How Many SharePoint Developers Are There Really?

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.

(I need you to click that link to view the infographic because I can’t determine whether the terms of use actually allow me to republish it, so I’m assuming I can’t)

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:

  1. There are far too many developers out there and a lot of them are unemployed. Good for businesses, if true.
  2. 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?

42seconds

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.

.b

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?

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This post was written by who has written 414 posts on Furuknap's SharePoint Corner.

I do SharePoint. When I'm not doing SharePoint, I sleep, and then I dream about SharePoint. Oh, and I dabble a bit in cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Litecoin, etc)

26 Responses to “How Many SharePoint Developers Are There Really?”

  1. Chris Johnson
    Twitter: LoungeFlyZ
    June 26, 2012 at 5:36 am #

    Hey Bjørn,

    Being the one of the guys that had to care about the number of developers there were for SharePoint I feel a little more interested in this topic than most.

    Firstly your quote of 10 devs per customer isn’t well thought out. You draw that conclusion from the fact that MS states there are 66,000 SharePoint customers. That 66k is only paid MOSS/SharePoint Server customers … not free WSS/Foundation customers. You can still develop things against the free product as you well know … and trust me the number of WSS/Foundation installs is A LOT larger than 66k.

    I don’t feel at liberty to discuss how MS came to that 700k number. I know how they did … but i will leave it to them to do this if they want.

    I wouldn’t be so fast to call “Microsoft is full of crap” without knowing all the facts and understanding how they came to their numbers. That would be like me calling you crap without ever having met you (which i don’t think i have, have i?).

    Anyway … you should sit back and bask in the glory of being in high demand while it lasts :)

    -CJ (@LoungeFlyZ)

    • Bjørn Furuknap
      Twitter: furuknap
      June 26, 2012 at 5:57 am #

      Chris,

      I’m fairly certain you can read from my post that I think the 10 devs per customer is wrong. I also point out that 66K is way to small, and even state that if that were true, it would be very bad for SharePoint, which evidently it isn’t, judging by the still rampant success of the platform.

      Do you really think the average customer knows the difference? Because of Microsoft’s blatant pushing of SharePoint as a product to sell it, but using figures from SharePoint the platform for marketing success, a large portion of customers will get confused.

      However, regardless of their accuracy, those numbers still do not affect the claimed number of developers, which is 700K. That’s the number I’m arguing in the post, not the 66K nor the 10 per customer.

      You not being at liberty to discuss is simply another piece of support for how Microsoft’s secrecy policy is hurting everyone; it’s a claim that’s at best questionable, but no one who knows are allowed to say anything. Instead, Microsoft loses credibility when promoting SharePoint as a widely adopted platform.

      As for saying someone is full of crap without having met them or even checking out what they facts were, you actually did that. July 19, 2009. Ring a bell? No? Try this: http://twitter.com/LoungeFlyZ/statuses/2733916380

      I’m assuming you’ve seen the error of your ways since then, though, and wouldn’t do something like this again, based on your statement that such behavior is somehow questionable.

      .b

  2. SB Chatterjee
    Twitter: sbc111
    June 26, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

    SharePoint is an enterprise platform that is strongly coupled with the .NET platform for development. There are by various estimates – literally, millions of .NET developers. Scott Hanselman (Microsoft) puts it at about 8 million! (http://www.quora.com/How-many-NET-developers-are-there). So, the 700,000 number can be in the ballpark.
    As an enterprise developer myself, I can say that there’s a cross-pollination of .NET & SharePoint development (e.g, web services, web parts, etc) and it will be increasingly difficult to get an accurate number because developers will move from one platform to the other as their need arises.

    • Bjørn Furuknap
      Twitter: furuknap
      June 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

      SB,

      Although I usually know Scott as an honest fellow, a number thrown out like that really isn’t very reliable. Also, considering .NET is just one and a fairly small part of SP development, I doubt (without any evidence, though) that there is any direct correlation between .NET devs and SP developers.

