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The place I work has purchased SharePoint 2010 Enterprise, for many reasons, but firstly for document management.

However they are keen to get to most out of the 'rest of it'. But us developers have no previous experience of SharePoint, other than what we are all eagerly trying to learn, using on-line learning materials. I think it's for a user base of approx 6000.

We are trying to work out some of the skills that a core support team would need and how many people it usually takes.

  • Is there a typical 'support team' structure?
  • If so, what are the core set of SharePoint skills they need?
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There is really no single set of best practices here. The best practice is usually what works best for a given organization. However, here are some important roles to consider:

  1. Administrator - The administrator should be able to support both the hardware and software involved as well as disaster recovery and some support (tier 3). This is sometimes split into two roles, with an infrastructure adminstator supporting the hardware/network side and an application administrator supporting the software and configuration. This person should be familiar with the configuration and maintenance of SharePoint 2010, SQL, Windows 2008 Operating Systems, networks, powershell, all third party tools, backup and restore technologies, along with the different hardware and network configurations.

  2. Site Collection Administrators - These are people who are responsible for the configuration of a site. They can make changes to the features, security, content, and more for a given site. They are also responsible for configuring search keywords, best bets, available scopes, and more. These people should be very familiar with SharePoint, SharePoint Designer, SharePoint Workspace, company security and auditing policies as well as any communications policies.

  3. Developer/Customizer - A true developer is always an added value to be able to enhance and expand the functionality of SharePoint. However, it is also irresponsible to exclude those who have the skills to customize without code. One or more of these positions might benefit an organization. They should be familiar with Powershell, SharePoint Designer, third party tools. The developer should add to this list .NET/C#, jQuery (the customizer may also be familiar with this).

  4. Support team - This may or may not be a separate position, but would include people who have been trained on the use of SharePoint within your organization, access to a knowledgebase, and have solid troubleshooting skills.

It is possible to combine these aspects even down to a single role, kind of a jack of all trades person, however, it is generally not recommended, and in some cases can cause you to be out of compliance with legal regulations (for example, the developer who develops a financial application cannot deploy said application, it must be done by the administrator for those institutions who must comply with Sarbanes-Oxley). It is also possible to outsource one or more of these positions to external sources such as consultants, and large support teams who can handle large volumes of calls.

In any case, SharePoint can be a valuable asset to your organization, and should be properly staffed, but still meet your budgetary needs to realize that value.

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As with all things SharePoint, the answer is: It Depends.

Depending on the size of your organization, your DBAs can handle the management of the SQL and the server team can manage the hardware/OS. While these seem like meta areas, they are essential to SharePoint operations. An improperly managed/patched database server can kill SharePoint. Likewise, underpowered or aggressively shared hardware/virtual machines will also kill performance. If you are going live in SharePoint 2010, these are even more important.

As to SharePoint itself, you will need a SharePoint Admin. This requires an understanding of the SharePoint technologies, the SharePoint infrastructure, IIS, the http protocol, asp.net infrastructure - especially the caching options, Windows Server, solution management, enterprise search, Backup/restore strategies, Active Directory, DNS, Powershell, knowledge of Third-Party SharePoint tools like Quest or DocAve.

From what I'm hearing from other companies, qualified SharePoint admins are very hard to find and it is usually better to take an existing Windows Server admin who has an interest in SharePoint and train them on the high level aspects of SharePoint.

You will also need a front-end support person that can walk the average user through the basics of SharePoint - uploading files, check in/check out, publishing, etc. easy stuff.

You will also need a Business Analyst with a deep understanding of the OOB components in SharePoint to help your business users leverage the tools available. The business will most assuredly have requirements beyond the average user, and this person will be the first point of contact for that. They will also be the ones to raise the flags early if perhaps a custom solution is needed.

If you plan on writing custom solutions for SharePoint then you will also need a SharePoint Architect. The skills required for this are a combination of SharePoint Admin, Business Analyst and SharePoint developer. You need someone with experience because a poorly designed custom solution can not only make your SharePoint environment unmanageable, but it can also cripple performance. Initially, a SharePoint Architect can also fill the SharePoint Admin role but you will eventually need a dedicated Admin as the Architect's time gets stretched thin quickly.

As you no doubt have already seen from your training so far, SharePoint is not something you can 'pick up' in a month or two. It has a learning curve measured in years - just for Development.

Since you are just getting started, I would STRONGLY advise that you plan out your environment. Not just the hardware/software aspect but also the business needs and goals and mapping how SharePoint will be used to address those. Unregulated/unplanned SharePoint installations have a nasty tendency of growing like weeds and filling up with all sorts of unwanted garbage, making future upgrades a nightmare of epic proportions. Failing to plan now will result in a substantial increase in costs later on. Microsoft has a lot of good documentation on this.

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