I was briefly part of a discussion on SPYam where Michal Pisarek mentioned he’d been talking to some iOS people coming to SharePoint and loving the new App model in SP2013. His question was whether existing SharePoint developers were falling behind by not adopting the new model.
I say no. In fact, I say that if you are an existing SharePoint developer and you’re jumping on the App model, you’re a moron.
Microsoft’s SharePoint Dilemma
SharePoint is a failure. Lack of adoption success, the MySpace situation, and the constant nagging from professionals about how difficult everything is, Microsoft’s need to introduce a new framework to ‘solve’ some kind of problem; these are signs of disease, not of success.
Of course, SharePoint has reached millions of users and virtually all of the US Fortune 500 companies. Isn’t that a measure of success? Well, that greatly depends on your definition of success. It’s certainly a success for Microsoft, considering that most of at least the larger installations are paid licenses. It may not be a success if you measure the return-on-investment for smaller companies.
Still, Microsoft needs to do something. They’re already selling licenses to almost all relevant companies. If SharePoint is to be a growing business for Microsoft, they need to find new ways of increasing sales.
Keep in mind that Microsoft’s interest in a customer ends the second the customer purchases a license. Microsoft doesn’t care whether you make a profit from your investment, nor whether you actually use your product. They’ve reaped all possible benefits from you being a customer; no matter how well your solution or investment performs or fails, Microsoft won’t make a dime more.
In other words, with the pre-SharePoint 2013 models, Microsoft has peaked its earnings from SharePoint. They need something new in order to grow their SharePoint revenue.
Let’s Talk About You
This is where you come in. There are simply no new methods that Microsoft can use to increase sales on their own, so they need external help. Luckily, you’re here to help them; to earn money for them.
Microsoft earns a cut every time someone buys your App, which is a fine enough model. They provide access to their customers, you provide a new revenue stream for them. This is a win-win situation.
However, as all App developers will tell you, only a few Apps actually make money, at least enough to defend the efforts involved in building and maintaining them. For every Angry Birds, there’s hundreds of games you’ve never even seen, built by people like you with just as many good intentions and ideas. The more successful an App platform becomes, the more difficult it becomes to make a dime for the developer.
On the flip side, Microsoft gains benefits by having a large App fauna, both in terms of marketing and the more obvious revenue streams. Their model is infinitely scalable, getting a cut for every sale regardless of whether there are five or five million Apps in their store. Your model depends on continuously working on improving, marketing, and supporting your App.
You, however, who already have skills and experience in traditional SharePoint development start sucking at what you used to do the moment you shift your attention to something else.
Break a Leg
And I mean that literally. If you’re in a part of the world where there’s snow and ice, go outside, find a steep road, and run down it. If you’re a woman, first of all, I love that you’re doing SharePoint, and second, put on your highest-heeled shoes and run down an escalator at a local mall. Just make sure you break something; and arm, a leg, anything.
Now, who would you like to fix you up? Your two choices are a surgeon who knows about every possible treatment for any known disease, or the emergency room doctor who, despite his lack of neurology training, does nothing all day long than patch up broken legs?
Unless you’re an idiot, you’ll want the ER doctor. After all, he or she knows how to patch your leg up with their hands tied behind their backs and while blindfolded. The super-surgeon may know about 15 ways of patching a leg, but if he or she doesn’t actively practice those methods, they’ll be about as useful as a text-book on the subject. You don’t want a doctor Googling your treatment, you want someone who no later than 15 minutes ago did the exact same procedure, and who does nothing or little else all day long.
The thing is, you don’t get good by learning. You get good with practice. If you learn every skill on the planet, you will suck at everything. If you learn just one or a few things and consistently practice those, you get insanely good. Michael Phelps didn’t get good at swimming by playing chess or juggling 26 balls at once. He got good by swimming, and doing that a lot.
If you already are skilled in SharePoint development, moving into a new area means you have no experience and you are no good at what you will be doing. You need to build the skills and the experience from scratch. You do this for the promise of having perhaps a 1 in 200 shot at making a profitable App.
Simultaneously, in the area you just left, all those that chose to remain will keep improving their skills and experience while your skills and experience stops. In fact, you’ll get worse, because you don’t get good at not doing something, so the longer you don’t do what you already know, the more you’ll forget and the more you’ll dwindle.
But it gets worse.
But What About My Career?
You may be concerned that you’ll be left behind. You may be concerned that while all the cool kids play with SP2013 Apps, you’ll be stuck building farm solutions or configuring DataView Web Parts the next couple of years. At least, that’s what you should hope happens.
If you’re concerned with your career, then there’s nothing better than to have a huge chink of your competition move somewhere else.
But what if everyone moves to SP2013 Apps, what then? Well, even better! You see, the problems facing organizations do not change when Microsoft introduces a new framework. They are still face with the same inefficiencies in the Human Resources department. They still struggle to get the same customers to pay on time. They still need to support new employees and ensure they get onboarded properly.
These problems have been solved by people like you for years now, using SharePoint or other platforms. It’s not a matter of whether the problems can be solved; they can be solved, to exactly the same degree as before. And let’s be honest, if a company problem goes away, which version of a tool makes it go away is completely beyond the point of interest to most organizations.
By diverting focus, however, you start to suck at what you do. Nobody is good at SP 2013 Apps now; even the people who have already been doing it for years suck. If you’re the best SP2013 App developer in the world, you have at best half the experience that even the most mediocre SharePoint 2007 developer has.
You’ll continue to suck at SP2013 Apps for a long time, probably forever. In the meantime, those that remain with what they know and consistently practice that, facing ever more challenges and solving them using tools they already know, will progress exactly as fast as you are.
In other words, in one year, you’ll have one more year of experience and have seen X new problems you’ve solved, incidentally exactly the amount of experience and new problems someone who stays with what they know will have gained. Relatively, you’ll suck exactly the same amount in a year.
Welcome To The Future
If you are a SharePoint developer and you’re completely unable to find work then first of all, welcome to the future, we have something called The Internet, and you cannot possibly be online and know how to spell SharePoint without getting a job these days.
However, at some point in the future, perhaps there will be a shortage of work for SharePoint developers. At that time, I’ll be the first to grant you that moving to something else makes complete sense.
Until then, SharePoint doesn’t need more people who know jack about a wide range of topics. SharePoint needs experts with deep understanding of their chosen field, whether that is development, administration, or business usage.
The developers that stay with what they know will have one more year of experience in 12 months, and so will you, regardless which path you take.
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