePoint Proveloper in some way, please share your perspective in the comments section below.

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One thought on “The SharePoint Proveloper”

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