      .b

      • SB Chatterjee
        Twitter: sbc111
        June 26, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

        I think there is a correlation between .NET & SP Developers (here I mean non-SP Designer devs). MS has been putting a lot of effort in adding new dev features in Visual Studio. VS2k10 was a huge jump and the new VS2k12 is even more so for the SharePoint developer.
        On a related note – perhaps, we need to find out how many ‘free’ downloads of SharePoint 2010 Designers are out there. May be 700,000 ?

    • Steven Fowler (@stevenmfowler) June 26, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

      I agree with SB there is an overlap of skills between SharePoint and .Net developers. The SharePoint >ONLY< number I would say is far less than 700k. Most people at the SP user groups I talk with are .Net developers that are responsible for doing some SharePoint work.

      • Bjørn Furuknap
        Twitter: furuknap
        June 26, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

        I’m happy to see the discussion actually getting back to the content of the article rather than the meta-discussions… :-)

        .b

      • SB Chatterjee
        Twitter: sbc111
        June 26, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

        There is definitely a convergence between the .NET & SP developers (as mentioned above with the Visual Studio example) and MSFT knows it. Moreover, for the Enterprise IT manager who has a pool of .NET developers – he/she would rather move them to SharePoint (or back) as the training costs will be lower. In larger enterprises that follow SDLC (or their own development process) – there is a trend towards more control of SharePoint development by the increasing use of TFS (or similar), dev cycle, releases, etc. and this engineering approach will ensure more ‘quality’ SharePoint solutions. So, I think 700k (worldwide) is not an unreasonable number and that it’ll increase more in the coming years.

        • Bjørn Furuknap
          Twitter: furuknap
          June 27, 2012 at 6:57 am #

          I still doubt whether Microsoft would refend to 700K with ‘any .NET developer who have dabbled in SP’; I think that number may even be higher.

          However, even though I’ve dabbled in ASP.NET MVC, I don’t consider myself an MVC developer, nor do I consider myself an aficionado of the entiry framework, nor JavaScript, not jQuery, even though I’ve used these frameworks recently.

          For Microsoft’s case, I would guess that it makes more sense for them to move the bar in the opposite direction; to loosen the definition of developer in order to include fewer formal requirements and increase the adoption of SharePoint by making it seem like an easier platform.

          This approach, as I’ve argued before (http://blog.furuknap.net/laura-rogers-you-are-not-a-developerbut-maybe-you-should-be for example), fails long-term, both for the one developing, for Microsoft, and for SharePoint. However, long-term doesn’t seem to be a concern in Redmond these days, yet another reason why I don’t think they’ve actually done the decent thing and counted ‘real’ developers.

          .b

          • SB Chatterjee
            Twitter: sbc111
            June 27, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

            Bjorn -
            I think the problem may be the definition of ‘Developer’ itself in the SharePoint realm. The only thing I saw close to defining it was – any development that changes ‘Hive 14 (or 12)’.. I think that came from Mark Miller (@eusp). But, even that definition is nebulous because there are SP development that uses the remote web service calls (client side).
            I think SP development is one part in the .NET developers’ portfolio (and not the other way around).
            Good post.
            SB

          • Bjørn Furuknap
            Twitter: furuknap
            June 27, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

            Based on your last assumption, Marc Anderson is not a SharePoint developer. I think he, and most others, would disagree with you.

            It’s simple, really. If you paint, you’re a painter. If you bake, you’re a baker. If you develop, you’re a developer.

            It would be stupid to claim that Picasso is not a painter just because he’s not using the same tools and techniques as a car painter.

            .b

  3. Raymond June 26, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    1) It doesn’t matter how many developers there are – you’re still an asshole

    2) Above you say: “You not being at liberty to discuss is simply another piece of support for how Microsoft’s secrecy policy is hurting everyone.” More likely Chris knows the details and knows that sharing them wouldn’t be proper since he no longer works there, ass.

    3) He also didn’t say you were full of crap – just that people should save their money and wait for the freely available public beta (I totally agree), ass

    • Bjørn Furuknap
      Twitter: furuknap
      June 26, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

      1) I realize that to some, the credibility of publicly posted information isn’t really important. However, it may be to some.

