Found a Cheap SharePoint Consultant? Stay Away!

A couple of years ago, I put up a separate web page for people looking to hire my professional SharePoint services. I get fairly regular requests from companies looking to get someone to help them out either with short-term stuff or longer term projects.

Oh, and if you are looking to hire me, feel free to drop by that page. There is important information there. Read it all before contacting me.

NOTE that I do not do SharePoint consulting anymore, though.

However, a lot of the people contacting me seems to not have read my information about pricing. In short, I charge $200 per hour. I don’t negotiate unless there is a long-term contract or I really like you or your project. If you ask me for a cheaper price,  I’ll say no.

Enough about me, though. Let me explain why you’re stupid to try to save money by hiring cheap labor.

I Can’t Afford $200 Per Hour!

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Plenty of people will balk at seeing a certain price. $1 million dollars? Wow, that’s insanely expensive. Until you realize it’s the price of a Manhattan penthouse, at which point it is the deal of a lifetime. $4,000 per hour? Wow, that’s insanely expensive, until you realize it is to hire Mark Knopfler for your kid’s birthday party.

You see, price is really irrelevant until you compare it to value. Paying $50 is much cheaper than $200, right? Well, if it were for the same service, you’d be right, but chances are good that whoever charges you $50 per hour is unable to sell their services at a higher price. Why is that? Well, because the value they deliver is not worth more than $50.

Let me ask you this. How much would you pay to get $500? I’m guessing that most people would pay anything below that because they would effectively be getting free money. Would it matter then if you paid $200? You’re still getting $300 free.

How much would you then pay to get an unknown amount of money? It could be $5 or it could be $500, you just don’t know. The risk now is much higher, so you’re likely to want to pay much less.

Let’s Talk SharePoint

SharePoint is awesome, and don’t let ignorant fools tell you otherwise. It has the ability to make money for you. Lots of money. If you have half a brain, you invest in SharePoint because you think it will generate or save money for you.

However, it will make you money if you treat it right only. Buying SharePoint and then leaving it there is a bad way to use it. Buying SharePoint and hiring idiots to manage it is even worse. Now SharePoint isn’t saving or generating money, it is costing you money.

In the previous year, I’ve seen a huge rise in organizations that hire cheap, often out-sourced labor and end up not getting what they need. Not only have they spent their own time and money, they have also lost any potential benefit of having SharePoint.

It is a massive loss because, you know, they paid $50 per hour to some half-assed out-sourcing company rather than paying $200 to someone who know how to tie their own shoelaces.

One particular case was this, and I’m leaving identifying details out. A company had initially contacted a well-reputed company, been quoted a rate of around $225 per hour, said no because they found another company doing the same thing something related to SharePoint for $65 per hour.

Their solution was not a trivial one; it included fairly rigid requirements and fairly extensive customizations. The project ended up taking the better part of six months, costing a few hundred thousand dollars.

On roll-out day, the solution didn’t work. Apparently, nobody had bothered testing against the parameters of the production environment. The solution not only didn’t work, it also killed functionality in other solutions.

“No worries,” said the developers, “give us Farm Admin access and we’ll have it working in 24 hours”. The client, again oblivious to the cocking of the gun, gave up their passwords, and boom, everything worked, except for, you know, SharePoint.

At that point, the developers said “Sorry, we’ll refund $10K” and went on their merry business, not returning calls and emails.

But at least it was cheap, right? Well, of the roughly $250K the client had paid for their four developers, they got $10K back, but at the cost of now having a non-functioning SharePoint farm, no solution to their initial problem, and no more money to spend on fixing the damn thing.

But It Would Be Insanely Expensive with $200 per Hour!

I got the requirements from the client before I heard about the disaster they had gone through. The client asked me to give a ballpark estimate, and having done a few projects in my time that had some similar components, I ended up with a quote of $40K.

Yeah, I’m a developer so you should expect to increase that amount somewhat, but even if you treated me like a complete novice in cost estimates and multiplied those estimates by six, you’d end up at around the same cost. And no, I’m not a novice estimator.

Right off the bat, I can tell you that a good SharePoint developer works 2-3 times more efficient than a bad SharePoint developer. So, you may get a third of the hourly rate but you pay for three times the amount of hours, so no, you’re not saving money, you’re just wasting time.

Then there is the case of accuracy. A good SharePoint developer will build solutions that last and that are stable, that does what it is supposed to do and, if you’re really good, can be extended through well-understood and documented processes. A bad SharePoint developer will not, and you end up paying but not getting what you want or at least an inferior product.

Finally, consider risk. Yeah, a well-reputed, experienced developer with a track record of years and years of successful deliveries will cost you more, but you also know that you’ll get a well-reputed, experienced developer with a track record of years and years of successful deliveries. Hire someone off the streets and your SharePoint project will be like a box of chocolates; you’ll never know what you’ll get.

