Sunday, 5 May 2013

Profession or Community: What's Best for the SharePoint Industry?

It seems to me that the SharePoint industry can't have it both ways. On the one hand we have an admirable, creditable but largely unverified, uncertified, freestyler community of self-learning individuals who choose to do their own thing and share what they want to share, when they want to share it with who ever they choose. Nothing wrong with that.

On the other hand, we have a well-established global eco-system of accredited technology partners, varied in size, scope, bias, viewpoint, method, technique, ambition and price-point. This is what defines global capitalism, supply and demand. Let the buyer decide and set the market.

Make no mistake however, other industries have learned over decades, if not centuries, that if they are to survive intact they must establish their Guilds, independent trade bodies, professional trade associations and professional certification tracks with membership requirements (professional indemnity and charters and ethics) to protect the integrity of their industries from the ever-present charlatans, rogue traders and 'have-a-go' merchants. The results is that these bodies give newcomer-clients a starting point, benchmark, reference point and the industry its cohesive voice to the market. Protectionism? Of course, that's how established professions work.

There will always be the backstreet body-shops in any industry, together with the bandwagon-jumpers and opportunists and sadly there will always be those who choose to cut corners and take the risks that come with it. Yet there will be the many more who choose the old, trusted professionals, or those they believe to be professionals.. However, if the industry makes it far too hard to spot the real professionals and understand their true value then you can't blame the buyers for being confused as to where to turn and who or what to avoid.

So the SharePoint industry and indeed the larger IT industry in general needs to make up its mind (fast) after decades of accelerated growth whether it wishes to become more professional, accredited, certified and trusted. If it does, it needs to prove its credentials. In turn we should ask the industry whether it wishes to be viewed like other very established and skilled professions with extensive, mature training and association membership across a wider landscape and portfolio of associated skillsets? The very nature of what we do often has a major effect on the businesses we engage with, just like an attorney, accountant or financier does.

Or perhaps we need to ask instead whether the industry wishes to align itself with a more open, freestyle community of 'anyone can have a go and join in' approach, because you certainly cannot have both and solve the problems of diversity. We either support the progressive 'professionalization' of our industry or we remain in the wild west and live with the creative consequences.

A final thought. In the 17th century rich people had black teeth due to eating a new thing called sugar. Sugar, and therefore black teeth became an aspiration of the poor and they subsequently blackened their own teeth with coal as a fashion. People don't necessarily choose to go to a backstreet dentist to get their teeth fixed or indeed cleaned. They do it largely out of simple necessity where the larger, more established profession has become too exclusive, too out of reach, too slow and simply too expensive for a rapidly expanding market. Whilst the professionalism of the SharePoint industry seriously matters to us all, established delivery firms (onshore or otherwise) now do need to reassess how they are approaching the competitive marketplace and therefore what their true market-differentiation propositions are. Otherwise everyone has black teeth.                                          

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