      2) It wasn’t an attack on Chris, but on the secrecy policy of Microsoft. Perhaps you’d like to check up on the fallacy of red herrings?

      3) I realize that you and your crew don’t really care about facts but focus solely on being supportive of anything that anyone from Microsoft say.

      However, despite you obviously not knowing the story there, and you happily ignore any fact checking before blabbering on, you may want to take note that the person responsible for saying that there was no point in paying anyone for interpreting and explaining what the information meant was the person responsible for a major event where they charged people thousands of dollars for interpreting and explaining what the information meant.

      Of course, this conflict of interest doesn’t concern you, because it would be fact, not just mindless brown-nosing of Microsoft.

      Good luck with that, I’m certain it will land you another MVP title.

      .b

  4. Chris Johnson
    Twitter: LoungeFlyZ
    June 26, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    Hey B,

    I personally don’t think MS not disclosing more details about that number has anything to do with secrecy. In my view its more to do with it not changing anything. You argument would just shift to some other detail. Why would they bother spending the energy when it wouldn’t really change anything?

    Regarding #3. I can see why you think its a conflict of interest. But trust me Dave/My motives were not to drive more attendance to the conference by saying they shouldn’t subscribe to your newsletter :) We sold out regardless after all.

    Anyway. I cant see this discussion ever ending and I have some other things to do. So I will leave it at this.

    Thanks for the discussion! and we might see you at SPC12 … only of course you think there is any value in attending after reading your newsletter that is ;) <= i jest … honest!

    -CJ.

    • Bjørn Furuknap
      Twitter: furuknap
      June 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

      Chris,

      If you argue that we should stop questioning posted information because there would only be more information to question, I’m fairly certain I strongly disagree. If you argue solely we should not question information because it won’t change anything, I also disagree, especially because of huge importance is the credibility of that information, which I’m questioning in this post.

      As for #3, my main point was that when Dave posted (and you, along with several others, retweeted) neither he nor anyone had any idea what I had written, but you assumed, without checking facts, that I was selling information that was somehow protected. When I sent the issue to Dave, he conceded there was nothing controversial there beyond that I had found information they didn’t realize they had published (sandbox solutions being one of them).

      What I did then and what I did with the SP2013 documentation was to read and explain to people what it all meant. This is exactly the same as SPC does and for which it charges a hefty sum. In other words, you say people shouldn’t pay anyone for interpreting and explaining free information, which is exactly what you do yourself.

      On another note, saying that there’s no point in paying for that interpretation because the information will be free is like saying you don’t need to pay for food because your car’s in the garage.

      .b

  5. Jim Adcock
    Twitter: dlairman
    June 26, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    RE: Blog growth –

    I started blogging in May of 2009, so I don’t have full numbers for that year. Therefore, it is probably more useful to calculate by 365-day blog-years rather than calendar years, especially since I just completed my third year, so we have some nice round figures to look at.

    My traffic in Y2 was more than 3x my traffic in Y1, and Y3 was just under 3x Y2. Traffic in Y3 is almost exactly 9x Y1. It is still early in Y4, but it looks to be about 2x the traffic of Y3.

    A couple of caveats:

    My blog isn’t 100% SharePoint-focused, but SharePoint is more than half of the content.

    It is hard to get an apples-to-apples comparison out of this, as I didn’t have a lot of content the first year…
    11 posts in Y1 (8k words)
    21 posts in Y2 (20k words)
    21 posts in Y3 (15k words)

    And of course, I got better over time promoting myself. Plus, subsequent years built on the content of previous years. As I am sure you are aware, the existence of the back catalog of posts drives quite a bit of blog traffic.

    Also, as I have gotten more experience, some of my solutions have been more clever, and more well-recieved. One post I did in late 2010 has, in less than two years, gotten nearly as many page views as I got for all of my content in Y1. Another post, from early 2011, has in the last year gotten nearly as many hits as all of my content in Y2.