That’s Just a Horror Story

You’d think that this is just a rare occurrence; that someone should be so stupid/unlucky/defrauded only in the exceptional cases.

If it weren’t for privacy concerns, I’d invite you to my inbox one day so you could see for yourself, but I’m estimating that 7-9 out of 10 requests have similar stories attached. An organization hires cheap labor because they need to save money or have some idiot policy that they can’t pay more than $X per hour no matter what. They then get exactly what they paid for; a cheap solution that breaks more often than it works, or even worse, breaks something else or doesn’t work at all.

The cost of these savings is far higher than it would cost to hire someone where the output is more predictable. You’re saving yourself to poverty rather than harnessing the awesome power and profitability of a well-designed SharePoint solution.

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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

15 thoughts on “Found a Cheap SharePoint Consultant? Stay Away!”

  1. I tend to agree with your article. Having been in the SharePoint space for quite a few years now I’ve seen this sort of thing time and time again. It applies to any trade of course – friend of the family was going to hire someone at a quarter of the going rate to completely replace the roof of their house. We had a quiet word to avoid the disaster. 🙂

    Maybe you could start a poll:

    After reading the article by Bjørn did you;

    a. Decide not to hire Cowboys Inc to do your SharePoint project after all
    b. Hire them anyway, heck they were cheap
    c. Pay a reputable consultant
    d. Decide to leave SharePoint in its default state with no changes at all

    1. That’s easy to answer, Roger. Are you delivering $200 of value per hour? If not, you are underskilled. If you are, and you’re not getting paid $200, you’re underpaid.

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      1. Sorry, I missed your reply! I saw an article about the 3 tiers of SP development, with the middle tier being those that primarily use the GUI and SPD. That is where I reside. And I’m quite ok with that, and people with more advanced skills such as yourself getting $200/hour. I’m sure you are well worth it.

        1. It’s not a matter of tier in terms of value. I know Middle Tier developers who would be a steal at $200 per hour and third tier developers I wouldn’t recommend for $2 per hour. What matters, in the great scheme of things, is the balance between what you give and what you get in return. If you give more than $200, it is only fair you get a fair chunk of that in return. If you give $2 in value, getting even $10 per hour is a scam.

          .b

          1. Great Read,
            I am currently a sharepoint admin / contractor. I am negoiating something more long term. I would like to add that “your value” may not just be what you know or can do with Sharepoint, but what other knowledge / experience you can bring to a client.
            Some examples, training – being able to communicate technology with the business folks – experience in hardware / software / other apps / browsers / etc…. which are all used by sharepoint, database interactions / connections….
            To me there is allot to a “Sharepoint Admin” or consultant…. kinda like being a “Network Administrator”…… lots of hats!!!
            I enjoyed your article and look forward to reading more…. send along any clients looking for a Sharepoint Consultant with a wide variety of experiences and knowledge beyond Sharepoint… :0)

  2. Excellent article! From what I’ve read, $200/hr for your services is well worth it. I hear similar horror stories all the time. Sucky thing is when a company has already sunk $200k in a broken project and they still want it fixed for cheap because the budget is GONE!

  3. This is an old and unfortunately repeated story. Any time you have a specialized skillset where resources are paid above average for the market, and especially when it’s a premium pay skill, there will be those that come out of the word work claiming to do the same thing for pennies on the dollar. In most cases this happens with India-based service companies trying to undercut western professionals, offering what are called “equivalent” skills for outrageously low prices and armies of skilled, highly educated resources willing to work day and night. Skilled and highly educated are usually completely made up – the rest is true however. Seen it happen time and time again with premium pay skills – e.g. SAP, PeopleSoft, Workday, Siebel, SalesForce.com and of course SharePoint. One could write a book on the commoditization of IT and how executives and CFOs salivate at the thought of getting 10 offshore IT resources for the price of one western one. I had one company tell me they outsourced to India knowing full well the quality was poor and it would take at least 5 years to get them productive and even remotely close to the full time onsite staff. They do it because it’s a cost-savings façade they can hide in their spreadsheets and still state it to shareholders to make them happy. The end result of this is usually people like you demanding $200 per hour for “quality” work get pushed aside because some companies don’t expect that level of quality in the first place. I was on a project similar to what you described 2 years ago. The company had gone thru 4 companies in India over the course of 1.5 years – Infosys, TCS, Cognizant and someone else I can’t remember. Eventually they outsourced it to Mexico and they were able to take was the last one did and make it stable. Something that would have taken a local partner 2 months took over a year and a half and millions were spent.

    1. Game development is vastly different from SP development, chiefly because there are few corporate contracts for game development. Which is really a shame because companies could really benefit for using games as part of training and education as well as to reinforce values or processes.

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