By this time, everyone has heard the news that Microsoft is buying Yammer for $1.2 billion. And dammit, my offer was $1.1 billion, they just beat me to the finish line.
As part of their marketing of the wonders of the deal (and the jury is still out on a number of issues), Microsoft built a nice infographic to show what the union of Yammer and SharePoint would mean.
Here’s one message, though. SharePoint currently has 66,000 customers with 125 million licenses sold. That means on average, each customer buys close to 2,000 licenses, which seems a bit odd to me, but hey, I’m not the source of the numbers so don’t shoot the messenger.
What’s very odd, though, is that Microsoft claims there are 700,000 ‘developers building on the platform’.
With these numbers, that means that for every SharePoint customer, there are over 10 developers.
Read that again: For every SharePoint customer, there are more than 10 developers.
I have no idea where Microsoft gets these numbers, nor what they define as ‘developer’, but it’s a very scary message to send out.
It can mean one of two things:
- There are far too many developers out there and a lot of them are unemployed. Good for businesses, if true.
- SharePoint is a platform so complex that you need to pay, on average, ten people to do nothing but develop on SharePoint. Bad for SharePoint, if true.
SharePoint Developer Shortage Over?
So why is it that the phone is ringing off the hook for most skilled SharePoint developers? Why is it that when I posted that I was available for work this summer, it took 40 seconds before I got the first firm contact?
I’m either a fucking genius whom everyone wants to work for them no matter what, and there’s an army of people just waiting in line, monitoring my activity to detect if I am available, or, more likely, there is still a shortage of SharePoint developers.
No, don’t take that as false modesty, I’m still a fucking genius, but I’m also still hearing similar stories from other people in the community.
Oh, and don’t take anecdotal evidence as more than casual rumor. Jump over to Monster.com and do a search for SharePoint, you’ll find thousands of available SharePoint jobs, several hundred SharePoint Developer jobs, and over a hundred SharePoint Developer jobs paying more than $100K.
Work is still abundant, even though there are, according to Microsoft, on average 10 developers hired by every SharePoint customer.
During SPC09, Steve Ballmer mentioned that Microsoft predicted there will be 1 million SharePoint developers by the year 2013. That’s ten times as many as they predicted in 2007. Which is good, I mean, I’m in the business of educating these developers so a ten fold increase in customer based is great news.
Is SharePoint Really that Complex?
However, there’s still option #2, that there is something in SharePoint that’s so complex that you need to hire 10 people to get it to do what you want.
Let’s take those numbers and look at what they mean for a bit.
If the average SharePoint developer is about half the genius I am and only costs $100 per hour, that means that on average, every SharePoint customer pays $1,000 every hour, every day, to keep SharePoint running. Assuming a 1,900 hour work year, that means an average SharePoint customer pays $1,9 million for their SharePoint people.
$100 per hour is too much, you say? Think again. Keep in mind that salary is not the only cost of an employee. Even with a salary of $50 per hour, roughly the median salary of a semi-seasoned developer in the US, the cost of benefits, support staff (all SharePoint developers should have personal masseuses), insurance, office space, power and utilities, and, in the US, attorney fees for litigation protection against someone banging their head on the DVD player, the actual cost of that employee is rapidly approaching $100.
What could possibly be so complex that you’d need to pay your employees on average close to two million dollars just to sort it out?
The numbers puzzle me a bit, but may be simpler than you think. First, Microsoft marketing are idiots and use old data. C’mon, 66,000 customers? That sounds way too few, but let’s accept it at face value. I’m mean, it’s not like Microsoft would hold anything back from us, right? That would only be silly and hurt both SharePoint and the community.
Second, 700,000 SharePoint developers? Technically, and this is important, they said “700,000 developers building on the platform”. If you flip that around and say “someone who is building on the platform is a developer” then anyone who does any kind of menial task like setting up a few lists, libraries, or content types, may be dubbed a developer.
So, What is a Developer and Why Aren’t There 700,000 of Them??
By developer then, I mean someone who actually has any kind of real developer background, and not some random idiot who has learned to put together a SharePoint Designer workflow on the monkey see, monkey do principle. I mean someone who at least can spell source control, who know the difference between a class and an object, and who can see, with a bit of debugging, whether a loop is safe.
Here’s what I think: Microsoft is full of crap. There aren’t anywhere near 700,000 SharePoint developer. I don’t even think there’s half that. I think that, having utterly failed to reach their goal of a million real developers, rather than admit that they change the definition of the goal.
Another indication of community size is my USP Journal sales. From 2009,the first year of operation, to 2011, I’ve increased sales around three times, with far more issues available and current.
During SPC09, Steve Ballmer said there were 125,000 SharePoint professionals, including everything. Even if you set the number of developers versus other disciplines to 2:1 (meaning two developers for every other discipline professional) this means that by the end of 2009, there were around 82,000 developers. Multiply that by three, and you get just shy of 250,000 developers.
Of course, this assumes we completely ignore the increases in number of issues, any improvement in marketing, and any other factors that would increase journal sales at a different rate than the number of developers.
I can also look at my blog stats. Over the previous three years, the number of page views have increased about three fold. My RSS feed subscribers are a bit over double what they were in 2009.
I’m not saying that my journal sales or blog stats must accurately follow the development of the community, or are in themselves even an indication of that size, but when there’s absolutely no correlation with the presumed size of community, at least I’m suspicious.
I think that, even if these numbers and factors are highly speculative, Microsoft is nowhere near even 200,000 developers, partially because I assume that even the 125K professionals in 2009 was also bloated.
How Many SharePoint Developers Are There?
Occam is a great principle here: The simplest explanation, or at least the one requiring the fewest assumptions, is most often the right one. The simplest explanation here, accounting for both the still high demand for SharePoint developers, the fact that no one actually pays on average $2 million for their SharePoint developers (which would be a really, really bad thing for SharePoint), and the fact that my sales and blog increase is ‘only’ around three times, is that there is just three times as many developers now as there were in 2009.
Not 700,000. Not 350,000. More likely, there are 180-200K SharePoint developers, and that’s why you still can’t find a decent SharePoint developer available for hire.
PS: If you have a blog and have numbers as far back as 2009, why not tell me what your increase in readership has been over the previous years? No need to post actual numbers, and to all, keep in mind that these numbers are anecdotal only.
Update: I was actually full of crap myself. It wasn’t Steve Ballmer that said a million developers, it was Kurt DelBene, a then senior vice president of the Office Business Productivity Group, now president of Microsoft Office Division.
Adding to the confusion, however, is that he also claimed in November 2009 that Microsoft had sold 100 million licenses (compared to 125 million licenses now) to 17,000 customers (compared to 66,000 customers now). In other words, the latest 50,000 customers only brought in 250,000 new licenses, an average per customer of 5 licenses, compared to the claimed 7,400 per customer pre-2009. See why I’m suspicious of these numbers?
Found this article valuable? Want to show your appreciation? Here are some options:
a) Click on the banners anywhere on the site to visit my blog's sponsors. They are all hand-picked and are selected based on providing great products and services to the SharePoint community.
b) Donate Bitcoins! I love Bitcoins, and you can donate if you'd like by clicking the button below.
c) Spread the word! Below, you should find links to sharing this article on your favorite social media sites. I'm an attention junkie, so sharing is caring in my book!