    • Bjørn Furuknap
      Twitter: furuknap
      June 27, 2012 at 6:23 am #

      Jim,

      Very interesting numbers. Congratulations on your progress.

      Of course, having a relatively new blog where the ration of content increase is vast (tripling from one reader requires less than tripling from 10 million), the numbers may be different from established blogs. That said, I only started blogging on SharePoint in 2008, and although not necessarily representative of other blogs, I do seem to recall a rather massive increase in my first year as well.

      .b

      • Jim Adcock
        Twitter: dlairman
        June 27, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

        I find it discouraging that more effort isn’t being spent in the comments trying to find ways to actually answer the question posed in the title.

        Instead everyone is busy pointing fingers and calling names.

        C’mon, people, we’re all clever enough to be impressed with ourselves. Lets start trying to figure out how to make the estimation as accurate as possible.

        I provided my data points on relative growth, with (hopefully) appropriate caveats about their utility.

        Here is another data point I found, in my inbox…

        “One of the most established SharePoint Only Recruitment entities (a division of an existing company, Global IT Resources, Inc.) is for sale. This entity currently has access to over 4500+ active SharePoint skilled staff, most of which are based in the USA or Canada.

        GITR is selling its’ North American SharePoint entity (division) this includes our active database / tracker of skilled candidates. This is comprised of thousands of resumes and/or contact details of SharePoint Architects, Developers, Admin, Engineers, Collaboration Specialist, FAST Gurus, Infrastructure Architects, Practice Manager, Project Managers, Programming Team leads, Records Management Experts, and Branding Specialists, many of which are US citizens, and of these, a significant number have Federal Security Clearance.”

        Here we have an active recruitment organization with a list of less than 5000 SharePoint professionals in a variety of diciplines, not just developers.

        Leaving aside for a moment the reasons they are selling their SP recruitment business, any good recruitment firm will comb a variety of sources – LnkedIn, Monster (and other job boards), as well as plain old google searches to get a list of as many professoinals as possible to improve their odds of making a placement.

        This is, though, only their North American branch. North America represents about 4.29% of the world population. If the number is somewhat accurate, and the North Am population is representative of the world population (a somewhat dubious proposition), that means there are approximately 177,000 SP professionals.

        Last I checked, 117,000 < 700,000, and not all of the <5000 original population sample are developers. Under the assumption that their data miners are doing a half-assed job (232k SP professionals?), there are a LOT less than 700k SP developers.

        What data points can you the audience come up with?

  6. Nick Johnson January 5, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    Yammer and sharepoint will do wonder in collaboration with each other. I am just waiting to see the result of it…..

  7. Jason Robertson January 17, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    SharePoint is a large enterprise application many clients have at the least a Dev and Prod environment there is two licences right there. Then there is the Upgrade and migration side which means at any given time there is probably the previous version and the new version. As for the Developer count. In every environment / project I have worked on there has been lots of developers many outsourced and not working locally aside from the local ones. There are a lot of add ins bolt on and integrations for SharePoint some one has to develop all of those.

  8. Jason Robertson January 17, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    No shortage in India and Asia most consulting firms and even local businesses in the know engage locals and Indian based firms to get there projects done. Not a shortage just a shortage of local ones perhaps. It may be different in the US.

  9. dotNear March 23, 2013 at 8:13 am #

    Well, these numbers scare me too. And as far as my experience with sharepoint in the industry is concerned, I don’t really think they Add up from the Microsoft Perspective. SharePoint is a great platform all the same.

  10. MLe September 6, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    Hello,
    For 5+ years experience in WSS development / HTML/CSS/Ajax/javacript…ect, do you think 105K/year salary is a fair charge ?

    • Bjørn Furuknap
      Twitter: furuknap
      September 6, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

      That greatly depends. I have 5 year’s experience and I wouldn’t pick up the phone for $105K. You may be an utter idiot and not be worth $1.05 per year or you may be the (second) greatest genius in the world and charge $105mn per year.

      .b

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